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“Coliving” or “Co-living” - what to use?

By Gui Perdrix (@guiperdrix)

· News

Here’s a super simple question: should we spell coliving with or without the hyphen?

I know that there are bigger problems in the world, but I’m curious to hear what everyone thinks and why. Especially, I want to open a discussion around it and understand your reasoning.

What I use (and why)

When I started to heavily get into coliving few months ago, I used “co-living” with the hyphen, mostly because it was a new term and major thought leaders (like the Co-Liv initiative) used it the same way.

But I recently transitioned to using “coliving” without the hyphen.

My reasoning is three-fold:

  1. It is an easier term to use (whether for normal spelling or website names)

  2. My research shows that most coliving spaces are currently using that form (and I believe that it is the coliving community that will define term)

  3. Other sectors like coworking (or cohousing) also transitioned from “co-working” to “coworking” when the trend became popular and passed the early adopters curve

While the first point is self-explanatory, let’s have a look at the latter two.

Using Deductive Reasoning

At this point of time, the term “co-living” with a hyphen is used twice as often across the web than the term without it.

Google results for coliving (April 2019)

Most newspapers and publications use the term this way. Nevertheless, there are a few indicators that show that “coliving” without the hyphen is becoming increasingly popular.

My assumption is that the coliving community will establish the term without a hyphen in the long-term.

Google Trends

Google Trends is the first example. As you can see below, worldwide searches for “coliving” are growing faster than for “co-living” and gaining more traction.

Worldwide Google searches over the last five years as of April 2019 (Source)

Wikipedia

Wikipedia defines coliving without the hyphen as well (see Wikipedia page). On a more playful note, Urban Dictionary does the same (and their definition is not too bad either):

Note to readers: I’m the last one to use Wikipedia as a first source of information, yet it is a relevant anchor point for general opinion.

Current Coliving Spaces

The majority of coliving spaces use coliving without the hyphen as well.

While I did not track “coliving” vs. “co-living” on my spreadsheet of 400 coliving spaces, my estimate is that around 80% of spaces use the term without the hyphen. That is an intuitive answer based on the descriptions I’ve been seeing over the last months.

We can have a glimpse at the biggest coliving spaces and confirm that hypothesis. Let’s take Roam, Outsite, Vonder, Ollie, Outpost Club, Outpost Asia, Common, Sun & Co, Hmlet, The Collective, and Cohabs as a sample, and we find out that

  • 55% use “coliving”

  • 22% use “co-living” (Quarters and The Collective)

  • and 22% used both (Hmlet and Cohabs) - not sure whether this is intentional

My assumption is that it is easier to write and more suited for brand names.

Screenshots of the coliving spaces mentioned above.

Note: interestingly, WeLive and Vonder don’t use the term “coliving” at all and hence not counted in the stats. Instead, WeLive explains the concept through “fully furnished apartments with flexible stay” and Vonder talks about “a new way of living”. This makes sense if both companies don’t want to appear riding the “coliving trend”.

Coliving Initiatives

When we look at coliving events, communities, aggregators, or wider initiatives, the same trend appears.

Taking as a sample Co-liv, Coliving Hub, Coliving & Coworking Conference SEE, Coliving.com, Kndrd, StartupBnb, Homy Coliving, and the One Shared House 203 survey, 75% use the term coliving in their description.

Now let’s use another way of reasoning by looking at other industries and terminologies that start with “co”.

Looking at Other Industries

Let’s check out two other industries: cohousing and coworking.

Cohousing has existed as the oldest terminology. It’s therefore the only term between cohousing, coliving and coworking that it in an actual dictionary.

When looking at Merriam-Webster, it is also portrayed without the hyphen - and the same does for official representatives such as Cohousing.org.

Cohousing as being defining by a leading English dictionary.

For both cohousing and coworking, Google Trends reaffirm that the term has imposed itself without the hyphen - with a wide discrepancy between the two terms.

Worldwide Google searches for “cohousing” over the last five years as of April 2019 (Source)

Worldwide Google searches for “coworking” over the last five years as of April 2019 (Source)

The same happens when looking for Google results. In this case, it is not the amount of searches that count (the demand side, which could be an uneducated public) but the amount of search results, meaning published web pages (the supply side, which is co-creating the term).

Google search results as of April 2019

Coworking itself is an interesting case study. Popularized initially as "co-working" through major news agency, the term changed to "coworking" after major coworking space operators complained about the hyphen. AP then officially changed it to "coworking" and coworking podcasters Alex Hillman celebrated this by then creating the site doescoworkinghaveahyphen.com:

Overall, it seems that for both terms, the hyphen has not imposed itself.

Conclusion

I personally therefore favor the term “coliving” without a hyphen. It seems to me that this makes sense based on empirical data (what is being used right now) and because new "co" words end up being adopted as legitimate terms without the hyphen.
 

On a side-note, the only reason I’d understand to use coliving with a hyphen is to differentiate between two separate terms. For example, Jacob Jay made an interesting differentiation between coliving as a place of living (the “real estate developments”) and co-living as a concept (the “housing policy and societal impact”).

Jacob’s differentiation of coliving concepts.

Yet, even there, I can’t find a reason or another “co” example that supports the idea of differentiating between coliving as a product (the house and operations) and coliving as a concept (the movement and industry).
 

So, I’d use coliving. What do you think?

About Me - I'm Gui and I explore the depth of coliving. In the past, I created several short-term coliving spaces in Barcelona and Bali. I'm currently documenting the coliving scene on the Coliving Diaries. You can find me on Twitter and chat with me here.

PS: Want to receive a weekly digest of worldwide coliving news? Subscribe to my Coliving Cocktail newsletter.

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