English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I ask this because Firefox suggested that whitespaces is not a valid word; rather it gave me whitespace or white spaces.

share|improve this question
If you mean the term from typography, the answer is trivial. it is an uncountable noun such as water or time. So your question is exactly the same as asking "what is the plural of time." Dead simple answer, and no mystery here. – Joe Blow May 14 '11 at 12:30

The word "whitespace" is usually uncountable. If you need it to be countable, I would suggest saying "whitespace characters".

share|improve this answer
+1: This is what I would do. When I want to pluralize it for the computer to understand, I use \s+ ^_^ – Robusto May 14 '11 at 11:01

The design sense of "white space" is normally given as two words. Like Neil says, it's an uncountable noun. Like water, time, and money, you can have a lot of it, or you might need more. (When it comes to white space, people usually need more.)

share|improve this answer
Yes, thanks. But the word "white space" you cited means the blank area in art pieces (paintings, for example), here what I referred to is the character in computer science, just like this one " ". :) – trVoldemort May 14 '11 at 9:50
What's the difference between white space in art or in computer sciences? – user8568 May 14 '11 at 10:03
Boob -- they're just different things. It's like saying "what's the difference between a redneck and a red neck". – Neil Coffey May 14 '11 at 10:12
@Neil: Do you mean that the plural form of "whitespace" cannot be "white space s "? – user8568 May 14 '11 at 10:18
@Boob: Not usually, I don't think. "whitespace" is usually used as a so-called "mass noun" or "uncountable noun". So basically you would usually have "whitespace" just as you would have "bread", but you wouldn't usually talk about having "2 whitespaces" just as you wouldn't have "2 breads", "2 softwares", "2 musics" etc. Instead, you'd say "2 whitespace characters". That said, I'm sure there's a bit more variation on this than with "bread". – Neil Coffey May 14 '11 at 11:19

The term "whitespace" (without a space between "white" and "space") is, I think, borrowed from computing, in which characters that produce no on-screen glyphs, but only serve to separate groups of visible characters, are referred to collectively as "whitespace characters" (e.g. space, tab, new line). Since whitespace can refer to any one, or sequence, of such characters, you cannot really say that whitespace necessarily means a collection of space characters, because it might be a tab, followed by two spaces, followed by another tab, followed by a carriage return, etc.. In most programming languages, the formatting of program text is only for human legibility, and the computer couldn't really care less about whether two commands are placed on the same line or two separate lines, as long as there is SOME whitespace to indicate where one command ends and the next begins. But because the need to discard these redundant characters comes up so often in computing, they have acquired their own technical term: "whitespace."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.