Understanding “Fibre” vs. “Fiber”

A collage of circles representing washers

Dec 01, 2017

In addition to fielding the usual questions about our various processes and products, the team at New Process Fibre also frequently receives inquiries regarding the terms “fibre” and “fiber.” Is there a difference between “fiber” and “fibre”? If not, why are there two different spellings?

The short answer is that there is no difference between the two words.

While long-time industry professionals typically use the more traditional version of the word out of habit, many now commonly refer to components as being made of “fiber.” Whether called “fibre washers” or “fiber washers,” however, there is no difference in product type or features.

A Brief History of the Word

While both variations have been used in the English language for centuries, the interchangeable terms haven’t always held the same meaning they do today. For example, in the late 1300s, the words were first used to describe entrails, literally “thread-like structures in animal bodies.” By the 1800s, both “fibre” and “fiber” referred to textile materials, though the latter spelling was more commonly used.

Around this time, outside of the textile industry, debates began to arise about English words adopted from other languages. With no true standardization of modern English, many linguists and educators argued that words should stay true to their original form; so a word like “fibre,” derived from French, would remain in its true form with the same spelling.

As a result, England and its colonies adopted the use of “fibre,” while the United States continued to use the “–er” spelling, although “fibre” was still more common until the 1900s — when “fiber” became the official standardized American English spelling. To this day, England still uses the “–re” form.

Our Take on Fibre vs. Fiber

When industry first began utilizing fibre components across a broad range of applications, manufacturers were primarily turning cotton paper into vulcanized fibre. But just as spelling preferences have changed, so has non-metallic component production technology; expanding beyond limited fibre options, manufacturers can now choose from a huge selection of materials and processes. In today’s industrial landscape, fibre components present a reliable, cost-effective alternative to metal parts — no matter how you spell it.