Commonly Confused Suffixes: -ance and -ancy vs. -ence and -ency

The suffixes “-ant” and “-ent” each have two related noun forms: “-ance/-ancy” and “-ence/-ency.” These are all used to describe a state, quality, condition, or action typically associated with an adjective or noun of agency described by “-ant” or “-ent.”
However, there is not always a direct correlation between the “-nt,” “-nce,” and “-ncy” endings: not every word ending in “-ant” or “-ent” can become a noun ending in both “-ance/-ancy” or “-ence/-ency.” Many roots and base words can indeed take all three endings (e.g., expectant, expectance, expectancy; dependent, dependence, dependency), but many others will only take one of the two possible noun endings (e.g., pregnant becomes pregnancy, but not pregnance; different becomes difference, but not differency). Additionally, there are smaller subsets of words that will only be formed with “-ant,” “-ance,” “-ent,” or “-ence,” without having either of the other two endings.
Note that the rules and conventions for when a word will take “-ance” vs. “-ence” or “-ancy” vs. “-ency” overlap almost entirely with choosing “-ant” vs “-ent,” so this section will focus more on determining when particular “-ant” or “-ent” words have corresponding “-nce” or “-ncy” forms. There are no spelling patterns in such words to help us determine when or if “-ance/-ancy” or “-ence/-ency” can be used, so this section will only look at specific sets of example words. If you want to see more detailed rules for determining which ending is correct, go to the section Commonly Confused Suffixes: “-ant” vs. “-ent”.

Words ending in “-ant”

Words that take both “-ance” and “-ancy”

The suffixes “-ance” and “-ancy” are simply variants of one another; as such, nouns with these two endings are almost always synonymous, with the only real difference being which one is more common. In the following table of examples, we’ve marked the most common form in bold—if it is overwhelmingly more common, it will be bold and underlined. (Note that we’ll only make this distinction between “-ance” and “-ancy”—we won’t be looking at how common “-ant” is compared to the others.)
-ant
-ance
-ancy
aberrant
aberrance
aberrancy
adamant
adamance
adamancy
ascendant
ascendance
ascendancy
attractant
attractance
attractancy
brilliant
brilliance
brilliancy
buoyant
buoyance
buoyancy
chatoyant
chatoyance
chatoyancy
compliant
compliance
compliancy
conversant
conversance
conversancy
deviant
deviance
deviancy
discordant
discordance
discordancy
elegant
elegance
elegancy
expectant
expectance
expectancy
extravagant
extravagance
extravagancy
exultant
exultance
exultancy
flagrant
flagrance
flagrancy
fragrant
fragrance
fragrancy
flamboyant
flamboyance
flamboyancy
hesitant
hesitance
hesitancy
instant
instance
instancy
irrelevant
irrelevance
irrelevancy
malignant
malignance
malignancy
militant
militance
militancy
petulant
petulance
petulancy
poignant
poignance
poignancy
precipitant
precipitance
precipitancy
preponderant
preponderance
preponderancy
protuberant
protuberance
protuberancy
radiant
radiance
radiancy
recalcitrant
recalcitrance
recalcitrancy
relevant
relevance
relevancy
reluctant
reluctance
reluctancy
repugnant
repugnance
repugnancy
significant
significance
significancy
undulant
undulance
undulancy
valiant
valiance
valiancy
vibrant
vibrance
vibrancy

Words that take either “-ance” or “-ancy”

