Judgement or judgment


Judgement/judgment can mean decision-making, forming an opinion, and subsequently taking some action as a result of advice given by a person making the judgement/judgment. The word also occurs in a legal context such as in a decision made in a court of law by a judge, jury, or magistrate. Such decision, be it in a legal or general context, usually involves a thorough consideration of all the facts. It can be said to be the conclusion to such consideration. However, different people may make different decisions regarding the situation; therefore, it may be said that judgement/judgment can be a matter of individual opinion. 

The word originates from the French jugier meaning to judge. It was first used in the English language in the second half of the thirteenth century when the language of the nobility in England was French. Therefore, at that time, French words came into English.  

Over the years, there has been some controversy over the spelling of the word, and the two spellings have risen and fallen in popularity. In the latter part of the seventeenth century, the usual spelling was ‘judgment’. However, Samuel Johnson, in his dictionary published in 1797 spelt it ‘judgement’, whereas, in his American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1828, Webster used the spelling ‘judgment’. In present-day British English, the word is usually spelt ‘judgement’, except where it is used in a legal context in which case it is spelt ‘judgment’. The main dictionaries of British English state that ‘judgement’ is the preferred spelling, but that ‘judgment’ is an acceptable alternative. This convention is also followed in Australian, Canadian, and South African English. Although in British English, the current most popular spelling is ‘judgement’, it is not unknown to find it spelt ‘judgment’. However, although the American spelling is almost always ‘judgment’, the spelling ‘judgement’, although extremely rare, is not entirely unknown. The spelling of the word may even be thought to be a matter of personal opinion, but if so, it is essential that it is consistent in a particular piece of writing. 

Finally, it needs to be considered whether the usage of the word in writing follows the spelling given in dictionaries, or whether dictionaries are amended to accommodate the changing usage of the word in writing. In view of the way in which the English language is changing rapidly and the increasing tendency to use ‘judgment’ in all contexts in British English, it appears that the latter is true.  

Examples from current usage (although this could change in the future): 

British English 

(a)   George’s judgement of the capability of the new employee was made without giving sufficient consideration.

(b) The judgment of the magistrates was that there was no case to answer. 

American English

(a)   I know that I can always rely on Susan’s judgment because she considers all the facts very carefully.

(b) The judgment of the court was that the defendant acted without due consideration for the general public.