English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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

In old books, people often use the spelling "to-day" instead of "today". When did the change happen? Also, when people wrote "to-day", did they feel, when pronouncing the word, that it contained two words, rather than a single concept?

share|improve this question
I imagine they felt exactly as I feel when pronouncing "e-mail" as opposed to "email". (Not especially different.) – Billy Sep 10 '12 at 16:41
Thanks, that's a very nice comparison. – Yuji Sep 11 '12 at 2:14
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Five minutes of research brings...

O.E. todæge, to dæge "on (the) day," from to "at, on" (see to) + dæge, dative of dæg "day" (see day). Generally written as two words until 16c., after which it usually was written to-day until early 20c.

Similar constructions exist in other Germanic languages (cf. Du. van daag "from-day," Dan., Swed. i dag "in day"). Ger. heute is from O.H.G. hiutu, from P.Gmc. hiu tagu "on (this) day," with first element from PIE pronomial stem ki-, represented by L. cis "on this side."

The same applies to tomorrow and tonight, at least according to this dictionary.

share|improve this answer
Yes, but how did people feel when pronouncing the word(s)? – jwpat7 Sep 10 '12 at 14:03
They felt a warm thrill of confusion, followed by a space-cadet glow. – Roaring Fish Sep 10 '12 at 14:38
That's to-boldly-day. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 10 '12 at 15:40

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.