As we noted already, though, not every adjective or noun of agency ending in “-ant” will take both “-ance” or “-ancy” to become nouns of state or condition. In fact, more words ending in “-ant” will take only one of the forms, rather than both.
-ant
-ance
-ancy
abeyant
abeyance
acceptant
acceptance
abundant
abundance
accordant
accordance
accountant
accountancy
adjutant
adjutancy
affiant
affiance
allegiant
allegiance
ambulant
ambulance
appurtenant
appurtenance
arrogant
arrogance
assistant
assistance
attendant
attendance
avoidant
avoidance
benignant
benignancy
blatant
blatancy
brisant
brisance
clairvoyant
clairvoyance
cognizant
cognizance
complaisant
complaisance
concomitant
concomitance
concordant
concordance
consonant
consonance
constant
constancy
consultant
consultancy
constant
constancy
continuant
continuance
defiant
defiance
dilatant
dilatancy
discrepant
discrepancy
distant
distance
dominant
dominance
dormant
dormancy
entrant
entrance
errant
errancy
exorbitant
exorbitance
exuberant
exuberance
flippant
flippancy
grievant
grievance
ignorant
ignorance
incessant
incessancy
infant
infancy
important
importance
inobservant
inobservance
insouciant
insouciance
insurant
insurance
intendant
intendance
issuant
issuance
iterant
iterance
itinerant
itinerancy
jubilant
jubilance
lieutenant
lieutenancy
luxuriant
luxuriance
mendicant
mendicancy
mordant
mordancy
nurturant
nurturance
obeisant
obeisance
observant
observance
occupant
occupancy
penetrant
penetrance
piquant
piquancy
pleasant
pleasance
pliant
pliancy
postulant
postulancy
pregnant
pregnancy
pursuant
pursuance
puissant
puissance
pursuant
pursuance
radiant
radiance
rampant
rampancy
reactant
reactance
redundant
redundancy
reliant
reliance
remonstrant
remonstrance
repentant
repentance
resemblant
resemblance
resistant
resistance
resonant
resonance
sergeant
sergeancy
sibilant
sibilance
sonant
sonance
stagnant
stagnancy
suppliant
suppliance
surveillant
surveillance
sycophant
sycophancy
tenant
tenancy
tolerant
tolerance
truant
truancy
vacant
vacancy
vagrant
vagrancy
variant
variance
verdant
verdancy
vigilant
vigilance

Words that don’t take “-ance” or “-ancy”

While most “-ant” words will have associated forms ending in “-ance,” “-ancy,” or both, there is also a large number of terms that don’t take either noun ending. There is nothing in the spelling of these words that makes it clear that they will not take either of the two endings, so we just have to memorize them:
abradant
absonant
alterant
accelerant
administrant
adulterant
claimant
clamant
coagulant
colorant
combatant
complainant
contestant
convulsant
coolant
corroborant
culminant
declarant
decongestant
defendant
deodorant
depressant
determinant
discriminant
discussant
disinfectant
dispersant
disputant
emigrant
etchant
euphoriant
evacuant
examinant
excitant
exhalant
expectorant
extant
fabricant
flagellant
fluctuant
fulgurant
fulminant
fumigant
gallant
habitant
humectant
hydrant
immigrant
incitant
indicant
indignant
inebriant
insulant
irritant
libellant
merchant
migrant
ministrant
mordant
mutant
officiant
operant
oxidant
palpitant
participant
pedant
penchant
permeant
puissant
pollutant
postulant
recreant
reductant
registrant
relaxant
remnant
resultant
retardant
revenant
reverberant
ruminant
sealant
servant
simulant
sonorant
stimulant
supplicant
surfactant
toxicant
tremulant
triumphant
tyrant
urticant
vesicant
visitant

Words that only take “-ance”

While less common, there are also some nouns ending in “-ance” that don’t have associated “-ant” forms. When this is the case, they do not have variant “-ancy” spellings either; they can only be formed from base words or roots using “-ance.”
abidance
absorptance
acquaintance
acquittance
admittance
affirmance
alliance
allowance
annoyance
appearance
appliance
assurance
avoidance
capacitance
comeuppance
contrivance
conveyance
countenance
dalliance
deliverance
disturbance
emittance
encumbrance
endurance
forbearance
forbiddance
governance
guidance
hindrance
inductance
inheritance
luminance
maintenance
malfeasance
ordinance
parlance
penance
performance
perseverance
pittance
provenance
purveyance
quittance
reconnaissance
remembrance
remittance
riddance
semblance
severance
substance
sustenance
temperance
utterance
vengeance
voidance

Words ending in “-ent”

The suffix “-ent” has the same function as “-ant,” and it has the same behavior when forming nouns ending with “-ence” or “-ency”: many “-ent” words will take both endings, many others will only take one or the other, while still others won’t take either.

