Posted by: Jack Henry | December 1, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Normalcy or Normality?

Dear Editrix,

Recently I’ve heard a lot of comments about a “return to …” should it be normalcy or normality? Are both correct? Is it a regional difference? I see and hear it both ways on different media. It’s certainly a phrase that is tossed around more than it used to be.



Dear Curious,

You are not the only one to wonder about these words—in fact The Grammarist wrote up a short but sweet article on the topic and provided a cool graph that shows the increased use of both words over the last hundred years. And both words originally shared increased usage in 1920, thanks to President Harding and the desire to return to “the good life,” before World War I. I guess the Great Depression and World War II might be what they would’ve called the “new normal.” Here is a brief history behind normality and normalcy.

Normality and normalcy are different forms of the same word. Normality is centuries older, though, and many English authorities consider it the superior form, for what that’s worth. Nouns ending in -cy usually come from adjectives ending in -t—for example, pregnancy from pregnant, complacency from complacent, hesitancy from hesitant—while adjectives ending in -l usually take the -ity suffix. Normalcy is unique in flouting this convention.

Normalcy was popularized in the early 20th century thanks to President Warren G. Harding’s “return to normalcy” campaign slogan (though the word did exist before then), and language authorities have been unable to stamp it out.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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