Word Confusion: Chile vs Chili vs Chilly

Posted March 5, 2019 by kddidit in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

As Shakespeare says “So quick bright things come to confusion​”. And that says it all about Chile vs Chili, for both can go all ways. And there are a few dictionaries that want to pull chilly in as well!

Please don’t…

For all that, there’s Chile the country, and then chile the pepper, which can also be a chili or chillino, it doesn’t mean its colder or hotter…

In New Mexico, they eat a stew called chile, which is what the LA Times uses to refer to the pepper. The Times prefers chili for the stew. And, yes, still others like a stew they call chilli.

The key in all this is consistency. Whichever version you choose, use that same spelling throughout.

As for chilly being anything other than cold…keep in mind that there’s nothing cold about chile or chili and only Chile is the country.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Chile Chili Chilly
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; The Free Dictionary: chili and chilly; Dictionary.com: chilly; Vocabulary.com: chilly

Map of administrative divisions of XY

Chile, Administrative Divisions is TUBS’ own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

A pot of chili con carne with whole green hot chilis, kidney beans and tomatoes

Pot-o-chili by FiveRings is under the CC BY 3.0 license, via English Wikipedia.

Yum, a pot of chili con carne with whole green hot chilis, kidney beans, and tomatoes.

A woman in a jacket and hat, wrapped up in a scarf holds a plastic cup of beer at a stadium

Chilly! by apasciuto is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

I feel that!

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Noun, proper
Plural: chiles (never Chiles)
Plural: chilies, chilis, chiles
[British] chillies, chillis

Alternate spelling: chilli

Adjective; Adverb
[US] Spelling for chili

[Southern US dialect] Spelling of child

[A.k.a., chili pepper] The pungent pod of any of several species of Capsicum, especially C. annuum longum used in cooking for its pungent flavor

[Cooking] A stew made of meat or beans (or both) and usually tomatoes, spiced with chili peppers or chili powder

[Cooking] A meatless version of chili con carne

Noun, proper:
A country in South America that occupies a long coastal strip that runs down the western side of Bolivia and Argentina, on the Pacific Ocean

[A.k.a., chili pepper] A small hot-tasting pod of a variety of capsicum, used chopped (and often dried) in sauces, relishes, and spice powders

  • Capsicum annuum longum group
  • Short for chili powder
  • Short for chili con carne
Uncomfortably cool or cold so as to cause discomfort

  • [Of a person] Feeling cold, often to the point of shivering
  • Unfriendly
  • Distant and cool


In a chill manner

We’re having chile tonight!

Where you been, honey chile?

I like to chop up a chile when I make scrambled eggs.

Noun, proper:
The capital of Chile is Santiago.

Salvador Allende was a Marxist president in Chile until 1973.

In 1990, a democratically elected president took office in Chile.

There are various forms of chilis with pods of differing size, color, and strength of flavor, such as cascabels and jalapeños.

Be careful to use a very few flakes of chili pepper to give a dish a tang.

Chilis are hot with a finely tapering form.

Cayenne, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, jalapeño, and long pepper are all chilis.

There is nothing like a chili dog!

Better put chili powder on the grocery list.

It had turned chilly.

The breeze certainly is chilly.

It turned out to be a chilly day.

I felt a bit chilly.

Oh, man, my hands are so chilly.

We got a chilly reception at the party last night.

The movie opened to a chilly reception from the critics.

The wind blew chilly.

Adjective: Chilean, pro-Chilean, pseudo-Chilean
Noun, proper: Chilean, pro-Chilean, pseudo-Chilean
Adjective: chilled, chillier, chilliest, chillsome
Adverb: chillily, chillingly
Noun: chiller, chilliness, chillness
History of the Word:
Early 17th century from the Spanish chile, which is from the Nahuatl chīlli, a native name for the peppers.

By 1846, it became the shortened form for chile con carne and similar dishes.

First recorded in 1560–70, combining chill + -y.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Antarctic Ichthyologist Dr Christopher Jones with a Large Patagonian Toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides was photographed by Christopher Jones and is in the public domain, courtesy of NOAA NMFS SWFSC Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Program, via the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adminstration. Dish of Chilis is under the CC0 license, via pxhere.

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