Century or Centuries – Usage and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

When you’re discussing things like history, the words “centuries” and “century” play a really important role. It’s essential to understand their meaning and know when to use each one, too.

Even though they’re different forms of the same word, you can’t use them interchangeably because, in a way, it’s a unit of measuring time. So, let’s take a moment and talk about the definition of “century,” how many years one century is, and how to use them both in a sentence.

Meaning of Centuries

Century or Centuries Usage Meaning

A single century is one period of 100 consecutive years. We use this word to describe significant time frames in history, which start with year one and progress in 100-year increments.

“Centuries” is just the plural form of “century.” You can use it when talking about two or more 100-year periods. But you can see right here how you can’t mix them up because talking about 100 years is vastly different from talking about 300 years, aka three centuries.

Is Century Capitalized?

For the most part, the word “century” doesn’t need to be capitalized unless it’s in a proper noun or appears at the beginning of a sentence. When you’re referring to a specific century, like the “20th century,” the term should not be capitalized.

As a proper noun, it’s named like 20th Century Fox or one of my favorite Tragically Hip songs, Ahead by a Century.

20th Century or Twentieth Century: How to Write It

When writing about centuries, you can use numerals like “20th century” or spell out the words like “twentieth century.”

The choice is always much up to you because it’s stylistic. But I highly recommend that you pick one and stick to it within the same document to have consistency for the reader. Also, when using numerals, you don’t need a hyphen with the number and the word “century,” with the rare exception of using it as a phrasal adjective.

  • I love the 18th-century styles of fashion and décor.

Century Examples in a Sentence

  • The 19th century saw significant advancements in science and technology around the world and will shape the future as we know it.
  • The famous Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century and changed the course of human history forever.
  • Pirates were still common in Newfoundland during the 15th century and the 16th century. 
  • 20th Century Studios has been a major production company since before I was born.
  • Thank goodness the concept of human rights gained significant importance in the 20th century.
  • 21st Century Fox owns 20th Century Studios.

Centuries Examples in a Sentence

Century or Centuries Usage Meaning 1
  • So much art has evolved over centuries, with digital art taking place in recent years.
  • Everyone knows of the Renaissance. It was a time of enormous cultural and artistic development during the 14th to 17th centuries.
  • Halifax’s architecture spans several centuries, creating a unique blend of styles and designs.
  • Over the centuries, so many languages have evolved and adapted to the changing needs of their speakers, especially as we become closer globally due to technology.
  • The study of human history helps us learn from the good and bad experiences of past centuries.

Ahead by a Century

Capitalization can get a little tricky when it comes to phrases with century, but this guide should give you all the info you need. Just remember that you only need to capitalize it if it’s a proper noun or starts a sentence. And you only need to add a hyphen if you’re using it as a phrasal adjective.