The F word: Faerie, Fairy, Faery, Fayrie?

I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain F word lately. You know the one:
That one. Or rather, those ones. You see, my current series contains a lot of, um, F-things. And I need to decide which spelling to use.

Now, you might think, given that I’m halfway through writing the fourth and final book in this series, that this decision would long since have been made. Ah, my sweet summer child. I am nothing if not indecisive. Besides, Microsoft Word has a global find-and-replace function, and I haven’t yet published any of the books. This means I’m not committed to any one spelling quite yet.

However, I am going to have to become committed to a specific spelling shortly, mainly because the F-word looks like it’s going to appear in the title of Book 4. Which means it goes on the cover. Which means I need to nail down my spelling preferences before I organise the cover.

So what’s the difference between all these words? To be honest, I’ve seen them all used interchangeably in fiction. Wikipedia has much the same attitude:


And Wikipedia doesn’t even mention the eleventy billion other options. Despite the consensus being, basically, “do what you want”, there are some differences in tone to consider. “Fairy” is more modern and evokes dainty tinkerbells; faerie has an archaic ring. Faery is an interesting mish-mash between the two. Fayrie belongs, I think, in the same category as vampyre and magyck aka who doesn’t love extra y’s in the middle of words? Phaeree? Now it’s just getting silly.

Random selection of fairy titles
A relatively random selection of book covers; consensus on spelling seems to be You Do You.

I admit I’ve a fondness for “fairy” because mine are definitely not of the tinkerbell-sort, and the dissonance amuses me. But I also enjoy the eldritch connotations of “faerie” and aesthetically I quite like the appearance of “a” and “e” sitting next to each other (I shouldn’t have mocked the vampyres in the last paragraph – I have no high ground here at all, do I?).

In the world of Stariel, I make a distinction between the Faerie Realm and the people who live in it – the fae. However, I haven’t quite been able to let go of the “fairy” spelling entirely – this is what uneducated humans call the fae. Is three different spellings in one novel being greedy?

That said, enjoy an excerpt from the current draft of Book 1: The Lord of Stariel with all three spellings!

“Am I to take it that my family are, in fact, fairies?” Hetta asked, pained.

He burst into startled laughter. The sound filled the small room, warm and touchable, and Hetta gave her heart stern instructions not to soften in response. Remember how he’s lied to you!

“Don’t you dare laugh! This entire tale is so fantastical that I wouldn’t believe a word of it if I hadn’t seen her change with my own eyes. How am I supposed to know what’s a reasonable question to ask? I’ve only known fairies are real for half an hour!”

He wiped at his eyes. “Oh, I am sorry, Hetta. It wasn’t really so unreasonable a suggestion. It was your tone. You’re taking this much better than I’d hoped, despite my addle-brained telling of it.”

“Well, get on with your addle-brained telling then.” Hetta eyed the whisky glasses on her desk, untouched from earlier. No, better not, she decided with regret. A clear head was required for this.

He sobered. “To answer your question: no, the Valstars are not ‘fairies’. Or at least, not anymore. And I should correct your usage of terms. We are the fae; our land is Faerie.”

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