Word Confusion: Grown Up vs Grown-Up vs Grownup

Posted December 8, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 2 September 2017

You wouldn’t think that such a simple word could have so many ways to misspell it! And I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. I find that I keep coming back to this page again and again for a memory refresher!

You really can’t go wrong if you err on the side of hyphenating this compound word to create grown-up.

Yep, I know what you’re gonna say: “but in this one book, it uses grown up!” And now you know why y’all need editors! Someone has to catch those words that have been used wrongly. Just because it’s in a book, a magazine, newspaper, web page, etc., does NOT mean it’s being used correctly. You can trust a dictionary or an editor. Ahem.

Sure, editors are fallible. They’re people just like you and you and you. However, qualified editors have made a study of words and how they go together. They’re more aware of words, which is more than I can say for some authors…*sigh*…

Hmmm, seems it’s more than I can say for myself, as I found Dictionary.com indicating that grownup is too a word. So there, Kathy…

Do keep in mind that whichever version you choose, grown-up or grownup, be consistent.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Grown Up Grown-Up Grownup
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Advertisement for the American comedy film The Girl Who Couldn't Grow Up (1917) with Margarita Fischer, on page 4 of the September 22, 1917 Exhibitors Herald.

“The Girl Who Couldn’t Grow Up” was a film in 1917 by Harry Pollard Productions / Mutual Film and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Two children walking on top of a wall next to a man walking on the sidewalk.

“Learning to Walk Like a Grownup” by Tord Remme from Norway / Thailand is under the CC0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Remember when all you wanted to do as a kid was be like the grownups?

Part of Grammar:
Nope, see grown-up, UNLESS

Verbal phrase = past participle of grow + adverb
Adjective 1; Noun 2 Noun use of verb phrase grow up
Verb, intransitive:
Advance to maturity

  • Spend one’s childhood and adolescence
  • [Often in the imperative] Begin to behave or think sensibly and realistically
  • Arise
    • Develop
Not childish or immature

Of, for, or characteristic of adults

An adult

  • Having reached maturity

Suitable for or characteristic of an adult

A mature, fully grown person

  • Adult
My, he certainly has grown up.

I had grown up in a small town in Michigan.

I wish my sister had grown up and come into the real world.

A school of painting had grown up in Cuzco.

She’s insisting on wearing grown-up clothes.

“I better hear you’re doin’ grown-up things these days,” his mama warned.

Well, that’s not a very grown-up attitude.

He’s a grown-up now.

Shoo, let the grown-ups talk.

He’s a grownup now.

Shoo, let the grownups talk.

Noun: grown-upness
Phrasal Verb
grow apart
grow into
grow on
grow out
grow out of
History of the Word:
As grow, Old English grōwan, originally referring chiefly to plants, is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch groeien. 1 1633

Adjective use of the verb phrase grow up

2 1813

First recorded in 1805-15.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Man and Woman Dancing Waltz by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Animation is based on Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic plate.