Maintenance or Maintainance: Which Spelling Is It?

When someone asks you to spell maintenance, it tends to take you aback. You play around with the spellings in your head: is it maintenance, or maintainance?

Maintenance Vs Maintainance: Which Is Correct?

For the record, when someone asks you to spell maintenance, the correct spelling is “maintenance” and not “maintainance”.

There are several reasons when you spell maintenance why one is correct and not the other.

Maintenance: the Word’s Origin

In this theory, “maintenance and maintainance” are thought to have two separate meanings in the original French. The English word’s meaning was developed through the process of “de-Anglicization”.

During this process the French spelling was “maintenanc”. However, over the years the English developed the new spelling to “maintenance”.

As the advent of the printing press standardized English spellings from the mid 1400s onward, the word continued in that form until today.

In this explanation, “maintainance” is considered to be an incorrect variation of the word we borrowed from Old French.

Grammar Roots

Under this explanation, maintainance arose as a spelling because of incorrectly applied grammatical rules.

It was assumed with the word “maintain”, you would add a suffix to make it the correct form of the word. For example, normally, people would add the suffix to the root word “Maintain”.

These would form words like maintained (maintain + ed), which is the past tense. It could also form maintainer (maintain + er), or noun, the person who maintains. It could also form maintainability (maintain + ability), which is an adjective. Or, it could form maintainable (maintain + able), which is also an adjective.

But you need to remember how irregular English is. It doesn’t always follow patterns and rules, like the ones above. Maintenance happens to be one of those irregular words. Adding the suffix “ance” to the verb “maintain” is incorrect in this case.

To Wrap Up

When it comes to spelling, you will always do well to remember that English has a strange history. It has always borrowed words and rules from other languages.

Words like “maintenance” is just one of many to be influenced by this history.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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