‘Whilst’, ‘amongst’ and ‘amidst’ are all variant spellings of familiar terms:
- Whilst is an alternative spelling of the conjunction ‘while’.
- Amongst is a variant spelling of the preposition ‘among’.
- Amidst is an alternative version of the preposition ‘amid’.
But which spellings should you use? Are they always interchangeable? And how do you avoid errors in your writing? Check out our tips below!
What to Do with -st Word Endings
All the words we’re looking at here have standard spellings (while, among, amid) and alternative -st endings (whilst, amongst, amidst). In each case, the variant spelling means the same thing as the standard version. And this means the ‘correct’ spelling is simply a matter of preference.
Nevertheless, there are two key factors to consider with these words:
- The -st endings are accepted variant spellings and quite common in Australian and British English, but they are rarely used in American English.
- The -st spelling variants here may sound quite formal or old-fashioned to modern readers. For this reason, many style guides suggest avoiding them.
As such, you will usually want to use the standard versions of these words (while, among, amid). But to give you a better idea of how to use them correctly, we’ll look at each pair of spellings in more detail below.
While vs. Whilst
When used as a conjunction, while/whilst typically means ‘during the time that’, ‘at the same time as’ or ‘despite the fact that’. For example, we could use either spelling in the following sentences:
I did the laundry while you were in the bath.
I did the laundry whilst you were in the bath.
I spent a while in the bath today.
I’d rather while away the hours instead of doing chores.
‘While’ is the only accepted spelling in these cases. As such, make sure you only use ‘whilst’ if you are using it as a conjunction, not as a noun or verb.
Among vs. Amongst
Among/Amongst is a preposition meaning ‘surrounded by’ or ‘in the midst of’:
We swam among the fish in a tropical paradise.
We swam amongst the fish in a tropical paradise.
It also has a few other uses, such as indicating membership of a group (e.g. it caused outrage amongst commentators) or division between group members (e.g. they shared it out among themselves). But you can use either ‘among’ or ‘amongst’ in all these cases as long as you’re consistent.
Amid vs. Amidst
Amid/amidst is also a preposition meaning ‘surrounded by’:
The book lay amid a pile of discarded sweet wrappers.
The book lay amidst a pile of discarded sweet wrappers.
As with ‘among’ and ‘amongst’, the choice of spelling here is a matter of preference. However, ‘amidst’ is especially rare in American English, so it is best avoided if writing for a US audience.
Summary: Whilst, Amongst and Amidst
‘Whilst’, ‘amongst’ and ‘amidst’ are variant spellings of ‘while’, ‘among’ and ‘amid’, respectively. As such, you can often use the standard and -st spellings interchangeably. However, there are some guidelines to follow:
- ‘Whilst’ is only accepted as a variant of ‘while’ when used as a conjunction. If you are using it as a verb or noun, you should stick to ‘while’.
- All the -st spellings here are much rarer in American English.
- The -st variant spellings here may sound old-fashioned or overly formal.
- Many style guides recommend avoiding the -st spellings of these terms.
In addition, make sure to use a consistent spelling style in each document. For example, if you use ‘among’ in one place, you shouldn’t switch to ‘amongst’ later on. And if you’d like a professional to help ensure your spelling is always perfect, why not submit a document for proofreading today?