At New Process Fibre, one of the questions we hear most often has nothing to do with the products we manufacture or the processes we use to do so. Rather, it has to do with a word — what is the difference between “fibre” and “fiber,” such as in “fibre washers” and “fiber washers“?
The answer, in short, is that there is none.
“Fiber” and “fibre” are alternate spellings of the same word, referring to a thread of filament from which a textile is formed. The word is derived from the Latin word fibra, via the French word fibre, both of the same meaning.
A Brief Background
Both “fiber” and “fibre” have been used in the English language since the late 1300s, though at that time they were primarily used to describe entrails (literally “thread-like structures in animal bodies”). Over time, the definition changed and, by the early 1800s, “fibre” and “fiber” were commonly used to mean “textile material.” The first known recorded instance of this usage was in 1827. During this time period, “fiber” was more commonly used than “fibre.”
Around the same time, a movement began among educators and linguists, particularly those in England. They argued that an English word adopted from another language should remain in the form it appears in its original language. By their logic, “fibre” was more accurate than “fiber.” (At the time, there was no true standardization of modern English.)
As the traditional French-based “–re” spelling gained popularity in England and its colonies, the more phonetically representative “fiber” remained in use in the United States. It was still not universally accepted here, however, and “fibre” remained the more popular spelling well into the first quarter of the 20th century, at which point “fiber” started to become more popular. Finally, in the 1900s, “fiber” became the official standardized American English spelling. Today, Great Britain and other former colonies still use the “–re” spelling.
Our Place in History
F. Carl Porter founded New Process Fibre in 1927, a time when the “fibre” spelling was still in use — though with declining frequency — in America. New Process Fibre originally worked with cotton paper, converting it into vulcanized fibre.
Times change. Preferences for word spellings shift, and companies evolve; though “fibre” is in our name, we now work with a wide variety of materials. Two things have remained the same in the 90 years since our founding, however: our name and the industry-leading level of service and quality it has come to represent.