A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 81: Videogames or Video games?

Image courtesy of amrufm on Flickr

Image courtesy of amrufm on Flickr

During a collective email exchange today, a colleague requested clarification on the style of videogames/video games. While not my place to provide the answer, I immediately thought that surely video games, as two words was correct. Videogames, as one word seems wrong to me. But I thought it worth having a look online as well. (Chrome, incidentally, is subtly suggesting that it’s two words by squiqqly-lining the one-word version in this paragraph).

squiggly line



I thought I’d start with a few of the online dictionaries. Merriam-Webster, OxfordDictionaries.com, Collins Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (I stopped there) all say it’s written as two words: video game.


Looking next at COCA, I found that video game (1339) was much more popular than videogame (189).

video game COCA

videogame COCA

And looking at the example sentences provided by COCA, it looks as though a large proportion of the uses of videogame are as noun adjuncts modifying other nouns such as controller, maker, franchise, players, sales, developers, etc. The use of video game also seems to be used attributively, although not nearly as commonly as videogame.

Gaming sites

Then I came across a couple of other sites for gamers. Wired.com describes it as “the great ‘videogame’ versus ‘video game’ debate”. The site describes the story of Bill Kunkel, known for being one of the first video game journalists, who originally started out using videogame as one word in the late 70s. And that stuck for a while. However, when one of his magazine partners noticed that people were searching for “video games” on Google more, and that the two-word search term was bringing more people to their site, they decided to change to using video game.

Then I also found this on engadget, written by Kyle Orland 8 years ago. Orland is co-author of The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual, which the post describes as “an effort to set down some consistent answers for those niggling copy editing questions that constantly come up when writing about games”, which includes whether to write video game or videogame. The book suggests one word, by the way. This post, also on engadget, describes the results of a poll from 2005 in which most people reported the preferred two words.

So it appears to me that video game is the word preferred by most people, but video game journalists tend to prefer videogame.

Other video- words

So, while video game might be much more popular in everyday use than videogame, and the five dictionaries that I consulted seemed to agree, there was a bit more variation with other video words. Here’s what the aforementioned five dictionaries have to say about two more:

videocassette (one word) Merriam-Webster, OxfordDictionaries, Collins, Cambridge


video cassette (two words) Longman


videotape (one word) All, although Collins says it can be both videotape or video tape (Merriam-Webster, OxfordDictionaries, Cambridge, Longman)

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This entry was posted on March 22, 2015 by in Language and tagged , .


March 2015

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