Zoo Keeper versus Zookeeper

Outside of Zooillogix, I serve as the moderator for a zookeeper listserv. 75% of my job seems to be approving or disapproving of classified ads for sugar gliders… I no longer find them cute. Not at all. But the other 25% comprises Q&A between zoo folks about dizzy tapirs, unenriched African porcupines, promiscuous honey badgers and the like.

Recently though I received an email informing me that our listserv’s use of the compound word “zookeeper” in our name, as opposed to “zoo keeper,” “gave us away as novices.” Now I am a novice. In fact, I’ve never kept a zoo in my life, so “novice” would be putting it generously. But I’ll be damned if someone I never met can call me something I actually am without actually knowing me!

Perhaps more importantly, the founder and moderator of the listserv is a lifelong zoo person. In honor of National Zoo Keeper Week (note the spelling), I decided to research the subject and share the results.

A noble profession… something tells me I should have just asked these guys.

So which is it? I know you are all on the edge of your seats. Both are in the dictionary with the same definition, so it would appear they are both correct… But that wasn’t enough. I needed to know which was preferred. In the zookeeper camp a quick Google News search turned up 377 hits versus only 46 for zoo keeper. Clearly the media prefer the compound. However, the American Association of Zoo Keepers obviously chose the two word approach for their name. I decided to go right to the horse’s mouth and ask the AAZK for their thoughts.

Here is their mostly definitive response as written up by one of their board members:

When you are talking about the actual occupation, it is zookeeper (like bookkeeper). But when you are referring to all the other people/occupations that are involved in keeping a zoo running, like curators, volunteers, etc., it is two words. I believe this is why AAZK is two words, because it is not only for actual zookeepers, but is open to everyone involved in ‘keeping a zoo running’. Someone explained this to me many years ago, and I have always thought it made sense, and have always followed it when writing.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

So it appears there is room for both zookeepers and zoo keepers in this world. Fascinating stuff (to me and probably like 9 other readers). If you have your own opinion on this, feel free to weigh in!


  1. #1 porno
    December 10, 2010

    Something, other than the undeniable beauty of this fish, kept bothering me about this photo.

  2. #2 Laurel
    November 25, 2011

    Thanks for this article it really helped me. I’m doing college applications and I was really unsure whether to use zookeeper as one or two words!

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