There’s much confusion about the spelling of the word ‘high school’. Is it 'highschool' or 'high school'? Should it be one word or two? In fact, there's so much confusion that you’ll see it spelt differently all over the internet. This only increases the confusion by perpetuating the normalization of incorrect spellings. This, of course, is the case with many words - not just ‘high school’ - and it’s what we’re here to help with.
Without further ado, let’s get on to the task at hand, which is to identify the correct spelling of the word “high school” once and for all. We’ll get into the meaning of the word, its origins, and the reason for the confusion around the correct spelling. Plus, a special bonus! Read on until the end for a handy tip on how to remember the correct spelling in future.
So, what’s the appropriate way to write ‘high school?” The answer is that high school is two words, not one word. ‘Highschool’ should be written as ‘high school.’
Let's start by defining the word as per the dictionary definition, and learn more about the term.
High school is an education establishment that young people are required to attend. The age at which high school is attended varies depending on the country. For instance, in the United States, students start high school around age 14. In the United Kingdom and Australia, however, the approximate starting age is 11. What high school has in common in all these countries though, is that it is the last school that young people are required by law to attend.
Although Brits usually use the term ‘secondary school’ to refer to high school, the term ‘high school’ is sometimes used in the names of grammar schools (academic excellence schools for which attendance is reliant on passing an entrance examination).
Some examples of well-known grammar schools containing the word ‘high school’ are:
As for Canada, the starting age for high school is around 14 in most provinces and territories, but this can vary, particularly in Quebec, where kids begin attending high school around age 12.
Now let’s get a little geeky about the grammatical details of the word (we love a little grammar - can you tell?). High school is a noun, and it can be both countable and uncountable.
An uncountable noun is a word that refers to something you can count and can be used in both the singular (high school) and the plural (high schools). Here are some examples of the word being a countable noun:
And here are some examples of the word being an uncountable noun:
As you can see, in these examples, you wouldn’t be able to use the plural form of the noun (it wouldn’t make sense to say “What was your experience like in high school?); therefore it’s uncountable.
Interested in understanding more about the word and where it came from? Stick around for a short history lesson.
Funny enough, the word ‘school’ originally comes from the Greek ‘skholē’, which means spare time, leisure, and rest. It evolved to mean a place for discussion, which was one of the Greeks’ favorite activities during their leisure time. Interestingly, this is also how the saying ‘school of thought' emerged, as it was used to refer to people united by similar interests and ways of thinking.
The first ever high school was Edinburgh's Royal High School in Scotland, in 1128.
So what is the correct way to spell it, and why? Let's find out.
Alright, are you ready to know the actual correct way to spell the word high school? Get ready, set… reveal! The correct spelling of the word is in fact:
You might have guessed it from the way we’ve been spelling it in this article so far.
So to clarify, it is never correct to spell it in one word, like such: highschool.
So next time someone asks you, "Is it spelt 'highschool' or 'high school'?", you'll know what to say!
When high school is being used as a modifier, then it’s acceptable to hyphenate the word. For example:
Jennifer is a high-school student.
The reason for this is to avoid confusion around which single word is the modifier, and which is the noun being modified. To use the example above, without the hyphen, the sentence would read:
Jennifer is a high school student.
As you can see, in this case, it’s unclear if the adjective is “high” or “high school”. Depending on how you read it, this sentence could mean two very different things.
It’s important to note that the most common spelling, even in this context, is still high school (without a hyphen). As such, in some dictionaries, you won’t find the hyphenated variant. However, we simply want to note that it’s acceptable to hyphenate the word in this content if you want to be sure to avoid confusion.
If you do choose to hyphenate it though, remember to be consistent. If you hyphenate the word once then you should continue to do so throughout your text, when it is relevant to do so (i.e., when the word high school is the modifier).
When we are referring to a specific high school by name, the word can - and often should be - capitalized. For example:
High school is a noun made up of two words (meaning it’s a group of several words that stand in for just one). No surprise then, that we’re inclined to spell it as one word.
Adding to the confusion is the existence of compound words. These are two words that are joined together to name one thing. Many compound words are ‘closed’, meaning they are literally fused together to become just one word. Here are a few examples:
But many other compound words are ‘open’, meaning they remain spelt as two separate words. ‘High school’ is one of them. Some others include:
Understandable then that it’s such a common thing not to know whether it should be spelt 'highschool' or 'high school', wouldn't you agree?
So how are you supposed to remember which is the correct way to spell the word ‘high school’?
If you can’t remember whether or not high school should be one word or two, replace the word “high” with another word that relates to schools, such as “primary” or “private”. It wouldn’t make sense to spell ‘privateschool’ as one word, would it? It should be two words. and the same goes ‘high school’.
We hope this has helped clarify the usage and the spelling of the word high school, and that you feel more confident about using it correctly moving forward. So remember: high school is always written as two separate words and is a common noun so shouldn’t be capitalized, unless the word is in the name of a specific school.
So tell us, where did you go to high school? Let us know in the comments below!