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What is the correct spelling of the word "nightlife" (e.g. social activities in clubs/bars) in British English?

Is it nightlife (one word) or night life (two words)?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The best way to answer these type of questions is to reach for a corpus. Since this particular question is about en-gb the relevant corpus is the British National Corpus, which gives 134 hits for "nightlife" and 42 for "night life". So either is acceptable, but the single-word version appears to be preferred.

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The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.) has only night-life. However, all its quotes but one spell night life; it may be that the definition is more up to date than the quotes.

1852 H. Melville Pierre xvi. i. 322 All the garish night-life of a vast thoroughfare, crowded and wedged by day, and even now, at this late hour, brilliant with occasional illuminations.

1913 H. L. Mencken Let. 17 Aug. (1961) 32 The title ‘Night Life in Vienna’...has the air of a lure held out to the Puritanical and dirty-minded.

1927 G. Ade et al. Let. 4 Mar. (1973) 119 Our fellow-passengers...were ashore last night, dancing and hunting up a second-rate African imitation of night life in Paris.

1929 D. L. Moore Pandora's Letter Box iii. 53Night life’—to use the popular expression for habitual nocturnal dancing and drinking.

1972 Sat. Rev. (U.S.) 25 Mar. 68/3 The Kabarett, with its sharp political satire, was part of Berlin night life.

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Look at the dates though :D 1913, 1927, 1929, 1972... –  Alenanno Jun 11 '11 at 16:02
    
@Alenanno: That's why I said the definition may be more up to date than the quotes. –  Cerberus Jun 11 '11 at 16:06
    
@Alenanno: Oh, I see what you mean. I assumed spelling might have shifted back to night-life since 1972, to be reflected in the definition; but it might as well be the other way around. In any case, this question is exceedingly trivial... –  Cerberus Jun 11 '11 at 16:08
    
It's probably the strangest word in the language. There is no right way to spell it. –  Ilya Biryukov Jun 11 '11 at 21:07
    
@IlyaBiryukov: Oh, but there are countless more! The thing is, whether a combination of noun + noun or adjective + noun is written attached, hyphenated, or separated is hardly logical; it's mostly an arbitrary convention and depends on the word. There are no clear rules. –  Cerberus Jun 11 '11 at 21:33
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My NOAD gives it as one word:

nightlife |ˈnītˌlīf| noun social activities or entertainment available at night in a town or city.

No comment about British vs. American, either.

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I tend to think the same. What's putting me off, is Firefox's dictionary, that suggests night life (two words) for British and nightlife (one word) for American. –  Ilya Biryukov Jun 11 '11 at 15:45
    
Also the OALD gives it as one word. –  Alenanno Jun 11 '11 at 15:51
    
What's with all you people using localized dictionaries? Oh well, the spelling of nightlife/night-life/night life hardly matters; I feel it's more of an arbitrary choice. –  Cerberus Jun 11 '11 at 16:05
    
What do you mean by localized? –  Alenanno Jun 11 '11 at 16:06
    
@Cerberus: What's with all you people referring to "all you people" when only one person made any reference at all to a localized dictionary (and the reference itself was not explicit) ;=P. –  Robusto Jun 11 '11 at 16:08
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