The Grammarphobia Blog

Hyphenated English

Q: I rather prefer “hyphened” to “hyphenated.” Any thoughts?

A: Either one is fine, so use whichever you prefer. The more common adjective is “hyphenated,” but “hyphened” is also used.

Similarly, the usual verb is  “hyphenate,” although “hyphen” is also used as a verb.

The noun “hyphen” was first recorded in English around 1620. It was adopted from the late Latin hyphen, which in turn comes from the Greek hyphen. (The Greek letters are sometimes seen in English as huphen.)

In Greek, the word (formed of hypo plus hen) means “under one.”

Greek grammarians used their hyphen, a bowl-shaped mark resembling a tie in music notation, underneath a compound to show that it wasn’t two separate words.

The verbs came into English in the 19th century: first “hyphen” (1814), then “hyphenize” (1869), and finally “hyphenate” (1892).

The adjective forms are the seldom-seen “hyphenic” (1851), along with the more common  “hyphenated” (1852) and “hyphened,” which are participial adjectives formed from two of the verbs. 

The OED doesn’t have any citations for “hyphened” as an adjective, but Henry and Francis Fowler used it that way in their book The King’s English (1906).

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