Which is the correct spelling: “fairy” or “faerie”?

Fairy vs. faerie — which is the correct spelling?


As others have noted, fairy is the standard modern spelling, and faerie is a pseudo-archaism.

However, in some contexts there is now a semantic distinction between the two spellings! In particular, fairy tales and the associated idea of fairies typically refer to the genre of folk stories printed by the Brothers Grimm, then sweetened and popularized for modern audiences by Disney et al. Faerie stories, on the other hand, are stories about the fae: otherworldly, unpredictable, and dangerous creatures who appear in the folk-tales and myths of England and Ireland. In origin, of course, the fairies and the fae are one and the same, but the connotations and usage of the words today are headed in opposite directions.

A Google image search for fairy vs. faerie shows a lot of overlap, but some very significant differences in tone and content between the two terms. Note that the search for “fairy” turns up a number of simple cartoon drawings and classical, idealized figures, while the search for “faerie” has a higher proportion of non-human and sexualized figures.

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