hyphen, hyphenate, verbs.
Both words mean ‘to spell (a word or phrase) with a hyphen’. This book uses hyphen, following the practice of the successive OED editors C. T. Onions and R. W. Burchfield, although hyphenate is more common in general usage.
In print, a hyphen is half the length of a dash; unlike the dash, it has the purpose of linking words and word elements rather than separating them. Beyond this apparently simple rule, in the world of real usage, lies chaos (Fowler's word, 1926), especially when use of the hyphen is governed by contextual discretion rather than clear-cut rules. The following paragraphs describe the main uses of the hyphen, beginning with the more routine and ending with the least straightforward:
1. To join two or more words so as to form a single expression, e.g. co-worker, dry-clean, get-at-able, and words having a grammatical relationship which form a compound, e.g. load-bearing, punch-drunk. The routine use of the hyphen to connect two nouns to form a compound word is diminishing in favour of one-word forms, especially when the elements are of one syllable and present no problems of form or pronunciation, as in birdsong, eardrum, and playgroup, and in some longer formations such as figurehead, nationwide, and even (despite the clash of vowels) radioisotope, which is entered in this form in the OED. However, a hyphen is often necessary to separate two similar consonant or vowel sounds in a word, e.g. breast-stroke, co-opt, fast-talk, sword-dance, Ross-shire. In the area of choice between spelling as one word with hyphen and as two words, the second option is now widely favoured, especially when the first noun acts as a straightforward modifier of the second, as in filling station and house plant. Different house styles in publishing and journalism have different preferences in many of these cases.
2. To clarify the meaning of a compound that is normally spelt as separate words, when it is used attributively (before a noun): an up-to-date record / the well-known man; but the record is up to date / The man is well known; also (with no ambiguity) prettily furnished rooms.
3. To join a prefix to a name or designation, e.g. anti-Christian, ex-husband. There is no satisfactory way of dealing with the type ex-Prime Minister, in which the second element is itself a compound, except to rely on the tendency of readers to use their knowledge of the world to choose the natural meaning, i.e. ‘former Prime Minister’ (which makes sense) rather than ‘Minister who was once Prime’ (which is nonsense). A second hyphen, e.g. ex-Prime-Minister, is not recommended.
4. To avoid ambiguity by separating a prefix from the main word, e.g. to distinguish re-cover (= provide with a new cover) from recover and re-sign (= sign again) from resign.
5. To represent a common second element in all but the last word of a list, e.g. two-, three-, or fourfold.
6. To clarify meanings in groups of words when the associations are not clear or when several possible associations may be inferred. This is the area of usage that involves the greatest initiative and discretion on the part of the writer, and it is also the area to which Fowler devoted most of his attention. The best way of offering guidance is to give examples in which careful hyphenation prevents misunderstanding: The library is reducing its purchase of hard-covered books / Twenty-odd people came to the meeting / The group was warned about the dangers of extra-marital sex / There will be special classes for French-speaking children.
7. The hyphen is also used in printing to divide a word that comes at the end of a line and is too long to fit completely. The principle here is a different one, because the hyphen does not form a permanent part of the spelling. Printers have sets of rules about where to divide words; for example, between consonants as in splen-dour and between vowels as in appreci-ate, and words of one syllable should not be divided at all, even quite long ones such as queues and rhythm.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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  • hyphen — 1620s, from L.L. hyphen, from Gk. hyphen mark joining two syllables or words, probably indicating how they were to be sung, noun use of an adverb meaning together, in one, lit. under one, from hypo under (see SUB (Cf. sub )) + hen, neuter of heis …   Etymology dictionary

  • hyphen — [hī′fən] n. [LL < Gr hyphen (for hyph hen), a hyphen, lit., under one, together, in one < hypo , under + hen, neut. acc. of heis, one: for IE base see SAME] a mark ( ) used between the parts of a compound word or the syllables of a divided… …   English World dictionary

  • Hyphen — Hy phen, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Hyphened}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Hyphening}.] To connect with, or separate by, a hyphen, as two words or the parts of a word. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hyphen — Hy phen (h[imac] f[e^]n), n. [L., fr. Gr. yfe n, fr. yf e n under one, into one, together, fr. ? under + ?, neut. of ? one. See {Hypo }.] (Print.) A mark or short dash, thus [ ], placed at the end of a line which terminates with a syllable of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hyphen — (gr.), Figur, wenn zwei od. mehrere Wörter als ein einziges zusammengesetztes betrachtet werden, z.B. das Nach Hause Gehen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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  • Hyphén — (grch.), Zusammenziehung zweier Wörter zu einem Kompositum; auch das Bindezeichen ( ) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • hyphen — ► NOUN ▪ the sign ( ) used to join words to indicate that they have a combined meaning or that they are grammatically linked, or to indicate word division at the end of a line. ORIGIN from Greek huphen together …   English terms dictionary

  • Hyphen — This article is about the punctuation mark. For other uses, see Hyphen (disambiguation). Hyphen Punctuation …   Wikipedia

  • hyphen — /ˈhaɪfən / (say huyfuhn) noun 1. a short stroke ( ) used to connect the parts of a compound word or the parts of a word divided for any purpose. –verb (t) 2. to hyphenate. {Late Latin, from Greek: name of sign, special use of hyphen (adverb)… …  

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