'Nighttime' or 'Night Time': Which is Correct?

By Sophia Merton, updated on October 6, 2022

When describing the dark hours that occur every evening, is ‘nighttime’ or ‘night time’ correct? ‘Nighttime' is one of the words you can use to describe the various times of day, specifically referring to the period after the sun has set in the evening but before it has risen in the morning.

‘Nighttime’ is the most common and recognized spelling, while the hyphenated ‘night-time’ is acceptable in British English. Stick with us to learn more about the proper usage of ‘nighttime,’ explore example sentences, and more.

‘Nighttime’ or ‘Night Time’: Which Is Right?

If you are writing in US English, the correct spelling is ‘nighttime.’ However, if you’re writing in British English, the hyphenated ‘night-time’ is acceptable in addition to the more common ‘nighttime.’

Across the internet, you will find people writing ‘nighttime’ as ‘night time,’ but this is not technically correct according to the most authoritative dictionaries.

Some people might assume that ‘night time’ is the proper spelling because it looks a bit odd to have double consonants right in the middle of the compound word. However, ‘night time’ is never the correct spelling, and the AP Style Guidelines suggest writing it as one word rather than a hyphenated compound word.

The best way to know whether a compound word is properly written as open, closed, or hyphenated is to consult with reputable, trustworthy, and authoritative dictionaries. When you do this for the word ‘nighttime,’ you find that both the Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam-Webster spell it as the one-word compound without a hyphen. Lexico– a dictionary that primarily draws from the Oxford English Dictionary– displays the term in the hyphenated spelling of ‘night-time.’

Language evolves and changes over time, and compound words typically form by starting as two separate words, becoming hyphenated words, before reaching their final form as a one-word compound word.

The Meaning of ‘Nighttime’

‘Nighttime’ is a word with a simple and straightforward definition.

It describes the time period during every 24-hour period when the sun is gone and the sky is dark.

Let’s take a look at how some of the most reputable dictionaries define ‘nighttime.’

  • The Britannica Dictionary: “The time of darkness between one day and the next : the time of day when no light from the sun can be seen”

Using ‘Nighttime” in a Sentence

So how can you use ‘nighttime’ in a sentence?

The word can be used as both a noun and an adjectival noun, so let's look at examples of both usages.

As a noun, ‘nighttime’ can often be used interchangeably with ‘night.’ Here are some example sentences of 'nighttime' as a noun:

  • Owls hunt in the nighttime
  • They are looking for a security guard to watch the building at nighttime
  • It’s quiet here at nighttime
  • We use floodlights to illuminate our yard during the nighttime
  • On Friday, someone stole our mailbox during the nighttime

As an adjectival noun, ‘nighttime’ can be used to describe another noun. When used before another noun, ‘nighttime’ functions as an adjective even though it can also stand on its own as a noun.

Some examples of 'nighttime' as an adjectival noun include:

  • A ten-hour nighttime curfew is in force
  • I have a nighttime routine that helps me prepare for the next day
  • My doctor told me these nighttime symptoms should pass after a few days
  • Experiencing nighttime anxiety had become the norm for him while lying in bed

As you can see, the word ‘nighttime’ is used to describe the noun that follows. In these instances, the word ‘night’ is not always interchangeable with ‘nighttime.’

Can You Ever Use “Night Time’?

Reputable dictionaries use ‘nighttime’ or ‘night-time,’ but never ‘night time.’ Despite the fact that you can find ‘night time’ written on forums and posts across the internet, this is never the correct spelling.

‘Nighttime’ as a Compound Word

‘Nighttime’ is an example of a compound word, where two different words are used together to create a new meaning. There are three different ways that compound words can potentially be expressed:

  • Open compounds: A space is used between the two words, for example, ‘ice cream’ or ‘real estate'
  • Hyphenated compounds: A hyphen is used to join two (or more) words, for example, ‘long-term’ or 'up-to-date'
  • Closed compounds: The two words are joined to create a single word, for example, ‘bookstore’ or ‘notebook’

The word ‘night’ etymologically stems from the late Old English niht, which itself derives from the Proto-Germanic nahts. The word time comes from the Old English word tima, which stems from the Proto-Germanic timon.

As a closed or hyphenated compound word, ‘nighttime’ is first attributed to the late 13th century, coming from a combination of the Old English words niht and tima.

Final Thoughts on ‘Nighttime” or ‘Night Time’

Though some readers might feel that ‘nighttime’ looks a bit strange because of the back-to-back ‘t’s’ in the compound word, this is the correct spelling in American English. You do also find examples of the word being presented as a hyphenated compound word so that it’s spelled ‘night-time,’ but this is less common and usually only found properly used in UK English.

Understanding the correct spelling of ‘nighttime’ is made more complicated by the fact that you can find countless examples of the term being misspelled across the web as an open compound in the form of ‘night time.’

However, this is never the right spelling according to the sources we trust the most, such as Merriam-Webster and the Cambridge Dictionary.

For more clarification about bewildering English language issues, be sure to check out our articles explaining confusing words.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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