I encountered a problem when I started to write a report including some notes on open source software.

The problem I have is if I can use open source as a verb like:

We open sourced some software product.

How should this be written — I mean in one word or with hyphen, etc.? Is there a different way to express the same idea? Is there a standard English expression for this?

  • "We released some software products as open source." would be an alternative way to express the same action. Jul 23, 2012 at 8:50
  • Also: this is not just an English-language question, because the term "open sourced" is quite loaded: it can mean about half a dozen different (but related) things. Jul 23, 2012 at 8:51
  • @JoachimSauer : you can elaborate its 'loading' in an answer. Jul 23, 2012 at 8:52
  • 5
    When verbing a compound noun or noun pair it is customary to hyphenate (We open-sourced the project. They green-lighted the film.) or simply combine the terms without hyphens (We opensourced the project. They greenlighted the film). The march toward un-hyphened word amalgams is usually swift, especially in technology.
    – Robusto
    Jul 23, 2012 at 12:54
  • 1
    @JoachimSauer I wouldn’t say that open source is particularly overloaded.
    – tchrist
    Jul 23, 2012 at 13:29

2 Answers 2


Looking through Google Books, it appears that a few authors do use open-source as a verb. Some of them use it within quotes, while others use a hyphen-less one word variant. It has also made its way into Wiktionary, but, just to make things difficult, is accompanied by an alternative form. I think it might be OK to use open-source as a verb and depending on the audience and frequency of usage, wrap it within quotes.

That said, there are a few standard ways of expressing the 'open-sourcing' of a product which will not raise any bushy grammarian eyebrows. Here are a few:

We released our product under an open source licence.

We released the source code under an open licence.

We shared the project with the community using an open licence.

We made the source code available to the community using a [GPL] licence.

... and so on.


I think the use of open-source as a verb, withour further clarification, invites trouble. The term includes a verb form, source, which generally means to obtain goods or services from a particular provider or source (used as a noun).

Logically, We open-sourced the software could then mean,

We obtained the code from someone who allows others to freely use her/his materials, standards etc.

or it could mean

We issued the code to allows others to freely use our materials, standards etc.

  • 1
    You're right about two possible interpretations, but I'm not sure that's quite the same as "inviting trouble." Aren't many English words like that? She lost her pump in the fall could mean a few different things. Good consideration, though.
    – J.R.
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:45
  • @J.R. - I agree that "inviting trouble" is a bit strong. I think we often relish subtley and even ambiguity. But in this context, trying to define the permissive status of something, more clarity is probably desirable.
    – bib
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:10

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