Learn English – difference between “treble” and “triple”


I've been reading The Economist lately and noticed that the magazine uses both trebled and tripled. According to my dictionary, "treble" means "threefold; triple". Is there a subtle difference, not captured by the dictionary entry?

Some examples, "trebled":

  • The Economist’s index of non-oil commodity prices has trebled in the past decade.
  • The number of companies from Brazil, India, China or Russia on the Financial
    Times 500 list trebled in 2006-08 from 20 to 62.
  • That number has more than trebled since 1999.


  • In the ten years to 2010, internet users in the developed economies just about tripled.
  • Intercepts of Chinese planes almost tripled last year, to 96 (see chart).
  • Many of the 20 leading economic performers in the OECD doubled or tripled their education spending in real terms between 1970 and 1994, yet outcomes in many countries stagnated—or went backwards.

Best Answer

According to the Cambridge Corpus of American English, Americans strongly prefer triple as an adjective, noun and verb. British and Australian writers, on the other hand, seem to use both triple and treble, but with treble more frequent as a verb and triple as a noun and adjective.

Fowler distinguished between treble meaning that something had become three times as large in size, and triple meaning consisting of three parts, but that no longer seems a reliable guide, if it ever was.

(Adapted from ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’)