Kick-Start, Kickstart or Kick Start – Meaning & Definition

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Hyphenated compound words are often spelled without the hyphen or may even be separated into two separate words. This can be confusing and create frustrating spelling errors.

Kick-start is one such word, and although it is spelled with the hyphen in dictionaries, it is also considered correct when spelled without the hyphen. Let’s take a closer look at what this word means, why it is hyphenated, and how you can use it correctly in your writing.

Is It Kick-Start, Kickstart, or Kick Start, and What Does It Mean?

Kick Start Kickstart or Kick Start Meaning Definition

Kick-start is a figurative term that started out with a literal meaning: to kick-start a motorcycle. Its figurative use means to take an action that prods along a process that has quit working or is moving too slowly. It can be used as a noun or a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object.

Using Kick-Start as a Noun

  • You could say the graduating seniors needed a kick-start because after they saw their poor grades, they decided to start turning their work in on time.
  • The economy needs a kick-start; something needs to happen to help create sustainable spending.

Using Kick-Start as a Verb

Kick Start Kickstart or Kick Start Meaning Definition 1
  • Let’s kick-start this season into high gear and come home with a state championship.
  • Kick-start that motorcycle, and then don’t let it run idle, or it might die again.

It is most often rendered as a hyphenated compound word. Hyphens join two or more words that act as a single term, such as kick + start = kick-start.

However, modern use almost always writes it as kickstart sans a hyphen. Although this is technically wrong, modern writing trends have allowed its use. Occasionally the term is also rendered as two separate words, as in kick start, but for now, the Oxford English Dictionary (a standard among grammarians) lists the spelling with a hyphen.

Kick-Start Origin

Kickstart Kick Start and Kick Start Ngram
Kickstart, kick start, and kick-start usage trend.

The word kick-start was first used at the turn of the twentieth century to describe the method of starting a motorcycle with a kicking motion on a foot lever. By the 1950s, kick-start was beginning to be used figuratively, becoming increasingly popular and recognized by the mid-1990s.

The word kick-start has enjoyed a figurative renaissance with the advent of the American public-benefit company Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a business that helps bring creative projects to life via an online funding platform.

Let’s Review

Kick-start can be used both literally and figuratively. The word originates with the need to kick-start the engine of a motorcycle but has since been used to mean an action that helps speed along a process.

It is technically spelled kick-start, with a hyphen, to combine two words as one, but modern misspellings kickstart and kick start have also been deemed acceptable since the meaning is not lost.