44

My spell checker shows that both "time zone" and "timezone" are correctly spelled. Which one of these is the correct one to use?

40

There seem to be three spellings: timezone, time-zone, and time zone.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines time-zone,[^1] but curiously, also uses the time zone spelling.[^2] At the same time, timezone is the favored spelling in the US (unless talking about multiple time zones).[^3]

All three seem to be equally correct, but I would use time zone, except for a singular usage in the US for an American audience, in which case I would use timezone. Personally, I feel time-zone is a bit outdated.

[^1]: See time, def. 60a [^2]: Ibid. 27a [^3]: See http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/timezone

  • FWIW I live in America and haven't really seen timezone around. – Claudiu Oct 12 '10 at 1:45
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    I am a big fan of the way German (and other languages) construct words. I like having "timezone" as one word, as to me, it adds extra meaning. – Vincent McNabb Oct 12 '10 at 2:04
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Combined words seem to have a tendency to become compound words, possibly via hyphenation (this is not my observation but Donald Knuth's). I believe this also happened with Microsoft (which was once Micro-Soft, see Wikipedia). With words that are not actually trademarks, it seems to me that there's no grammatical problem with writing the expanded form, simply because it "reconstructs" the concept from elementary parts. A timezone is indeed a zone of time, that is, a time zone.

However, there is a psychological benefit to considering such commonly combined concepts as having an independent existence. I'd say it's the same for common abbreviations, "bus" being my favorite, as those three letters are a Latin suffix to the original word "omnibus", meaning "for everyone". But that's not how we think of them: they are just buses.

  • Loved that Knuth web page. Classic. "Everything else goes into a buffer storage area, which I empty periodically." – Kirby Nov 1 at 17:08
5

I think "time zone" is most common. Google backs me up in this case - googling "time zone" -timezone (that is, websites with only time zone in them) gives 12.6 million results, but timezone -"time zone" gives only 6.3 million.

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    +1, but the difference is even greater than you suggest -- many of the google hits for timezone - "time zone" relate to computer language specifications. Of the first page of results, 7+/10 are computer-talk. As an example of US usage, "Eastern Standard Timezone" gets ~25k ghits, while "Eastern Standard Time Zone" gets ~3.4M. – Ophiuroid Oct 12 '10 at 0:55
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    @Ophiuroid: Not necessarily, because "Eastern Standard Time" is a proper noun, so you normally wouldn't replace one word with a compound even for those who use the "timezone" spelling. – Mechanical snail Aug 19 '12 at 5:35
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    Nobody has any idea what Google (or other web searches) does to the words you type in the search box, or what it considers a match. It may also add search terms it considers related to pad out results, and remove search results it considers old or misspelled. A web search has no application for checking spelling other than finding an on-line dictionary for you, so you can actually look it up. – Henrik Erlandsson Jan 20 '14 at 12:39
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    Perhaps a better comparison is using Google Ngram Viewer, where "timezone" is clearly more often used. – Andrew T. Mar 16 '16 at 3:37
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    @AndrewT. I believe the quotation marks in your query resulted in incorrect results, see here. – kbtombul Aug 24 '16 at 21:47

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