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In The Wealth of Nations, the word economy appears frequently (as it should, being a book on economics). However, once (so far), it has been spelled œconomy. Upon researching the term, it's the archaic spelling of economy. Why would Adam Smith have used two spellings of economy? Are/were there slight distinctions between the meanings?

As an aside, a Google Ngram search shows no usage of œconomy.

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Mahnax, @Henry: As to the Ngram, it may be helpful to note that though œconomy is rare, oeconomy actually rivals economy before 1800. – Daniel Oct 28 '11 at 0:57
See also footnote 1 on page 274 of this book. – Hugo Oct 28 '11 at 9:10
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Google Ngram does show some use of œconomy around 1750-1800 and there may be more if Google's book scanners have problems with the œ: conomy also appears, often when œconomy was intended .

The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, so it quite possible that a typesetter put the œ because he thought that may have been what was intended.

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The word has had many spellings since its first appearance in the fifteenth century as yconomie. Oeconomie is found in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and oeconomy is found from the fifteenth century onwards. The oe is presumably influenced by the classical Latin oeconomia, which would have had particular appeal in the eighteenth century.

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