While "expat" and "expatriate" are commonly used, I also often see "ex-pat" in news articles:

What is the origin of "-" between "ex" and "pat"?

Note: When I copy/paste this character from the Forbes article into Wikipedia, I am redirected to Hyphen-minus.


Being the short for expatriate, expat is the correct spelling, without hyphen as suggested in all online dictionaries. Google Books shows few usage instances of the hyphenated form which is a “nonstandard” variant, probably influenced by the usage of the prefix ex- in terms like ex-president, ex-wife etc.

  • You should reverse the order of your answer to improve the quality (your second sentence more directly answers the question asked), and substitute accepted for the word correct. A simple Twitter search shows ample usage of ex-pat; back-formations are ubiquitous in English. Mar 1 '20 at 15:22
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    @MichaelChirico - In my answer I express the concept you are referring to in the “nonstandard variant” definition.
    – user 66974
    Mar 1 '20 at 15:27
  • @user067531 yes, that's fine, but your first sentence still refers to the correct spelling Mar 1 '20 at 15:28
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    @MichaelChirico - expat is the correct original spelling, ex-pat is a nonstandard variant which is also used.
    – user 66974
    Mar 1 '20 at 15:29

Expatriate” is one word. “Ex-patriate” doesn’t work, because the prefix “ex-” with a hyphen carries the meaning of “used to be,” as in “ex-president”, “ex-linebacker”, or “ex-priest”. For the same reason, the colloquial short form “expat” is correct, not “ex-pat”.

Many people misspell “expatriate” as “ex-patriot” (mainly because the pronunciation is near-identical). An ‘ex-patriot’ literally means a former patriot — a potentially costly mistake if used to refer to an expatriate (because it’s potentially defamatory then).

According to Ngram, “expat” seems to be used as far back as the 1800s, whereas “ex-pat” came into use after the 1950s.

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