What Do “Until,” “Till,” and “‘Til” Mean?

There is a common trend of unrelated words with similar spelling in English. To add more confusion to the situation, many related words have unique derived spellings, which can trip up writers. This is just the case with until, ’til, and till, which have strange and strong relations to each other. Although they are not true homophones, their intertwined meaning profoundly impacts English speakers. So wondering whether its ’til or until is not uncommon!

Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at the differences and similarities between these words.

  • Until is used as a preposition or conjunction that indicates when something will start or finish.
  • Till is an older form of the word until, which means the same thing. Till is not an abbreviation; instead it is a separate word. It can also refer to other things, such as cash registers or the act of preparing land for farming.
  • ‘Til is a shortening of the word until. Although it is used colloquially, most style guides tend to ignore or count it as an error.

How to Use Till

Since it is less common in English, you probably wonder how you should use till or what it means. As mentioned, till essentially means the same thing as until. It is not an abbreviated form of the word but rather an older Middle English version that has lost popularity over the years.

Essentially, till and until have the same usage rules, with only slightly different contextual understandings.

As a note of formality, most sources claim that till is slightly more formal than until, so if you are trying to sound distinguished, you can use it now and then.

Don’t worry if you were confused about its status as a separate word; more and more English writers have been accidentally using the word till in place of ’til.

Additionally, if you see till in other contexts, it can refer to other things, such as a cash register drawer or the preparation of farmland.

How to Use ‘Til

In contrast to till, ’til is the true abbreviation of until. The only difference is the apostrophe which shortens the word.
Although there isn’t solid evidence on the origin of this word, most sources can track ’til back to the 19th century in the historical record.

Do note that most style guides and dictionaries don’t accept the word, so if you write with it, you should probably only use it in informal or creative writing, such as poetry.

Sentence Examples using Until and Till

I took a bite of the sandwich and kept the rest in my hand till the guards collected the trash. – The Guardian.

We have to acknowledge that pre-1788, this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now and until we have acknowledged that, we will be an incomplete nation and a torn people. – The Guardian.

The premium on land was exacerbated by the Rent Control Act of 1947, which wasn’t amended till 1999. – The Guardian.


In the end, these three words can honestly be confusing. Until, till, and ’til are all words or abbreviations which mean the same thing as each other, although till can also refer to a few other things.

In short, they all describe a period in which something will start or end.

‘Til is the less formal way of saying until. In comparison, till is an old English form of the word which means the same thing. Most sources cite till slightly more formal than until, but there is little difference between the two words.

In modern English, you are more likely to see until, but till is still widely accepted. Additionally, ’til is rarely accepted by most style guides, so you should mainly use it in informal writing.

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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