Worshipped and Worshipping Revisited

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A recent comment on a past post, “Worshiping and Kidnapping” made me doubt my sanity:

You note that Merriam-Webster lists worshiped and worshiping as preferred spellings in the US, but my M-W app lists the double-consonant spelling first. Which should I recommend to an American writer whose readers are also American?

In my post, “Worshiping and Kidnapping,” I stated confidently that the single consonant spellings are given first and the double letter spellings are second-choice variants in the US Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

I am happy to report that I was not seeing things.

A query to M-W brought me a response from Senior Editor Susan L. Brady:

Our unabridged dictionary at https://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged shows the inflected forms as:
worshiped or worshipped; worshiping or worshipping

Our online dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary shows the inflected forms as:
worshipped also worshiped; worshipping also worshiping

According to Ms Brady, the latter dictionary is more up-to-date concerning styling conventions such as capitalization, hyphenation, and variants of inflected forms.

I had assumed that the Unabridged was better for my research than the other versions, but I hadn’t considered the logistics of keeping them all in sync. Says Editor Brady, “As much as we would like to make both dictionaries consistent, it is just not possible to update both of them on the same schedule.”

Here’s what I’ve learned by revisiting the topic of worshiping/worshipping.

Some spelling sources, both dictionaries and online teaching sites, continue to honor the wraith of Noah Webster by insisting that the preferred US spellings of these participles have only one p.

In his 1828 dictionary, Webster used John 4:20 from the KJV as an example of the use of worship in the past tense: Our fathers worshiped in this mountain.

If you ask your magic search engine, “How do you spell the past tense of worship?” you may get this answer from WordHippo:

The past tense of worship is worshipped UK (Britain) or worshiped US (US). The third-person singular simple present indicative form of worship is worships. The present participle of worship is worshipping UK (Britain) or worshiping US (US).

Or, you may find this answer from a teaching site called Preply:

verb (used with object), worshiped, worshiping or (especially British) worshipped, worshipping. . .

On the other hand, The AP Stylebook has an entry for worship, worshipped, worshipper.

Apart from the exceptions (and there are several) the usual rule that applies to doubling the consonant when adding an ending to a multi-syllable word is this:

If the final syllable is stressed, double the consonant: control, controlling
If the final syllable is not stressed, do not double the consonant: travel, traveling

According to this rule, worship, which is not stressed on the final syllable, should not double the p when adding an ending.

HOWEVER, as pointed out in the entry for worship in Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016),

Although some American dictionaries give preference to the inflected forms worshiped and worshiping, these have never achieved predominance in AmE print sources.

A look at the Ngram Viewer set to “American English” bears this out. Worshipped and worshipping are more common than the single-p versions.

Like worshipped, kidnapped breaks the doubling rule because the stress falls on the first syllable and not the second. I would guess that most of us probably feel that worshiping and kidnaping “just look wrong.” Something that could explain this feeling is that both words contain one-syllable words that do double the consonant when adding an ending: ship, shipping; nap, napping.

Those writing for US publications must pay attention to house rules for these spellings, but in the absence of a stated preference in a publication’s guidelines, I think it’s safe to say that American writers can go with worshipping as well as kidnapping.

PS: Just the other day, I saw a photo caption in the Washington Post that gave the spelling “worshiped.” I guess they don’t use the AP Stylebook.

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1 thought on “Worshipped and Worshipping Revisited”

  1. I’ve seen it both ways. I’m in the US and prefer two Ps, probably because as you said, it’s shipping and napping. When I see them spelled with one P, in my head I hear “war-SHIPE-ing” and “kid-NAPE-ing.” Ugh!

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