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I can't seem to spot any differences or usages where one would use the hyphenation version versus the non.

According to Online Etymology they both point to coordinate.

I can see co-ordinate (v.) being used like co-pilot or co-chief, meaning a daulity or partner version. Example: Would you please co-ordinate with Bob. Meaning Bob is already ordinating and if you would also ordinate with him.

Yet I don't see that transferring over to the noun version meaning a location, especially in reference to mathematics and geography.

Is it simply a mix-up, or perhaps a localization issue (UK uses -, USA doesn't) or am I completely off base here?

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I think your premise that people envisage "coordinate" as being based on "ordinate" (except in the mathematical sense) is probably not true. –  Neil Coffey May 12 '11 at 11:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Making a quick search in my NOAD, it seems they are the same exact term.

But, like I was thinking, coordinate is the term used, since if you search for co-ordinate, it will redirect you to the other one.

Look what happens if you search for co-ordinate in the OALD.

If you type them in Google, you'll get the following results:

  • Co-ordinate: About 5,190,000 results;
  • Coordinate: About 58,100,000 results.

Quite a difference... In the end I suppose the hyphened version is a variant, you might use either, although nowadays they're not really considered compound words anymore (another similar words is cooperate) but single words.

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Thanks, that's what I concluded also - never thought of comparing Google result totals. –  WSkid May 12 '11 at 9:32
By the way, just for the record, my OED gives only the hyphened version. This proves that the other variant exists, but it still remains less used considering what I found. I thought it could interest you to know this point of view as well. –  Alenanno May 12 '11 at 9:34

According to Longman DOCE, co-ordinate is British English.

And for better understanding of hyphen usage see Oxford Dictionary:

In modern English the use of hyphens is in general decreasing, especially in compound nouns: website is preferred to web-site, and air raid to air-raid. Hyphens are still often employed where a compound expression precedes a noun, as in first-rate musician or twenty-odd people (twenty odd people means something quite different!), but even in this context there is a growing trend to omit them. When a phrasal verb such as build up is made into a noun it is usually hyphenated (a build-up of pressure ). Note, however, that a normal phrasal verb should not be hyphenated: write food to take away not food to take-away, and continue to build up your pension not continue to build-up your pension

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They are the exact same term, as Alenanno says. The reason for hyphenation is likely due to the fact that 'oo' has a different pronunciation than desired. In my experience with American English it's a preferred spelling when the word used is not likely to be familiar or when the pronunciation would otherwise be easily misread.

'Cooperate' is sometimes seen as 'co-operate' just to highlight that the double 'o' is two different vowel sounds. 'Cooperate' could be pronounced like 'coop' (as in a chicken coop). Words like 'co-opt' are still always spelled with a hyphen precisely because of this.

'Cooperate', 'coordinate' and other words are common enough that the word is accepted sans-hypen. People now recognize these words so the hyphen has stopped being necessary.

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There are three acceptable spellings of coordinate: the official one is coördinate (with the trema indicating the start of a new syllable), and the resulting tremaless coordinate is thus also correct (but leads to the potential of an uninformed reader to pronounce it "COOR-dinate" with coor rhyming with poor). The hyphenated version co-ordinate is also correct, as it re-introduces the separation of two syllables between the two "o"s, but as was pointed out, this is not a compound word (so, strictly, the use of a hyphen is incorrect here – it is acceptable only because it is replacing a trema).

Usage of the various spellings seems to be in the ratio of about 5000:500:1 for coordinate : co-ordinate : coördinate.

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What do you actually mean by "official"? As far as I'm aware, there's no body legislating on the spelling of the word "coordinate".... –  Neil Coffey May 12 '11 at 11:44
What's your source? –  Steve Melnikoff May 12 '11 at 12:29
"the official one"? Do you have an "authoritative" reference you can cite? (The New Yorker's in-house style guide doesn't count.) –  Pitarou Jun 12 '12 at 23:38
Good points for mentioning the trema spelling (new word I learned today -- I just called it an umlaut), but reference to "official" and "correct" is not going to win you many friends here. –  Kevin Peterson Jun 13 '12 at 3:46
That's an interesting point about "the potential of an uninformed reader to pronounce it "COOR-dinate" with coor rhyming with poor". I have heard a few people pronounce it that way. Some Americans and students of American English. –  Tristan Jul 12 '12 at 10:04

Is it simply a mix-up, or perhaps a localization issue (UK uses -, USA doesn't) or am I completely off base here?

Yes, it is a local issue. I know from my experiences, that co-ordinate is the more common spelling in the UK. It's commonly used and is the spelling that I was taught, in the UK.

Whenever I have seen the word used in American writing, in publications or on the internet, I have noticed that it has always been with the coordinate spelling.

These dictionary pages mention that co-ordinate is the spelling in the UK.





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FWIW, the customer representative in a project in which I used to work, an Englishman, routinely asked for converting coordinates (geographical meaning) into co-ordinates. Now I understand why. –  Gorpik Jun 13 '12 at 11:52
It makes sense, considering that the English spelling represents its English (rather than American) pronunciation. Co (rhymes with low) and then ordinate. –  Tristan Jun 28 '12 at 11:35

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