Words that take both “-ence” and “-ency”

As with “-ance/-ancy,” nouns that end in “-ence” or “-ency” are almost always synonymous (though there are a few instances in which the “-ency” form has a slightly different meaning than “-ence”). Like in the previous table, the more common of the two is in bold, and if one is much more common than the other, it will be bold and underlined).
-ent
-ence
-ency
adjacent
adjacence
adjacency
advertent
advertence
advertency
affluent
affluence
affluency
appetent
appetence
appetency
ascendent
ascendence
ascendency
belligerent
belligerence
belligerency
cadent
cadence
cadency
coherent
coherence
coherency
competent
competence
competency
complacent
complacence
complacency
concurrent
concurrence
concurrency
congruent
congruence
congruency
consistent
consistence
consistency
contingent
contingence
contingency
convenient
convenience
conveniency
convergent
convergence
convergency
correspondent
correspondence
correspondency
covalent
covalence
covalency
decadent
decadence
decadency
decumbent
decumbence
decumbency
dependent
dependence
dependency
despondent
despondence
despondency
detergent
detergence
detergency
divergent
divergence
divergency
ebullient
ebullience
ebulliency
effervescent
effervescence
effervescency
emergent
emergence
(the process or act of emerging)
emergency
(a sudden, typically unexpected occurrence or situation requiring immediate action)
eminent
eminence
eminency
esurient
esurience
esuriency
excellent
excellence
excellency
(used exclusively as a title for high-ranking officials or Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops, rather than a complete synonym of excellence)
excrescent
excrescence
excrescency
exigent
exigence
exigency
expedient
expedience
expediency
flatulent
flatulence
flatulency
immanent
immanence
immanency
imminent
imminence
imminency
impendent
impendence
impendency
impertinent
impertinence
impertinency
impotent
impotence
impotency
incipient
incipience
incipiency
inherent
inherence
inherency
insistent
insistence
insistency
insurgent
insurgence
insurgency
intermittent
intermittence
intermittency
lenient
lenience
leniency
lucent
lucence
lucency
nascent
nascence
nascency
omnipotent
omnipotence
omnipotency
opulent
opulence
opulency
permanent
permanence
permanency
persistent
persistence
persistency
pertinent
pertinence
pertinency
potent
potence
potency
precedent
precedence
precedency
prurient
prurience
pruriency
purulent
purulence
purulency
recipient
recipience
recipiency
refulgent
refulgence
refulgency
remittent
remittence
remittency
repellent
repellence
repellency
resident
residence
(a place in which one lives or resides, or the act thereof)
residency
(more often meaning a particular stage in graduate medical training)
resilient
resilience
resiliency
resplendent
resplendence
resplendency
respondent
respondence
respondency
reticent
reticence
reticency
salient
salience
saliency
somnolent
somnolence
somnolency
strident
stridence
stridency
subservient
subservience
subserviency
transcendent
transcendence
transcendency
transient
transience
transiency
translucent
translucence
translucency
transparent
transparence
transparency
truculent
truculence
truculency
valent
valence
valency
virulent
virulence
virulency

Words that take either “-ence” or “-ency”

