What do a piece of paper, a pilot, a plane passenger, and a device for spinning yarn have in common? They’re all flyers. However, some people might prefer flier. Is there a difference?
Flier is an alternate spelling of flyer, and the two words have the same definitions. A flyer or flier can refer to:
- A pamphlet, handbill or other paper designed for distribution
- A pilot or aviator
- A passenger of a plane, as in frequent flyer.
The only difference: A flyer is a device involved with spinning yarn, and only the flyer spelling applies here.
Flyer is seen as the original word, while flier is considered an Americanization. Part of this simply has to do with grammar. As a general rule, if a word ends in “y,” that “y” changes to an “i” when you add a suffix. This is seen in:
- Busy - Busiest
- Try - Tries
- Fly - Flies
There are some exceptions. When a vowel comes before the “y,” the “y” stays put. This is seen in:
- Play - Playing
- Stay - Stays
- Toy - Toyed
Although they mostly mean the same thing, your usage may vary based on other factors, particularly style and preference.
In modern American English, flier tends to be the preferred spelling, which is why an autocorrect set to American English might underline flyer as a misspelling.
Flyer is more prominent in British English, but despite what your American English autocorrect might say, some official style manuals agree with the British example. For example, as of 2017, the AP Stylebook states flyer as the standard spelling for most cases, except for some idiomatic usage, like “take a flier” meaning “take a risk.”
Most airlines also prefer flyer over flier. You’re more likely to see “frequent flyer” over “frequent flier”.
You’ll cover more bases with flyer, but there’s nothing wrong with using flier as long as you’re consistent. If you are writing in a professional or official capacity, check the appropriate style guide to determine which spelling is preferred.