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Here’s Why “Spider” and “Spyder” Are Spelled Differently

If you’re interested in cars even in the slightest, you probably already know that the term “Spider” — or “Spyder” — is occasionally used to describe small convertibles, usually lightweight 2-seaters like the FIAT 124 Spider or Porsche Boxster Spyder.

You may also know the origin behind the term. If you don’t, AutoWeek has an excellent summary here, but the basic thinking is that “spider” was a name initially given to small cars or carriages with a fabric roof that could be placed over the top in the event of a rainstorm — and that the top, when installed, made these vehicles look like a “spider.” According to AutoWeek, the term probably made the jump to sports cars as they were looking for older, cool-sounding named to bring back from previous eras — not unlike what automakers do today.

But the thing I’ve always wondered is this: Why do some automakers spell it “Spyder,” with a “y,” while others spell it “Spider,” with an “i”? It turns out that it’s a little simpler than you might think.

Well, part of it is simple. One aspect of it is still unknown, namely: Why did automakers start spelling it with a “Y” in the first place? After all, the word is “spider,” with an “i,” so the “y” thing seems out of place. But regardless of their reasons, they did it, and now “Spyder” is the generally accepted way to spell it when you have a small convertible with a fabric top — see, for instance, the Toyota MR2 Spyder, and the Porsche 918 Spyder, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, and the Audi R8 Spyder, and more.

Indeed, virtually everyone spells it this way, now, if they’re releasing a “Spyder,” with just one exception: the Italians.

It’s true: The Italians are the only ones who spell it with an “I,” and they do it virtually every time. The Ferrari 488 Spider, the FIAT 124 Spider, the Alfa Romeo Spider and on and on — though there have been a few times (Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, Maserati Spyder) where they’ve compromised on this. But generally speaking, you have the Italians spelling it “Spider,” and everyone else spelling it “Spyder.”

The reason for this? There is no “y” in the Italian alphabet. So while the rest of us have all adopted this odd term — “Spyder” — the Italians are left out of the fun since their alphabet doesn’t give them the letters for “Spyder.” Instead, they stick with “Spider.” And so if you’re ever writing out a car name with “Spider” or “Spyder” in the title and you’re not sure whether it’s spelled with a “y” or an “i,” you can generally rely on the rule that Italian cars are with an “i,” and everyone else is with a “y.” Unless it’s the Lamborghini Huracan. But, folks, let’s be honest: That’s a German car anyway. Find a convertible for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. A bunch of bullshits.

    We (Italians) have loads of words with X, Y, W, J, although they are not in our alphabet. Thus, that cannot be the reason.

    Also, Lamborghinis are designed in Italy, by almost all Italian designers and engineers, produced in Italy, with a few international parts (as happens for everyone), embed a strong Italian heritage, philosophy and car culture, so they are Italian.
    They are just german in the process company burcracy, and probably in most of the corporate choices.

  2. Italians also don’t have the letter “J” in their alphabet. I found this out when I went to Italy and every word that had a “J” sound in it was written with a “gi” (for example: Giovanni, Luigi, Giapponese [Italian for “Japanese”]).

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