What do you choose? Flyer or flier? What is the difference between the words, “flyer” and “flier”? That’s good questions. The simple answer is, there is no difference in meaning between the two words. With one exception, both words mean the same thing and are simply alternative spellings for the same word. The spelling flyer is older than its variant flier. The word flyer has its origin in late Middle English, dating back to the 15th century. The word flier is a more recent alternative spelling of flyer. In this article, we are going to take a look at the definitions and examples of the two words.
Flyer or Flier?
Flyer or Flier?
With both U.S. and British English, flyer and flier are used interchangeably, with the spelling flyer more commonly used than flier. In the U.S., there is a loose distinction between the two spellings. The word flyer is generally used for a small handbill or pamphlet, where flier is for people and things that fly. Though – not always!
Definitions of Flyer and Flier
Both the words flyer and flier are nouns in their two meanings.
1. A person, an animal, or a thing that flies.
- “My paper airplane is a good flyer.”
- “An eagle is a better flyer than a turkey.”
- “My grandfather was a flier in World War II.”
With this definition, a flier or flyer can refer to either the pilot or the passenger. Another use of this definition is the phrase “frequent flyer”. As in, “With my business, I get a lot of frequent flyer miles.” In this case, the flyer spelling is the preferred version. Also, the spelling flier generally is used to refer to a pilot. Though again, the two spellings are interchangeable.
2. A pamphlet, handbill, or circular is used as an advertisement or to provide information.
- “Billy’s job was to stand on the corner and hand out flyers for the church bake sale.”
- “The flier said that the art show would begin at 11 AM.”
A third definition is also a noun, but in this case, only the flyer spelling is used.
3. In textiles, a flyer is a device used to add twists to yarn. Similarly, a flyer is a rotating device used to both twist the yarn and uniformly wind it onto a spindle or bobbin.
Except for the third definition, either spelling is acceptable.
- “It was fun to watch the flyer twist and wind the yarn.”
The spelling flier is used for two slang meanings.
It is used, first in the case when someone takes a flying jump,
- “He took a flier off the cliff.”
The second informal definition is used to mean taking a risk in a venture
- “Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to take a flier with those stocks.”
Flyer also is used in slang. It can be used in an expression for a successful person.
- “People call her a high flyer because she built her Fortune 500 business before turning 30.”
When To Use One Or The Other
There is no consensus on which spelling is most correct. Though current dictionaries say that flyer and flier are both correct alternative spellings, publication sources disagree on which is most proper. Since publishing companies disagree on which to use, you would have to check on the preferred style when writing for them.
Other differences are cultural. When writing for either a British or American audience, use the spelling that is preferred by that culture. It is important also to keep in mind that since different writing style guides differ, you should use the correct spelling for the style you are using.
Neither The Elements of Style or the Chicago Manual of Style state a preference. The word flyer is preferred by the Guardian, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and the website for the Oxford dictionaries. The word flier is favored by the Daily Telegraph, the Associated Press, and the American Heritage College Dictionary.
It is interesting that in Garner’s Modern English it says that flier is standard in the United States and flyer as common to British form. This distinction, however, doesn’t bear out in common usage in either the U.S. or elsewhere where English is written.
Though at first understanding the difference between flyer or flier may seem confusing, it need not be. The two words have the same meaning, except with the definition related to yarn. It is acceptable to use either spelling for the other definitions. The different spellings are commonly used for certain expressions and one spelling is preferred for some definitions over the other, but neither is incorrect. When trying to determine which word to use, it is best to go with the organization you are writing for, otherwise, it doesn’t matter which one you use.