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I'm trying to reference a business process in which a document has to be approved by several different people before it is finalized. I want to be able to say things like:

We've modified the workflow to include an additional step.


The workflow currently requires approval by three people.

Merriam-Webster Unabridged does not have an entry for "workflow", but I see many people using it anyway. Is it a word or not? If so, is there a good dictionary definition of it?

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closed as general reference by Carlo_R., Hellion, tchrist, kiamlaluno, aedia λ Apr 11 '13 at 0:11

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Dictionaries lag usage, and terms from fast-changing areas like business and technology won't always be reflected. But then, maybe you just need to try different dictionaries. Cambridge has it, as do MacMillan, American Heritage, Oxford, and so on. – choster Apr 10 '13 at 18:27
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The OED’s earliest citation is from 1950, but as two words. It is defined as

in an office or industrial organization, the sequence of processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.

Whether or not it is in any dictionary is not in itself an indication of whether or not it is a word.

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Yes, workflow is a word.

Noun - The flow or amount of work to and from an office, department, or employee.


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Given this answer, the question would seem to be valid and should perhaps be re-opened? – Highly Irregular Sep 2 '15 at 3:54
@HighlyIrregular, I agree that this question should be reopened and that this should be the accepted answer. Workflow (single word) now seems to be widely accepted as correct and appears in more than a handful of dictionaries. Microsoft's spellcheck raises no flags about the word, and Google asks: "Did you mean: workflow" when you search for "work flow." – arbitrarystringofletters Jul 22 at 17:17
Ngram as well: workflow vs work flow vs work-flow. – arbitrarystringofletters Jul 22 at 17:17
I agree with @Barrie that a word's existence is more than a function of it simply appearing in a dictionary, but workflow seems to be a word. – arbitrarystringofletters Jul 22 at 17:18

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