Groundbreaking vs. ground breaking vs. ground-breaking

Here’s an old grammar controversy that’s easy to deconstruct.

The older you are, the more likely your junior high school teacher pounded into you that ground breaking and ground-breaking were the correct spellings when referring to the start of a construction project. These days, however, groundbreaking is far more prevalent, and both Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries consider it the correct spelling. This is the same spelling that’s used for the traditional definition of the word meaning “new and revolutionary” as in The scientist’s proposed theory was groundbreaking.

Ground breaking is still used, though its meaning generally is more literal, as in actually cracking the ground open, like Thor smashed his hammer in a ground breaking smash.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.