five-year anniversary /fifth anniversary

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jiamajia

Senior Member
Mandarin
Is the term 'five-year anniversay' informally correct?

Sample sentence:
September 11, 2006 marked the five-year(fifth) anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'd be interested in hearing from some other AE speakers. I agree with sound shift that five-year anniversary sounds wrong. It also seems a pretty unpopular phrase judging from the Google Books ngram here which shows an almost zero incidence for five-year anniversary. COCA gives it a bit more air with fifth anniversary leading five-year anniversary by 159 to 22.

    COCA = Corpus of Contemporary American English
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It sounds natural to me, yes.

    Edited to add - when I clicked the Ngram link, it indicated that it had replaced five-year with five - year, which might explain the lack of results. I'm not sure how to override that.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    You can't override it - as I understand it, it processes the file so that the hyphen is a separate character. There isn't a complete lack of results - the count for five-year anniversary is not zero. Try comparing five-yearly with five yearly to see how it works.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I don't think "five-year anniversary" is strange for marking five years since a historic event, especially a tragic one. The phrase "fifth anniversary" is associated with wedding anniversaries. (You should not use any other phrase in that context.) It gives rise to happy thoughts. I can see someone wanting to use a different phrase to mark the passage of five years since something like the September 11 attacks, to avoid that subconscious association. If it was about a happy event, such as someone working at the same company for five years, I'd probably say "fifth anniversary."
     
    Last edited:

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Both sound perfectly fine to me. I never thought about it before, and I wouldn't call it a hard-and-fast rule, but I think Egmont is on to something in associating "fifth anniversary" more strongly with happy events and "five-year anniversary" with unhappy ones. Or to be more precise, I'd say that "five-year anniversary" is more neutral than is "fifth anniversary." As I said, it isn't a rule or anything, but I'd be more inclined to say "fifth wedding anniversary" than "five-year wedding anniversary," but "five year wedding anniversary" doesn't actually sound wrong.
     
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