Flier vs. Flyer: What’s the Difference?

The words flier vs. flyer are often used interchangeably, but there’s a difference in their meanings. Here’s how you can tell them apart.

Homophones are words pronounced the same but have different meanings, and the English language is full of them. Flier vs flyer is a good example. They sound the same, but they’re written differently and can mean different things. 

Use flier when referring to a person or an animal that flies. On the other hand, use flyer when referring to an advertising circular, like a pamphlet or a handbill.

The problem with the aforementioned words is that regional variations can confuse the writer and the reader. To understand how to use them correctly, it’s important to look at the meanings and etymology of the words, so that’s what we’re doing today.

While here, check out our article on common English spelling mistakes to keep your article readable and apprehensible.

Now, let’s dive in.

Flier vs. Flyer – Which Is Right?

In spoken English, both “flyer” and “flier” sound exactly the same. But when written, these two words have a slight spelling difference. And when spelled differently, they also mean different things. 

However, it’s worth noting that these two words are often also used interchangeably, depending on which regional variety of English is used. This can be confusing, so let’s look at the meanings and examples of both words to help you use them correctly.

The Meaning And Etymology Of Flier

The word “flier” can refer to an airplane passenger, but in some cases, it can also specifically mean an aviator

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “flier” means “one that flies.” It’s an agent noun of the verb “fly,” and it’s been used in English since the 15th century.

The word “flier” can refer to an airplane passenger, but in some cases, it can also specifically mean an aviator. The latter meaning developed during WWI, the first major war where airplanes were essential to the military. 

This word can also be used as part of the phrase “take a flier.” This idiom means “to do something that could have either good or bad results.” 

It’s believed that this idiom was first used in 1846 on the notion of a “flying leap” in finance. Today, it’s still commonly used in stock market trading when referring to a risky investment, but it’s not unusual to use it in informal settings.

Examples Of Flier In A Sentence

Here are some examples of the word “flier” in everyday sentences:

  • Joanne is a frequent flier and enjoys certain advantages, such as priority check-in and bonus luggage.
  • After spending decades as the company’s main commercial flier, Mark retired at 65.
  • The peregrine falcon is considered to be the best flier among birds, being able to exceed 200 miles per hour in speed.

As for the idiom “take a flier,” here are some examples of how it can be used in a sentence:

  • The team took a flier by saving the best player for the very end.
  • Unfortunately, the investors don’t want to take a flier on a small startup company.

As you can see from the second example, the idiom “take a flier” is often accompanied by a preposition “on” when an object is used in a sentence.

The Meaning And Etymology Of Flyer

The word “flyer” is a shortened form of the word “fly sheet”, which is believed to be first used in the 1800s

The word means a different thing when spelled as “flyer,” with the letter Y instead of I. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a flyer as “an advertising circular.” In other words, a flyer can mean a leaflet, handbill, or pamphlet – numerous synonyms exist.

While such paper advertisements have existed since the Middle Ages, the word “flyer” is a relatively new term. It’s a shortened form of the word “fly sheet”, which is believed to be first used in the 1800s. 

The 19th century saw human rights issues take center stage, from slavery abolition to suffrage movements, and these printed publications played an essential role in drawing attention to these issues among a wider public. Exactly when these prints started getting called “flyers” is unknown, but it’s believed to have happened in 1889, on the notion of “made to be scattered broadcast.”

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the word “flyer” is also used in a textile glossary. In such a case, the word refers to a specific component used to produce yarn. Positioned above the spinning bobbin, the flyer is a rotating component that guides the yarn onto the bobbin. 

Examples Of Flyer In A Sentence

Let’s look at some example sentences that include the word “flyer.”

  • With such a bland flyer, don’t expect many people to show up for the event.
  • You should print out flyers to get the word out about your business.
  • The university prepared the flyer with all the necessary information for future Freshmen.
  • I wouldn’t have known about the gig if I hadn’t found the flyer on the ground.
  • Many papers feature flyers offering discounts.

Spelling Variations In Different English Dialects And Style Guides

It’s worth noting that the words “flier” and “flyer” are often used interchangeably, which can confuse the reader. This stems from the fact that different English dialects prefer different spellings.

For instance, “flier” is the standard spelling in American English. So much so that even a pamphlet is often spelled as a “flier” and not a “flyer.” 

British English prefers to use “flyer” when referring to a piece of paper. But similarly, you might also encounter this spelling even when talking about persons, objects, or animals that fly. 

There are no strict standards for the words “flier” and “flyer,” so you’re not technically wrong regardless of how you spell it. Not even style manuals are on the same page when spelling these words.

The Chicago Manual of Style and Gregg Reference Manual agree on using “flier” for those who travel by air and “flyer” for a handout.

However, AP Stylebook finds “flyer” to be the preferred spelling, regardless of whether you’re referring to handbills or those who fly. The spelling “flier” should be used in the phrase “take a flier.”

Then, we have Garner’s Modern English Usage stating that the spelling depends solely on your dialect. So if you’re writing in American English, you should use the form “flier,” regardless of the meaning of the word. Likewise, “flyer” is the acceptable spelling for both words in British English.

To learn more about different manuals, check out our article on the best style guide for business writing.

Many other style guides don’t deal with this issue – which is fine, as they don’t need to concur on everything. In most cases, you can use alternate spelling and won’t be technically wrong. However, if you’re sticking to a specific style manual, following its guidelines on spelling these two words is important to avoid confusion.


  • Viktoria is a journalist and content writer with years of experience writing magazine and newspaper articles, web copy, and blog posts. When not immersed in words, Viktoria enjoys the tranquility of the outdoors, where she finds inspiration and rejuvenation in hiking and camping.