Midcentury vs. mid-century vs. mid century

hyphenate mid century Calling all grammarians and spelling bee champions:

What is the correct spelling — or are there correct spellings:
Is it:
“Midcentury” … “mid-century” … or “mid century”?

As in (1): “midcentury modern sofa”, “mid-century modest house” or “mid century American history”. And would it change as in: (2) “in midcentury/mid-century/mid century America”.


how do you spell mid century

Golly, over the past six+ years, we’ve spelled it every which way. Hey: Covering all our bases and google keywords, too, I guess. However, my Meade County High School English teacher Ivy B. Hawkins — a fantastic teacher who made us diagram sentences until we could do it in our sleep — would not be amused by this lax just get it onto the www who cares about spelling anymore 21st Century (21st-Century? 21st-century?) attitude of mine.

So which is it?

Finally, what exact parts of speech do you call the word/compound, in each usage? Ack! My brain explodes! As you respond, can you also provide your citations – add hotlink in your comment. Thank you!

Categoriespostwar culture
  1. Judy H. says:

    BTW, that is, “by the way”, quotes or no quotes, I went back to visit a an article by Ellen Kate Taylor. She is a California-based (hyphen is correct because she wrote it that way) writer, home designer and web consultant specializing in interior design and design history.

    At the bottom of her column, she says that mid-century, Midcentury. Mid-century and midcentury are all acceptable alternate spellings for the time, design and styles of the subject we all love to read about in retro renovation.

    So, there is my two cents worth from someone who should know, so HAVE at it!

    p.s. you can read her post at about.com under their “about home” section.

  2. Judy H. says:

    I can’t believe I missed this thread. I had some great laughs and groans while reading it. My, some people do take themselves quite seriously, don’t they.
    As for me, I have seen the word spelled every way possible in books, trade publications, decorating magazines and on blogs and I have always understood the design, decor, style or look the author had in mind.
    With so many opinions concerning which spelling is correct or incorrect, my suggestion is to spell the word exactly as you please and in someone’s quite educated opinion, you will always be correct.

  3. Jane Mack says:

    And there’s also mid’-century, with a apostrophe to indicate that mid is a contraction of middle. Of course nobody uses this, so be bold! Be the first on your block to do so.

    As with other compound adjectives, you’d use the hyphenated mid-century to describe a mid-century house, or mid-century modern style.

    Technically, there is no mid century, since mid is not a word. As for midcentury, I don’t like it, it hasn’t had enough time to become standardized and easy to read (whereas unhappy has, along with whereas).

  4. Scott says:

    I personally prefer mid-century modern as the other variations look like something was missed or forgotten. Among friends and others so inclined (like here on RR) I usually just say MCM or MCModest. 🙂

    For what its worth I can tell you from my web design endeavors that some search engines (but not Google) derail when hyphens are used in site names or other searchable fields. I had a client who hyphenated his domain name and we had to go to all sorts of extremes to get his site picked up by the search engines.

  5. NetWeasel says:

    Engilsh is a language that, unlike some others has been constantly “played with.” One of the things I tend to do with it is create new words on the spot by adding unusual prefixes or suffixes to root words. (Bonus points for being able to change the pronunciation of the root word.) This often results in the following snippet of conversation with those not used to it:

    “That’s not a word.”
    “Do you know what it means?”
    “Well, yes…”
    “Then it’s a word.”

    (The newly built word has to be immediately understandable — you can’t just throw sounds together and arbitrarily give it a definition — that’s branding, not playing with the language.)

    The term being discussed (I’m not going to give away my opinion by typing it yet), to most people, is a relatively unfamiliar one. You’ve got two parts: “mid” and “century.” Once you’ve seen it a few times, it falls into your personal lexicon. But the first time the word is seen, say by a newsreader, there is a brief pause while parsing the pronunciation — very few non-compound words in english, if any, have a “d” followed by a “c” in the middle of the word. To the newsreader, or anyone reading aloud, there is a question as to whether the “c” is hard or soft — midsentury or midkentury? (The question is immediately answered, but it creates a stumble.) The hyphen, by inserting a pause in the word, paradoxically eliminates a longer one. I think that this is the reason that words first enter the language with a hyphen and then quickly lose it through familiaritization.

    I think that this word, as a word, is still too young yet to remove its training wheels — the hyphen should stay in the compound word, at least for a few more years. “Mid-century,” but “Mid Century Modern,” or Mid Century Modest” — use the basic comma rule: say it out loud and write it the way you say it.

    No citiations, merely opinion.

    1. jano says:

      This is a great discussion – thanks for everyone’s ideas. But whoops, I don’t think “familiaritization” (7 lines above) is a word (and the red underline shows that spellcheck agrees with me! The correct word is “familiarization”.

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