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hy·​phen·​ate ˈhī-fə-ˌnāt How to pronounce hyphenate (audio)
hyphenated; hyphenating

transitive verb

: to connect (words) or divide (a word, such as a word at the end of a line of print) with a hyphen
hyphenation noun


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: a person who performs more than one function (such as a producer-director in filmmaking)

Did you know?

In the early 20th century, the noun hyphenate referred to a resident or citizen of the U.S. whose recent foreign national origin caused others to question his or her patriotic loyalties - with or without there being just cause for that questioning. These hyphenates - the Irish-Americans, German-Americans, and others - were objects of suspicion. The hyphenates we're highlighting today are more often objects of admiration. Since around 1974, we've been referring to people with hyphens in their titles - producer-directors, for example, as hyphenates.

Examples of hyphenate in a Sentence

Verb In English, we hyphenate some compounds but not others.
Recent Examples on the Web
Her story had come out in messy exhaled fragments hyphenated by tears. Amory Rowe Salem and Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Longreads, 9 Jan. 2024 The company first hyphenated the name and soon eliminated the Burdines name. Miami Herald Archives, Miami Herald, 25 Jan. 2024 Rather than work on a project-by-project basis, the company intends to invest directly in creative content banners led by promising talent who are hyphenates themselves – the kind of creators who look to do some combination of acting, writing, directing, producing and/or hosting. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 16 Oct. 2023 Also in the worldwide top five artists of the year are the unsinkable Taylor Swift, multi-hyphenate The Weeknd and K-Pop icons BTS. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 30 Nov. 2022 Opting to hyphenate, combine, or invent a new surname like newlyweds Brooklyn and Nicola Peltz Beckham could be framed as a mutually fulfilling means of self-preservation or an empty political gesture. Hanna Lustig, Glamour, 21 July 2022 More women still are going double-barrelled -- opting to hyphenate their last name. Jay Parini, CNN, 7 Aug. 2021 Dear Abby: Is there an existing or evolving tradition regarding what surname to give to the children of parents who already have hyphenated last names? Abigail Van Buren, Houston Chronicle, 25 Jan. 2020 Leonardo da Vinci was a multi-hyphenate visionary known equally for his art and ahead-of-his-time engineering designs. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 19 Sep. 2019
During his long introduction to the film’s premiere at SXSW last night, the hyphenate talked about his childhood love of Bruce Lee and name-checked both Indonesian and Korean action cinema in addition to a certain Keanu Reeves franchise. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 12 Mar. 2024 In addition to ex-White House staffer and cherry sweater style legend, The View cohost Alyssa Farah Griffin added another title to her growing list of hyphenates on today's show: TV director. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 6 Oct. 2023 The exact prevalence of hyphenate naming in the ’80s, and its trajectory since then, are frustratingly unclear. Rachel Gutman-Wei, The Atlantic, 2 Jan. 2024 Segall joined the union in 1992 as primary outside counsel after previously representing the WGA West in a 1984 case against the Department of Labor, which sued the guild over its hyphenate members working as union leaders. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Dec. 2023 Writer-directors are represented at the top of the DGA by hyphenates including Ron Howard (who is the guild’s national second vice president) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (third vice president). Matt Donnelly, Variety, 31 Aug. 2023 The multi hyphenate will be presented with the Icon Award during the festivities, which will include appearances by Gladys Knight, Stout and Wyclef Jean. Brenton Blanchet, Peoplemag, 11 June 2023 Larry Charles, the hyphenate union member who wrote on Seinfeld and directed Borat, shared a video explaining his decision to reject the deal. Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 June 2023 The guild’s list of work a hyphenate cannot do includes the following: Cutting for time. Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hyphenate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



from the hyphens in the titles of such people, as producer-director

First Known Use


circa 1889, in the meaning defined above


1974, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hyphenate was circa 1889


Dictionary Entries Near hyphenate

Cite this Entry

“Hyphenate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyphenate. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


hyphenated; hyphenating
: to connect or divide with a hyphen

More from Merriam-Webster on hyphenate

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