Roommate, room mate or room-mate

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Many people are confused about how to spell roommate, room mate or room-mate. The question most asked: “Is roommate one word?” We will discuss how to spell roommate, room mate or room-mate, as well the definition of these words and where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

A roommate, room-mate or room mate is a person who lives in the same house or apartment as another person. Usually, the roommate, room-mate or room mate is not related to the other person, and is not romantically involved. Synonyms for roommate are flatmate, housemate and bunkmate. Roommate is a compound word that has been in transition for awhile, which makes it difficult to settle on the correct roommate spelling. Compounds or compound words are words that are derived from two separate words joined together. There are three different types of compound words in the English language: closed compound words, hyphenated compound words and open compound words. An open compound word is a noun that is composed of two words that are often used together, yet still maintain a space between the two words. Open compound words are often the most recently coined compound words. A hyphenated compound word is a compound that is composed of two or more words linked by hyphens. In general, hyphenated compound words are midway on the journey between being rendered as separate words to being rendered as one word. A closed compound word is a word that is made up of two words joined together without hyphens or spaces. If a compound word remains popular, it will eventually come to be spelled as one word. When deciding between the spellings room-mate, roommate or room mate, be aware that the term was coined in America in the 1780s, and is more popular that it has ever been.

When deciding how to spell roommates, the plural form, the same conventions apply. The most common form is roommates. Spelling the word with a hyphen, however, is acceptable. Two separate words is the least acceptable form. How do you spell roommate? Currently, it depends on which dictionary and style you consider to be your authority. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the spelling as room-mate, with a hyphen. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists the spelling as roommate, a closed compound word. Considering the natural evolution of compound words, roommate seems to be the spelling that will become preferred more and more.


He added that he “would be the perfect room-mate.” (Business Insider)

He then discovered his lifeless roommate on the floor and called 911. (The Times and Democrat)

A Springfield man is accused of fracturing his roommate’s face after assaulting him. (The Springfield News Sun)

Shana Hope Soliz, the Hoquiam woman accused of stabbing her roommate Paul Mottinger, 59, to death in late November of 2016, pleaded guilty to second degree murder late last week. (The Daily World)