Which is correct, no-mans-land or no-man's-land? I think the latter is, but the text gives it otherwise.

One reason that so many of us are fascinated by penguins is that they resemble us. They walk upright, the way we do, and, like us, they are notoriously curious creatures. Penguins in the wild walk right up to people, touch them, and look as if they were preparing to study them. Diane Ackerman points out that "there is, ordinarily, a no-mans-land between us and wild animals. They fear us and shy away. But penguins are among the very few animals on earth that cross that divide. They seem to regard us as penguins, too, perhaps of a freakish species. After all, we stand upright, travel in groups, talk all the time, sort of waddle." Bernard Stonehouse, the worlds leading authority on penguins, believes that they think a human is a penguin who is "different, less predictable, occasionally violent, but tolerable company when he sits still and minds his own business."

The Emperor's Embrace Reflections on Animal Families and Fatherhood

  • You're right: it usually has an apostrophe. Go here and paste "no-mans-land,no-man's-land" (without the invertedcommas) into the box where it says 'Albert Einstein...' to see how frequently each is used. Jul 29, 2021 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


It is always best to imitate native speakers. The Google Ngram Viewer utility can be used to compare the frequency of usage of "no man's land" vs "no mans land". The usage created by non-natives is of no consequence.

Usage of *no man's land" (possessive), for over 150 years, has been orders of magnitude greater and for the last 30 years the usage difference has been accelerating.

The syntax to type into the NGram utility must must exactly be:
no man ' s land,no mans land

Ngram viewer utility

  • You can link directly to the result you want, so you don't need to give instructions (and the tool fixes the man's automatically for you): books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user139882
    Jul 29, 2021 at 7:46

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