Until we meet again

Test time! Only one of these words is an acceptable substitute for until. Do you know which one?

’til    til

’till    till

If you picked till, you are correct. But many writers opt for ’til, reasoning that the apostrophe is necessary because it shows the omission of un-, in the same way we apostrophise ’tis and ’twas to show the omission of i.

Here’s why they’re wrong: till isn’t short for until. In fact, till is the older word – its earliest recorded use was several hundred years before that of until. Until was made by adding the Old Norse und (meaning “as far as”) to the English till. So, although it’s certainly a legitimate word in modern English, until is actually redundant – its two syllables mean the same thing.

These days, until and till are used interchangeably. Both are equally correct, but until is considered more formal. Of the incorrect variants we mentioned above, til and ’till are considered the most egregious, but ’til won’t win you any points with the grammar police either.