Can't We Say Good-Bye to that Hyphen?
We’ve gotten the phrase “God be with you” down to three letters over the years, with bye retaining the b from be and ye, the old plural pronoun. It’s unclear when we took the God out of goodbye, but we’ve been saying bye for at least 300 years.
It’s unclear to me why we persist in saying good-bye with a hyphen in the middle. There is no one-word goodbye in the citations in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it is the first spelling given in the New Oxford American and Oxford Dictionaries online.
Merriam-Webster Unabridged online offers good-bye and good-by as a variant. Merriam-Webster’s newer Advanced Learner’s Dictionary does have goodbye, and of course it’s in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (worth 14 points) that Merriam-Webster publishes.
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is the go-to dictionary of the Chicago Manual of Style, which means many publications aren’t following their own style when the leave out the hyphen. And many do. A look at the Google Books Ngram Viewer shows a steady move away from the hyphenated form, with the one-word goodbye being preferred since the late 1950s.
On Google, good-bye gets about 11 millions hits while goodbye gets about 63 million. Newspapers tend to follow Associated Press Style which favors the unhyphenated goodbye spelling of Webster’s New World College Dictionary. A Google News search produces 165,000 goodbyes and 8,490 good-byes.
Bryan Garner is no radical when it comes to language change, but his Garner’s Modern American Usage says “goodbye is by far the most usual form, since the hyphen seems almost as archaic here as in to-day and to-morrow.” The latest Fowler’s Modern English Usage also favors goodbye.