Is “highschool” one word or two words?

When we were younger, I’m sure that many of us will remember the fond (and perhaps not so fond memories) of our time at high school. These days, some people spell it as “highschool” rather than “high school” is this correct?

Is “highschool” in one word?

“High school” is in two words, not one word. The correct spelling is “high school” not “highschool” because “high” and “school” are acting as two different words that serve two different purposes.

In this article today, I want to talk a bit about where high schools come from, where the word comes from, and what category the terms “high” and “school” and “high school” fall into.

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Origin of the word “high school”

Schools in general

When I say “school”, I am referring to building dedicated to learning. Learning itself has always been a thing, ever since we were living in caves.

The first “school” was The Academy, in ancient Greece and founded by Plato.

It wasn’t until the Byzantine Empire that schooling expanded to include younger children, this was when it went more towards maths and language and less philosophy.

Even since then, schools have developed, changed, and many of them specialised.

Let’s kick things off by talking about where the “high school” comes from. It may seem like they’ve always been around, after all, we, our parents and even our grandparent went to high school. But even the concept of the “high school” is (historically speaking) a relatively recent one.

High Schools

The first-ever high school was the “Edinburgh Royal High School”, located, as the name might suggest, in Edinburgh (a place in Scotland).

The first High School on the American side of the pond was the “Boston Latin School”, which opened in 1635, and was modelled after the very first in Scotland.

Today, Americans all get high school education for free, and there are even some states that have it in their constitution.



The word “high” seems like such a basic word in our language, but as with most words that we use, even though the word “high” is English, the concept of high predates our language by a LONG time.

In Old English, the word was “Heh”. This comes from a word that the Saxons brought over when they “invaded”: “Heah”. And that word comes from a Proto-Germanic word “Hauha”. Unlike some of our other words, at least “high” sounds similar to its etymological roots.


Most of the time, when we think of the word “high” the definition that comes to mind is a description of a physical location. For example, you might say “The plane was high up” or “It’s very high on top of that building”.

But it also has several other definitions.

It could be used to refer to something of great size or quantity. For example, I might say “We have very high temperatures over here” or “The price is too high for me”.

Likewise, you can also use “high” to talk about something of great importance, such as “high council” or “high treason”.

When you smoke a lot of weed, you might describe yourself as “high”.

And finally, a “high” can be a happy moment. “Life has lots of highs and lows”.



Just like “High”, “School” also has an interesting etymology that I have found rather interesting to learn about.

In Old English, we used to call it “Scol”. Back then, it was only the rich who were able to go, and things were run very differently.

In Latin, it was known as “Schola”, which meant “break from work/leisure for learning”. And that comes from the Proto-Indo-European “segh” which means “to hold”, which makes sense as this is what schools do, they hold people.

What type of noun is “high school”?

As many of you will know, a noun is a thing, but there are different types of nouns.

“High School” is a common noun when talking about the concept in general. A common noun is talking about general things (glass, pie, apples). For example “Many of us secretly loved high school”.

However, when talking about a specific one, “High School” is part of a proper noun- a noun that refers to something specific (Frederick, Portsmouth). For example, “Ashwood High School won an award”.

As you can see, in the first example, we are not talking about any particular high school, but in the second example, we are.

“High School” is two words, not one

The trouble with the previous section is that I’ve just treated “high school” as if it’s one word- it isn’t!

“High” is an adjective, something that describes something else. On the other hand, “school” is a noun, a thing.

Even though most of the time treat “high school” as either a noun (I liked high school) or an adjective (High school education). “School” is the noun and “high” the adjective that is being used to describe it.

In this sense, “high” is not referring to a physical location but rather, something of great importance, much like we would say “high council” or “high treason”.

In defence of “highschool”

I’m sure that many of you will have either seen or used the incorrect term “highschool”. Some grammar snobs might throw their toys out the pram, but I would like to defend people who get it “wrong”.

Firstly, the rules of grammar are liable to change. If you were to travel back 500 years, the rules would not be the same as they are today.

But also, it makes more sense to use it as one word, as most of the time, that’s exactly how we treat it. Other words that used to be two are one today such as “another (an other)”, “Already( all ready)”, and “Anyone (any one)”.


If you’re in an English lesson or writing something formal, you should use “high school” as two separate words.

“School” is a noun that’s being described with the adjective “high”.

It’s interesting to note that “high” does not mean close to the sky, but rather, of great importance.

Even though it was the Greeks who invented the school, it was the Scottish who came up with the concept of the “high school”.

Even though officially it’s “high school”, I say, there’s nothing wrong with “highschool”.