Words Ending in -gue

By Maeve Maddox

An email in which the word colleague was spelled “colleag” got me thinking about English words that end with a hard g sound spelled -gue.

Since only a few such words are in common use, learning to spell them shouldn’t be too difficult.

WARNING: These words start to look strange when you look at them in a group.

Twenty-six common English words end with the spelling -gue.

Variant spellings drop the -ue.

The following -gue words have no acceptable variant spellings, not even in Merriam-Webster:

brogue
colleague
fatigue
fugue
harangue
ideologue
intrigue
league
meringue
morgue
plague
rogue
tongue
vague
vogue

For each of the following -gue words, Merriam-Webster recognizes variant spellings without the -ue:

analogue
catalogue
travelogue
decalogue
demagogue
epilogue
monologue 

pedagogue 

prologue

The OED, on the other hand, does not dignify decalog, demagog, travelog, epilog, or monolog with entries. It acknowledges the existence of pedagog, catalog, and synagog. Pedagog and catalog are listed among obsolete spellings. Travelogue has an entry at which it is identified as “originally U.S,” but no variant spelling is given. Synagog is shown at synagogue and labelled U.S.

The OED does have an entry for prolog, but it has nothing to do with the word prologue:

prolog: (The name of) a high-level logic programming language derived from Lisp, originally designed for natural language processing but now used in many artificial intelligence programs.

I can write analog, catalog, and travelog without a shudder.

I cannot bring myself to write epilog, decalog, or synagog.

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12 Responses to “Words Ending in -gue”

  • Birgit

    That’s for spelling. What about the pronounciation. Is it all similar? Is the -gue silent or not, one big question for me as a non-native speaker…

  • Francisco Luciano

    Dear editor,

    You are really contribuiting so much to improve the language, as good as possible. Portuguese, portuguese all the time as been damaging what I’ve learned. It’s my mother tongue, but I’ld like to use it just 30% and devote 70 of that to Ennnnnglish!

  • Francisco Luciano

    Dear editor,

    You are really contribuiting so much to improve the language, as good as possible. Portuguese, portuguese all the time as been damaging what I’ve learned. It’s my mother tongue, but I’ld like to use it just 30% and devote 70 of that to Ennnnnglish!
    franciscolucianofernandes@gmail.com

  • Maeve

    Birgit
    All of these words end with the same sound — the hard g as at the end of log or bug.

    I did not include words like argue or segue which have different sounds at the end [är’gyū], (sĕg’wā’].

  • Birgit

    Thanks! This always troubled me!

  • Blutea21

    Hello,

    A funny personal note about fatigue. When I was just getting into advanced reading for school I came across the word and fell in love. Once I find a word I like I try to use it regularly. After looking up the definition I walked up to my mom and said “Mom, I am so fat-eh-guu-ed.”

    I failed to check the proper pronunciation. Ah youth, how silly I was.

  • Edward F. Gumnick

    How do you feel about “dialog” versus “dialogue”?

  • Maeve

    I prefer “dialogue,” but by some irrational quirk, “dialog” doesn’t creep me out the way “epilog” does.

  • CC

    I love the way you say “creep me out”. That’s exactly the same feeling I get if something doesn’t seem quite right.

    Is the dropping of the ‘ue’ an American thing?

    I speak both French and English and so for me all those words seem to look more correct with the ‘ue’ at the end.

    CC

  • Neil

    Being from the UK you wouldn’t believe how long I mulled this problem over with my website name Lingualogue.com. I knew a lot of my target audience would generally use ‘log instead of ‘logue so it took me ages to decide. In the end I bought both but made ‘logue the main name as I still prefer it.

  • granz

    U.S. English has reformed spelling, whereas U.K. English (or other international variations) use a lot of French spelling. In the U.S., we mostly reformed English to remove bits and pieces of French spelling that were silent, or made English orthography appear more inconsistent than it already is. English borrowed way too many French words and didn’t bother to transliterate any of them to fit out existing orthography; so words like “prologue” are actually very strange to have in English in the first place. Why is the -ue there? It only makes sense if the word is viewed from the perspective of a native French-speaker, as the -ue is one of their orthographic rules – not ours.

    The U.S. spelling rule is that we drop the -ue from words that don’t require this spelling to help discern their pronunciation. Prolog, dialog, epilog, demagog, etc. have pronunciations that would come naturally to the reader, without the -ue intact. Words like intrigue or fatigue would seem to indicate different pronunciations if you dropped the -ue; so it’s not dropped from these words.

    “Colleag” does not exist in any form of English. Whoever wrote this made it up on the spot. As indicated above, this falls in the same group as -ue words that leave the -ue intact to help stress pronunciation.

  • Ed

    If we really want a completely rational English spelling, we’d have to decide which dialect we’re going to use to rationalize it: in some parts of the US, the “r” in “car” is silent, and in others, it isn’t, so getting a universally rational English spelling system is going to be impossible.

    I like catalogue and analogue, and will continue to use them. Interestingly, the spell checker in my browser flags “catalogue” as incorrect, but not “analogue.”

    I’ve also heard rumors of people dropping the “ue” from dialogue.

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