I 've seen several times "submatrix" in code and manuals. However, whenever I write in my Latex editor, it gets underlined in red, as a spelling mistake. Same things happens now, just as I am writing my first question here. On the other hand, 've gets the same treatment, but that should be just a failure in the spelling checker (because it's not a word).

So, submatrix or sub-matrix? Or none of them, but something else?


A related question lies here, but it's content is general, so does the duplicate of that question too. Moreover, as explicitly stated there, it depends on the word.

  • @FumbleFingers not really. You commented when I was editing.
    – gsamaras
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:23
  • I was just about to edit my closevote comment to make the same point! :) For what it's worth, Google Books has twice as many written instances of submatrix as it does of sub-matrix, but I'd have to say anyone who champions either as "correct" and the other "wrong" is anal beyond belief. (Present company excepted, @Alex W, since you just posted within my "comment edit window"! :) Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:27
  • No problem, there were pretty close. @FumbleFingers really valuable comment, thank you.
    – gsamaras
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:28
  • Haha thanks for the exception. I updated my answer to reflect that it is simply a correct spelling and not the correct spelling which is a good distinction to make.
    – Alex W
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:34
  • The general case is covered in the 'duplicate'. Individual cases are possibly best tackled first of all by looking at corpus data. You could have presented the results given by others (though the Google NGram data is dated). Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:41

2 Answers 2


As of 2008, submatrix was approximately 3 times more common than sub-matrix:

enter image description here

Although both spellings may be "generally acceptable", submatrix is preferable by virtue of its "popularity". Neither expression is very common, but the relative popularity of submatirix is rooted in its adoption as the default spelling, particularly in the field of mathematics, so a person who used sub-matrix would reveal a basic ignorance of its predominant mathematical milieu.

Spellcheck dictionaries are not exhaustive, so submatrix is marked as incorrect simply because, as a rarely-used word, it is not included in the dictionary. Sub-matrix is "accepted spelling" because of spellcheck hyphenation protocol, which merely checks for correct spelling on either side of the hyphen.

  • This is in agreement with FumbleFingers's comment. However, the acceptable link you have there, is the question I linked to! Moreover, the link is for the general case, not that specific case! That's not good. However, I like very much your graph. If you update your answer, I might consider accepting it. +1 for the graph. If you do edit, please let me know. Thanks!
    – gsamaras
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:42
  • Welcome to ELU, Bridget. Your edit adds value to your answer. Can you cite and link to a source that supports your spellcheck thesis?
    – ScotM
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:05
  • 1
    The results are 15 years old, and the ratio seems more like 8 : 1 rather than 10 : 1 in 2000. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:38
  • Your helpful observations informed a significant update, @EdwinAshworth. Thank you.
    – Bridget
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 22:35

You are correct. Submatrix is a correct way of typing it. The spell checker is making a mistake.

Submatrix noun 1. a set of certain rows and columns of a given matrix.

- Dictionary.com


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