Till vs. ‘Til

David Bowie had the song “Love You Till Tuesday,” but Michael Jackson had “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

Motörhead had an entire album named No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, but Shirley Bassey just sang “Till.”

Sometimes in songs, poetry, and simple everyday conversation, it feels more natural to use the shortened version of until. But which version is correct: ‘til or till?

The case for till
It would follow that till evolved as an abbreviation of until. However, till is actually the older word, being about eight hundred years old in comparison with until’s mere four hundred years. Until came into being as a compound of till, which originally meant to—and still does in Scotland—and the Old Norse word und, which means up to.

Since till is the etymological forefather of until, it makes sense that it would be the best choice for a shortened version of until.

The case for ‘til
Using apostrophes to replace letters happens frequently in English. Think about goin’ or rock ‘n’ roll. This makes ‘til seem like a natural shortening of until. Besides, since when do we add an extra letter (the second l in till) when we abbreviate words?

The verdict
Till is generally accepted as being more correct than ‘til. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, till is the way to go. And, depending on which dictionary you use, ‘til is either an accepted alternative spelling or a spelling error. Despite some sources considering ‘til not technically wrong, it’s best to use till as all sources consider it correct.

But what about til?
If you feel you must use t-i-l, be sure to use an apostrophe at the beginning. Til with no apostrophe is always incorrect.

About Erin Roof

Editor for hire. Dictionary collector. Part-time cat lady. Word nerd blogging at grammarpartyblog.com
This entry was posted in etymology, grammar, punctuation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Till vs. ‘Til

  1. Till till hell freezes over.
    And I’d say ’til isn’t an alternate spelling, because hardly anyone alternates between the two.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So I got this tattoo that reads ” till death ” everyone loves to jump on me about it being wrong because its not ’til. Love proving everyone wrong, but does get annoying after a while.

  3. LindsK says:

    The main thing I took from this is that it’s yet another example of the incorrect use of ‘alternate’ when the writer actually means ‘alternative’.

  4. I actually found this amazing article , “Till vs.
    ‘Til | Grammar Party”, pretty pleasurable not to mention it was a wonderful read.
    Thanks a lot,Tressa

  5. Dennis A says:

    As with a contraction, though, wouldn’t the apostrophe shortcut (for lack of a better term) the un? I had been under the impression it was a contraction of sorts.

    • Erin Roof says:

      ‘Til is a contraction for “until.” You’re correct in that when it is spelled that way, that is why it has an apostrophe. However, “till,” which is actually an older word than “until,” is the most accepted spelling.

  6. I’ve wondered about this for years, thanks!

  7. Laura D says:

    Hi, Erin. I was wondering if you could fix the apostrophes at the beginnings of words in this article. As it stands now, they are single open quotes (curling toward the left) rather than apostrophes (which curl toward the right).


  8. Lala says:

    Hi there. I was looking up opinions on this issue and landed on your blog. My understanding is the word “till” (the adverb) was first recorded around the YEAR 800, not 800 years ago.

  9. Liam Norman says:

    I always use ’til but this has been bugging me for ages, looks like I’ll be changing to till!

  10. dev says:

    I would argue that since till and until are different words, till cannot be an abbreviation of until. ‘Til has, however, the same definition as until and, therefore, is an abbreviated version of until.

    • Goat says:

      They’re not different words, just different spellings of the same word.
      Till is already the shorter version of until (its actually the etymon preceding until). ’til is a pointless made-up word as it’s trying to be an abbreviation but takes longer to type than till.

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