Searching the Google scholar,

  • "spatio-temporal" returnn 778,000 hits,
  • "spatial-temporal" returns 798,000 hits,
  • "spatial-temporal scales" returns 3,620 hits,
  • "spatio-temporal scales" returns 13,200 hits.

Interestingly, one journal named "spatial and spatio-temporal epidemiology"

The office word spell checking (US-EN) prefer "spatial-temporal", so I think "spatial-" is used in American English and "spatio-" is used in non-American English.

  • If you look at this: books.google.com/ngrams/… you see similar patterns for American English and all English.
    – Tim Foster
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 10:36
  • The problem is with NGram Viewer, and in other cases with Google searches you can't search for exactly what you want when there are other symbols or punctuation. If you search for spatio-temporal it gives the message "Replaced spatio-temporal with spatio - temporal to match how we processed the books." I'm not sure if these are equivalents.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 11:50
  • 1
    A quick scan of the top Google search results for spatial-temporal -spatiotemporal -"spatio-temporal" shows them to be primarily associated with machine learning; perhaps spatial-temporal is machine learning/AI jargon?
    – asgallant
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


With adjectives ending in -al it is quite common to form compounds with another word as the second word (sometimes with a hyphen between, sometimes as one word) and replace the -al of the first word with -o. One obvious example you've given already is spatio-temporal. Here are some more:

medical - medicolegal
social - sociobiology
glacial - glaciotectonic
medial - mediofrontal
dental - dentolabial
central - centrophilic/centrodorsal
ventral - ventronasal
political - politico-administrative/politicohistorical
facial - faciobrachial
nasal - nasotracheal
cortical - corticosteroid
lateral - laterocranial
visual - visuocognitive

This doesn't only happen with -al ending words, anarcho-syndicalism is the only one that comes to my mind right now.

In your case of spatiotemporal, I think your Google search result frequencies are a good start. Google NGram Viewer might have been handy for this, but it doesn't recognize hyphens or punctuation generally.

Other than that, you can check dictionaries:

American Heritage Dictionary, Collins, Random House Unabridged, Merriam-Webster, Oxford Living Dictionaries and Wiktionary all recognize spatiotemporal, with only one of them having a hyphen. It seems to be a widely accepted word. I don't know what your Word spell checker is doing, whether it's checking each individual part of the compound construction and finds that "spatio" is not a word, or whether it checks against "spatio-temporal" and does not recognize it. This wouldn't surprise me as most dictionaries that have that word list it unhyphenated.

Also, the word spatiotemporal is likely to be used within specific scientific or academic contexts, so I'd search for this term and see whether it's popularity is strong enough to satisfy you of whether you want to use it or not. I personally would not hesitate to use it. As to whether there is an American preference to use spatial-temporal instead, I'm not sure. All I know is both American and non-American dictionaries recognize "spatiotemporal".

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