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Specialise vs. Specialize: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Updated on November 14, 2023
"Specialise" and "specialize" are the same in meaning, referring to focusing on a specific area, but "specialise" is British English, while "specialize" is American English.

Key Differences

"Specialise" and "specialize" both mean to concentrate on and become expert in a particular subject or skill. The primary difference lies in their usage across different forms of English. "Specialise" is commonly used in British English, while "specialize" is the preferred spelling in American English.
In terms of pronunciation, "specialise" and "specialize" sound the same. Both words are derived from the Latin word "specialis," meaning "particular" or "distinct." This etymological root is a common factor in both spellings.
Both "specialise" and "specialize" are verbs. Their usage in sentences is interchangeable, with the only distinction being the regional preference for spelling. For example, academic and professional texts in the UK will predominantly use "specialise."
The suffixes "-ise" and "-ize" in "specialise" and "specialize" respectively represent a common divergence in British and American English spellings. This pattern is seen in other words like "realise/realize" and "organise/organize."
Despite their spelling differences, "specialise" and "specialize" have the same grammatical applications. They can be used in various tenses and forms without any difference in their meaning or function in a sentence.

Comparison Chart

Spelling Variation

British English spelling
American English spelling


Commonly used in the UK and Commonwealth
Predominantly used in the United States


Uses the suffix "-ise"
Uses the suffix "-ize"


Pronounced the same as "specialize"
Pronounced the same as "specialise"

Grammatical Function

Same as "specialize" in all grammatical forms
Same as "specialise" in all grammatical forms

Specialise and Specialize Definitions


To focus on a specific subject or skill.
She decided to specialise in pediatric medicine.


To gain expertise in a specific field or subject.
He specialized in 18th-century English literature.


To become increasingly proficient in a particular area.
He chose to specialise in maritime law.


To focus on a specific area of study or work.
She chose to specialize in neurology.


To tailor services or products to a particular customer or need.
The firm decided to specialise in bespoke furniture.


To cater specifically to a certain market or demographic.
The company specializes in high-end audio equipment.


To adapt or evolve for a specific function or environment.
This species has specialised to survive in arid conditions.


To develop unique features or skills for a particular role or environment.
The plant has specialized leaves for capturing sunlight efficiently.


To restrict oneself to providing a particular product or service.
The bakery started to specialise in vegan pastries.


To limit one's business or activity to a particular area of expertise.
After years of expansion, the restaurant decided to specialize in Italian cuisine.


Standard spelling of specialize


To pursue a special activity, occupation, or field of study
A doctor who specializes in cardiology.


Devote oneself to a special area of work;
She specializes in honey bees
This plumber specialized in jacuzzis


To provide something in particular or have something as a focus
The shop specializes in mountain-climbing gear.


Be specific about;
Could you please specify your criticism of my paper?


(Biology) To become adapted to a specific function or environment; undergo specialization.


Suit to a special purpose;
Specialize one's research


Become more special;
We specialize in dried flowers


Evolve so as to lead to a new species or develop in a way most suited to the environment


Do "specialise" and "specialize" have the same pronunciation?

Yes, both words are pronounced identically.

Do "specialise" and "specialize" have the same grammatical usage?

Yes, their grammatical usage is identical.

Are there any spelling variations of "specialise/specialize" in different English-speaking countries?

Yes, "specialise" is preferred in the UK and Commonwealth countries, while "specialize" is preferred in the US.

What is the origin of "specialise/specialize"?

Both come from the Latin "specialis," meaning "specific" or "distinct."

Can "specialise" and "specialize" be part of compound words?

Yes, they can form compound words like "specialised/specialized training."

Can both "specialise" and "specialize" be used in various tenses?

Yes, both can be used in different tenses without any change in meaning.

Are there other words similar to "specialise/specialize" with regional spelling differences?

Yes, words like "realise/realize" and "organise/organize" follow similar patterns.

In academic writing, should I use "specialise" or "specialize"?

It depends on the preferred English form of the institution or publication.

Are "specialise" and "specialize" interchangeable?

Yes, they are interchangeable but used in different forms of English.

Is "specialize" acceptable in British English?

"Specialize" is less common in British English but is still correct.

Is the meaning of "specialise" and "specialize" different in professional contexts?

No, they have the same meaning in all contexts.

Can "specialise" be used in American English?

While not standard, it can be understood in American English.

Can "specialise" and "specialize" be used as nouns?

No, they are strictly verbs; the noun forms are "specialisation" and "specialization."

Are there any exceptions to the rule of using "specialise" in British English and "specialize" in American English?

Generally, no; these are the standard forms in their respective versions of English.

Are there any synonyms for "specialise/specialize"?

Yes, words like "focus," "concentrate," and "expertise" can be similar in meaning.

Can "specialise" and "specialize" be used in informal contexts?

Yes, they are appropriate for both formal and informal contexts.

Do "specialise" and "specialize" have any different connotations?

No, they carry the same connotations in all contexts.

Is it common to see "specialise" and "specialize" in business language?

Yes, both are commonly used in business and professional language.

How do I know whether to use "specialise" or "specialize"?

Consider the regional English you are writing in; use "specialise" for British English and "specialize" for American English.

Is it incorrect to use "specialize" in a British English document?

It's not incorrect, but "specialise" is the preferred form in British English.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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