At first glance, the words “hometown” and “home town” might seem to have different meanings. After all, “hometown” is a closed compound word, while “home town” is an open compound word. However, they have more in common than not.
“Hometown” is the correct spelling in American English, while “home town” is generally the correct spelling in British English. “Hometown” and “home town” can both function as stand-alone or attributive nouns, and they refer to the place where someone was born, raised, or now lives.
This is one example of how we can write some words in English, whether American or British, as one compound word or two separate words that come together to form a single meaning.
In this article, we will explore the background, meaning, and usage of these terms. We will share examples of when and how people use “hometown” primarily in American English. We will end by providing more information on the types of compound words.
Is Hometown One Word or Two?
“Hometown” and “home town” are essentially the same word. They have identical origins and parts of speech, as well as meanings. Their only difference is that we spell one as a closed compound and the other as an open compound.
Variances in Spelling
According to Merriam-Webster, the correct form of the word is the closed compound “hometown.” However, Collins Dictionary has “home town” as an entry, identifying the open compound as more common in British English (source).
Both “hometown” and “home town” are compound words that combine two words into one meaning. Compound words can be closed, open, or hyphenated. We will go into the types of compound words in more detail later in the article.
Looking at both entries in their respective dictionaries, the nouns “hometown” and “home town” share every other characteristic, including synonyms and definitions.
While both are correct forms of the word in their proper context, since “hometown” is the American version, we will prioritize that spelling throughout the rest of the article.
According to Merriam-Webster, “hometown” dates back to 1851. Since the emergence of “hometown” in Late Modern English, the meaning hasn’t changed.
What Does Home Town Mean?
Dictionaries typically define “hometown” in two different ways. “Hometown” can be the place where a person was born and raised or where a person currently lives (source).
Consider the following examples using the two definitions:
Bill’s hometown was Indianapolis; he was born and lived there until after graduating from high school.
Lisa considered Tulsa to be her hometown after living there for 12 years.
In the first example, the fact that Bill was born and raised in Indianapolis matches the first definition. The second example shows how “hometown” can represent the place where someone now lives.
Nouns name people, places, things, or ideas and, as a noun, “hometown” names a place. We can modify it with an adjective, such as in this sentence:
Susan resented her dull hometown, dreading her visits back to see her parents.
In this sentence, the adjective “dull” modifies the noun “hometown.”
“Hometown” is also an attributive noun, which functions much like an adjective. Attributive nouns modify other nouns but still retain their own meaning. They remain nouns, even when we use them in an adjectival manner.
He cheered for the hometown team, even though they were not favored to win.
Here, “hometown” describes the team but still has the same meaning. Most likely, he was cheering for the hometown team because he was either born, raised, or currently lives there.
Other Words Describing Our Place of Origin
The following words mean essentially the same thing as “hometown” in the sense of our place of origin (source):
|Synonym||Definition||Example Sentence with “Hometown”||Synonym Substitution|
|Origin or place of origin||place, race, or social situation that someone came from||Gonzalo’s hometown was in Canada; he was born there 46 years ago.||Gonzalo’s place of origin was Vancouver; he was born there 46 years ago.|
|homeland||place that someone originally called home||Their hometown of Stockholm was a decidedly pleasant place to live.||Their homeland of Stockholm was a decidedly pleasant place to live.|
|birthplace||place where someone was born||Even though Carla’s hometown was hours away, she still frequently made it back to visit her parents.||Even though Carla’s birthplace was hours away, she still frequently made it back to visit her parents.|
|Fatherland or motherland||place where one’s family was born; usually stated in a proud way||Berlin was considered the hometown of much of Sara’s extended family.||Berlin was considered the motherland of much of Sara’s extended family.|
|mother country||the country where you were born or where your family originated||Treyvon’s hometown was the undisputed capital of maple syrup.||Treyvon’s mother country was the undisputed capital of maple syrup.|
Some of these examples use “town” and “country” somewhat loosely since a “town” is usually in the countryside, away from the larger cities, while “country” can refer to the countryside or a nation.
How to Use “Hometown”
Even though you can use the word “hometown” as both a stand-alone noun and an attributive noun, it still retains its meaning in either usage. Even so, we use them in different ways within sentences.
Remember, we can modify stand-alone nouns by using adjectives, as well as attributive nouns. Attributive nouns modify other nouns and function in an adjectival manner.
Using “Hometown” as a Noun
Dictionaries list “hometown” as a countable noun, meaning it can be singular or plural. “Hometown” becomes “hometowns” simply by adding an -s at the end. Consider the following examples:
The weather in my hometown was awful enough to make me want to move far away.
Bears are prevalent in Tiffany and Matt’s hometowns, both near Glacier National Park.
