"They said they felt sorry for women who had one-night stands, that they were lacking something in their lives and if they had not simply lost control through drink and drugs they were seeking emotional rather than physical connection." (The Telegraph)

"They sound like fun, and often are (but sometimes aren't). Caroline Kent explains why we make one night stands a lot more complicated than they need to be. (The Telegraph)"

Is there any difference between "one-night stand" and "one night stand"?

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    It comes from the world of stage performances like theater and music tours, where a one-night stand occurs when the performer(s) only play(s) for a single evening before moving on to another location. The inclusion of the hyphen falls under “number + noun” rules, for which the Chicago Manual of Style (pdf) recommends a hyphen. The choice is a matter of style, but many (including myself) feel that a hyphen makes the compound nature of the adjective “one-night” more clear. – Tyler James Young Mar 13 '15 at 21:02
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    @TylerJamesYoung If you're going to answer, answer! :D – Catija Mar 13 '15 at 21:22
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    @Catija I don’t have any sources for the origin part of the question, and I’m otherwise occupied. You are welcome to incorporate anything from my comment into a real answer such as you have written. I (luckily and embarrassingly) have a folder of bookmarks entitled “hyphenation resources”, so I threw that in there. – Tyler James Young Mar 13 '15 at 22:00

All you could ever want to know about a one-night stand is on the wikipedia page about it:

A one-night stand is a single sexual encounter without an expectation of further relations between sexual participants. This is regardless of whether a single encounter was originally intended by either participant to be a one-night stand, or whether further relations between the participants subsequently arises. Critics of the practice describe it as "sexual activity without emotional commitment or future involvement".

As to the background, I'm conjecturing that one-night means one night and stand is used in the sense of:

n. - 3. A stop on a performance tour.

This is in relation to a musical performance and there is evidence that "one-night stand" actually also refers to a one night only musical performance.


  1. Slang a. A sexual encounter that is limited to only one occasion. b. A person that one has such an encounter with.

  2. A performance by a traveling musical or dramatic performer or group in one place on one night only.

So, a single night performance of a sexual act.

As to removing the hyphen... it can be done. But context is important, otherwise someone may think you're talking about a singular one of these (though the space is generally removed: nightstand):

One Night Stand

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