While “-ant” words that can only take “-ance” or “-ancy” split this difference almost equally, “-ent” words are far more likely to only take the “-ence” ending.
-ent
-ence
-ency
abhorrent
abhorrence
absent
absence
absorbent
*
absorbency
abstinent
abstinence
acquiescent
acquiescence
adherent
adherence
agent
agency
ambient
ambience
ambivalent
ambivalence
antecedent
antecedence
arborescent
arborescence
ardent
ardency
astringent
astringency
audient
audience
beneficent
beneficence
benevolent
benevolence
candescent
candescence
clement
clemency
coalescent
coalescence
cogent
cogency
coincident
coincidence
concrescent
concrescence
concupiscent
concupiscence
confident
confidence
confluent
confluence
consequent
consequence
constituent
constituency
constringent
constringency
continent
continence
convalescent
convalescence
corpulent
corpulence
current
currency
deferent
deference
deficient
deficiency
dehiscent
dehiscence
delinquent
delinquency
deliquescent
deliquescence
deterrent
deterrence
different
difference
diffident
diffidence
diligent
diligence
dissident
dissidence
efferent
efference
efficient
efficiency
efflorescent
efflorescence
effluent
effluence
effulgent
effulgence
eloquent
eloquence
equipollent
equipollence
evanescent
evanescence
evident
evidence
existent
existence
feculent
feculence
fervent
fervency
florescent
florescence
fluent
fluency
fluorescent
fluorescence
frequent
frequency
grandiloquent
grandiloquence
immunocompetent
immunocompetence
impudent
impudence
incident
incidence
incumbent
incumbency
indigent
indigence
indulgent
indulgence
innocent
innocence
insolent
insolence
intelligent
intelligence
intransigent
intransigence
iridescent
iridescence
irreverent
irreverence
jurisprudent
jurisprudence
juvenescent
juvenescence
lambent
lambency
latent
latency
luminescent
luminescence
magnificent
magnificence
magniloquent
magniloquence
malevolent
malevolence
munificent
munificence
negligent
negligence
omnificent
omnificence
omnipresent
omnipresence
omniscient
omniscience
opalescent
opalescence
patent
patency
patient
patience
pearlescent
pearlescence
pendent
pendency
penitent
penitence
percipient
percipience
pestilent
pestilence
phosphorescent
phosphorescence
preeminent
preeminence
prepubescent
prepubescence
prescient
prescience
present
presence
president
presidency
prevalent
prevalence
prevenient
prevenience
proficient
proficiency
prominent
prominence
provident
providence
prudent
prudence
pubescent
pubescence
pungent
pungency
putrescent
putrescence
quiescent
quiescence
recent
recency
recrudescent
recrudescence
redolent
redolence
referent
reference
refluent
refluence
regent
regency
remanent
remanence
reminiscent
reminiscence
renascent
renascence
resurgent
resurgence
reticent
reticence
reverent
reverence
rufescent
rufescence
sapient
sapience
senescent
senescence
sequent
sequence
silent
silence
solvent
solvency
stringent
stringency
subjacent
subjacency
subsequent
subsequence
subsistent
subsistence
sufficient
sufficiency
tangent
tangency
tumescent
tumescence
turbulent
turbulence
urgent
urgency
vehement
vehemence
violent
violence
(*Note that absorbance also exists, but only in relation to physics—specifically denoting the measure of a substance’s ability to absorb radiation. Absorbent and absorbency are the preferred spelling for all other meanings.)

Words that don’t take “-ence” or “-ency”

As with “-ant,” many adjectives and nouns of agency ending in “-ent” cannot be made into nouns ending in either “-ence” or “-ency.”
abducent
abluent
acescent
acidulent
adducent
adsorbent
afferent
ancient
aperient
apparent
ardent
ascent
assent
assurgent
candent
coefficient
component
content
cotangent
crescent
decedent
decrement
decrescent
descendent
descent
demulcent
detergent
diluent
distent
docent
eluent
emollient
erumpent
esculent
excipient
extent
flocculent
frutescent
gradient
ignescent
intent
intromittent
luculent
malcontent
mellifluent
mordent
nutrient
opponent
portent
procumbent
proponent
rubefacient
somnifacient
student
succedent
torrent
unguent

Words that only end in “-ence”

Finally, there are also words that will only take the “-ence” ending. There are not that many of these words, but quite a few of them are very common in modern English.
  • condescendence (variant of condescension)
  • condolence
  • conference
  • conscience
  • circumference
  • divulgence
  • essence
  • experience
  • inference
  • interference
  • mergence
  • preference
  • quintessence
  • science
  • subsidence
  • submergence
  • transference
Uniquely, the verb tend becomes tendency, not tendent or tendence. This is the only instance in which a word will take the “-ncy” ending, but not “-nt” or “-nce.”
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