Meaning of hyphen in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhʌɪfn/

Translate hyphen into Spanish


  • The sign -, used to join words to indicate that they have a combined meaning or that they are linked in the grammar of a sentence (as in a pick-me-up, rock-forming minerals), to indicate the division of a word at the end of a line, or to indicate a missing element (as in short- and long-term).

    ‘The only quibble I have with the grammar of that prose is the use of a hyphen followed by a semi-colon in the final sentence.’
    • ‘For those who care: in one of last week's postings, I had linked loads and loads of words together with hyphens instead of spaces.’
    • ‘Outside the University in Mumbai is the greeting ‘wel-come’, with the two elements separated by a hyphen.’
    • ‘Small deletions are indicated by hyphens and large deletions by triangles.’
    • ‘As the hyphens and slash marks indicate, these emergent literatures do not fit under a single rubric.’
    • ‘It would be nice to think this tip-off enabled him to avoid this fate but I fear his life was lost along with those missing hyphens.’
    • ‘Should your domain be one single word or should the words be separated by hyphens?’
    • ‘He was coal and wool joined by a stately hyphen and ennobled by five coronets.’
    • ‘Imagine, Kierkegaard says, that you saw nothing but a word followed by a hyphen.’
    • ‘They've registered the name with a hyphen between the words but I own the domain as one word which is their preference.’
    • ‘Periods and hyphens indicate, respectively, base identities and deletions.’
    • ‘As you get to the later levels, the words and phrases become much trickier, complete with hyphens and other special characters.’
    • ‘Two or more one-syllable words may be joined together, however, usually connected by a hyphen, to form a compound word.’
    • ‘Google ignores most punctuation, except apostrophes, hyphens and quote marks.’
    • ‘Search engines see hyphens and commas as spaces, which is why they would count that example as the same word next to itself.’
    • ‘Differences in amino acid sequence are shown; hyphens identify missing amino acids, and dots indicate identical amino acids’
    • ‘For example, if you like the looks of hyphens separating datestamp, locators and descriptors, then do it that way every time.’
    • ‘Yes, Ashling is one of those people who eschew normal grammar rules and use only hyphens to get their message across.’
    • ‘According to Jacoby, the hyphen in service-learning is symbolically representative of this symbiotic relationship.’
    • ‘Counting only letters, and ignoring characters like spaces and commas and hyphens, you can see the proof in the definition.’


In modern English the use of hyphens is in general decreasing, especially in compound nouns: website is preferred to web-site, and air raid to air-raid. Hyphens are still often employed where a compound expression precedes a noun, as in first-rate musicians or twenty-odd people (twenty odd people means something quite different!), but even in this context there is a growing trend to omit them. When a phrasal verb such as build up is made into a noun it is usually hyphenated (a build-up of pressure). Note, however, that a normal phrasal verb should not be hyphenated: write food to take away not food to take-away, and continue to build up your pension not continue to build-up your pension


Early 17th century via late Latin from Greek huphen ‘together’, from hupo ‘under’ + hen ‘one’.