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Cambridge dictionary suggests that "New Year" is the same as "new year". but the following examples suggests that they have different meaning:

The building work will happen in the new year.

But The Guardian usually use at instead of in

Sifting through contradictory evidence is common when it comes to choosing the right thing to do to improve our health, not least at new year when many of us promise to leave old habits behind and make a fresh start. See the source here

What is the difference in meaning?

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"In the new year" (In + definite article "the", always lower case) means "during the forthcoming year starting next January 1st", and is often used to mean the early part of that year. "At new year" (At + no article, "New Year" often capitalised) means "the period, often a holiday, around the transition from one year (the old year) to the next (the new year)". People make "resolutions" at New Year, e.g. to give up smoking.

  • Agreed, but I think one of your definitions is a bit loose, and the other a bit tight. To me in the new year does indeed mean "during the forthcoming year", but I think there is an implication that it will start early in the year - in January, or maybe February. At new year means midnight on 31st, but it also means "during the New Year celebrations", which might start on 31st, and go on through 1st and even into the 2nd. – Colin Fine Aug 5 at 16:57

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