Mold or Mould: What is the Difference?

Should you use mold or mould? Learn the difference between these two words in this article.

Are you confused about using mold or mold in your writing? This comes as no surprise when you consider that the two words are pronounced the same and mean the same thing. Mold is the preferred spelling in American English, while mould is the British spelling.

In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of the differences between the two words. From etymology and meanings to regional varieties, we’ll cover everything you need to know in order to use them correctly in your writing.

While here, check out our article on basic grammar rules every writer must know.

Let’s dive in.

Mold Or Mould – Which One Is Right?

Whether you should use mold or mould in your writing depends solely on one thing – whether you’re writing in American or British English.

Mold is the preferred way of spelling in the US, while mould is used in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This is because the former omits the letter U when it comes as a second vowel directly before the consonant. It’s the same simplified spelling that occurs in words like colour/ color and favour/ favor.

We are to thank Noah Webster for this. Webster thought that simplifying the spelling would aid literacy, create a political gesture, and differentiate American English from British English.

Meaning Of The Words Mold Or Mould

As we established, choosing between mold vs. mould depends on what variation of English you’re using. But do you know how to properly use the word in your writing? 

The word mold can be a verb or a noun, and in both cases, it has several meanings. To make things simpler, let’s look at each type of word individually.

Mold Or Mould As A Noun

Mold or Mould
Molds, used to shape food, include muffin tins, springform pans, and cake rings

First and foremost, the word mold can be used when referring to a hollow form or matrix for shaping a liquid or soft substance. In that sense of the word, mold is a countable noun.

In cooking, molds are containers used to shape the finished dish in food preparation. So a muffin tin, springform pan, cake ring – these are all different types of molds used in cooking and baking.

  • After pouring the batter into a mold, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Cover the baking mold with parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking to the bottom.
  • You will need three separate molds for this dessert.

Of course, molds are used for shaping other substances as well. For instance, metal, epoxy, concrete, plaster, and clay are all poured into a mold of the desired shape in a liquid form and then allowed to solidify.

  • Cast bullets are made by solidifying molten lead and tin into a mold.

The word mold may also be used to refer to the general shape or form. For example, you can say:

  • The hourglass mold of her body.

In this case, the word mold is used figuratively. Furthermore, you may also use the word mold when referring to a distinctive style showing the characteristics, attitudes, or behavior typical of someone or something.

  • I wouldn’t say James fits into the mold of an ideal employee. He’s always late with assignments and hates teamwork. 
  • Morrisson kids are all cast in the same mold – they’re all mean to other kids in school.

Look at the word mold in these two sentences. In both cases, it’s a part of a figurative idiom. In the first example, the idiom fit into a mold means someone or something that exhibits a specific set of characteristics or qualities.

In the case of James, those characteristics are the exact opposite of an ideal employee: tardiness and bad team player.

The second example features the idiom cast in the same mold,” which means to be very similar in character to someone else. In the case of Morrisson kids, they all have the same qualities as bullies.

The word mold also means a woolly or furry growth of tiny fungi that appears on organic matter that’s kept warm and moist for a long time. So in other words, pretty much anywhere! Rotting wooden logs, moist carpet, humid bathroom, and even that 3-day-old muffin in your kitchen.

Sometimes, the term mold is used as a common name for non-fungal groups as well. For instance, water mold and slime mold are often called fungi even though they’re protists. Protists are a group of unicellular, microscopic organisms that contain species that aren’t classified as animals, plants, or fungi.

  • See those white, fuzzy dots on the bread? That’s mold.
  • There are some tough mold stains on the walls.

When used as a synonym for fungi, mold is an uncountable noun. That’s because mold never appears as a single organism – instead, there’s always a colony of these microscopic living things.

Mold Or Mould As A Verb

The word mold can also be used as a verb, and it can mean a few things. First, it can mean “to form the material into a specific consistency or shape.”

  • You should mold the clay into a ball, and then press it down to flatten.
  • Isn’t nature amazing? Just look at this mountain peak, molded by the glaciers for a million years.

Obviously, these sentences use the verb in the literal sense of the word. But, the verb mold can also be used figuratively. For instance, mold can mean “to influence or guide the growth or development of someone or something.”

  • Big shoutout to my parents, who molded me into the amazing person I am today.
  • The internet inevitably molds the culture of humans living in a networked world.

As a verb, the word mold can also mean to fit closely by following the contours.

  • The dress molds beautifully to the curves.
  • These boots are as stiff as a rock now but give them a few weeks, and they will mold to your feet.

Mold Or Mould – Etymology Of The Word

Mold or mould - etymology of the word
Mold originally referred to mixing by kneading, only gaining its figurative meaning in the 17th century

The word mold/ mould can mean different things, but here’s the interesting part: they also have different origins. 

The word mold (meaning a form or matrix) comes from the Old French modle. Now, this word comes from the Latin modus, which means “model” or “measure.” This is a figurative form and dates back to the 11th century.

Then sometime during the 12th century, someone used the word when referring to the “form into which molten metal is run to obtain a cast.” You know, like the form used for making weapons.

As a verb, the word mold initially meant “to mix by kneading.” It wasn’t until the 17th century that someone used it figuratively. 

What about fungi? The word mold meaning fungi dates back to the 14th century. It comes from the Middle English mowlde, which is the past participle of mowlen, meaning “to grow moldy.” Now, no one knows for sure where the original meaning is from.

But according to some, it might be related to the Old English molde, which means “loose earth.” 

Have we piqued your interest in etymology? Check out our article canon vs. cannon.