Todd came back to his hometown to take a job as a teacher at his former grade school.
Their hometowns had much larger populations than their current towns.
Brad scheduled the conference near his hometown so he wouldn’t have to get a hotel room.
In the first, third, and fourth sentences, “hometown” is the place where the speaker was born or grew up. The second and fifth sentences could utilize either definition; the speakers’ hometowns could either be their birthplace or their current residence.
Where the sentences use the plural form “hometowns,” it describes multiple people’s different places of birth or residence.
“Hometown” as an Attributive Noun
Attributive nouns and adjectives are quite similar. Both types of words modify nouns and add details and descriptive language to sentences. One may also remove attributive nouns without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Here are a few examples of “hometown” functioning as an attributive noun:
Abigail was considered a hometown hero; the work she had accomplished as a senator benefitted many members of her community.
The hometown crowd was getting rowdy as their team extended their lead in the game.
Eileen believed the band’s scheduled hometown gig would bring in the biggest audience yet.
The pie was a hometown recipe that no one could replicate anywhere else.
The hometown opinion was enough to sway the judge’s ruling.
The Hyphenated Attributive Noun “Home-Town” in British English
The British open compound “home town,” when functioning as an attributive noun, can also include a hyphen. You should not see this in American English writing since it’s already a closed compound.
We most often see the hyphenated form in academic and professional writing in English from the United Kingdom or those from former British territories or influenced by them.
For example, some Chinese scholars educated in Beijing and Australia made use of the hyphenated “home-town” when presenting at and writing for conferences and seminars.
At the International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, the group used “home-town” in regards to an interest-based search based on one’s location (source).
A publication by Cambridge University on urban areas in Ghana uses “home-town” throughout the entire paper to describe the way people in the area feel about a central town.
Even though people in the surrounding areas might not be from the town, they have strong ties to it for a myriad of reasons, making it truly their “home-town” (source).
Notes on Compound Words
Compound words are single words made up of two words. They can be closed, open, or hyphenated. Closed compound words are one word and the most common. For more information on compound words, please see the article on whether it’s “high school” or “highschool”?
Closed Compound Words
The following table includes common closed compound words, the two words that combine to make each compound word, and the word’s meaning.
|Compound Word||Words that Combine||Meaning|
|snowball||snow + ball||A snowball is a ball made out of snow.|
|skylight||sky + light||A skylight is a window in a ceiling that brings in light from the sky.|
|teapot||tea + pot||A teapot is a pot for steeping and containing tea.|
|lightweight||light + weight||If something is lightweight, it has a light (opposite of heavy) amount of weight.|
|racetrack||race + track||A racetrack is a track where a race occurs.|
Two-Word and Hyphenated Compound Words
Compound words that keep the two words separate are sometimes harder to spot than closed compound words. Open compound words like “high school” are made of two words that function as one unit.
Some words remain as open compounds because they are so familiar that there is little risk of confusing their meaning, even when using them as modifiers.
Hyphenated compound words are two words joined by a hyphen. Hyphens are useful for compound words where the meaning of the sentence could change when read without one.
Consider the difference between “a well known album” and “a well-known album.”
Without the hyphen, it might be unclear whether “well known” or “known album” function as one unit and whether “well” modifies “known” or “album.” Is the album “well? The hyphen makes it clear that the album is “well-known,” meaning many people know of it.
Some compounds are always hyphenated, while others are open compounds that use hyphens when they function as modifiers before a noun. As modifiers that come after the noun they modify, they remain as open compounds without a hyphen.
The following table contains examples of open and hyphenated compound words:
|Open Compound Words||Hyphenated Compound Words|
How Compound Words Change Over Time
Compound words can change their form throughout time. In many different languages, there are trends to and from closed and open compounds, as well as hyphens added for clarity. The language, sentence structure, and context all play key roles in how we write compound words. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
There are quite a few words in the English language that evolved from hyphenated compounds to closed compounds (source). One such example is the evolution of “air-plane” to “airplane” or “teen-ager” to “teenager.” Many newer compound words are hyphenated at first, but then they evolve to become closed compounds.
Even though open and closed compound words might seem like completely different types of words, they are just two different ways of spelling out the same meaning. “Hometown” and “home town” are two such examples.
Both words refer to the place where someone was born, raised, or currently resides. One can use “hometown” as a stand-alone noun or attributive noun. When in doubt and writing in American English, “hometown” is the correct choice. In British English, “home town” and “hometown” are used interchangeably.
“Hometown” is just one of many compound words used to create meaning for ideas and sentences. Unlike a hyphenated compound that needs a hyphen to make the meaning of a sentence clear, open and closed compound words are clear modifiers on their own.