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

Definition of hyphenate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

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



Definition of hyphenate (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from hyphenate


hyphenation \ ˌhī-​fə-​ˈnā-​shən How to pronounce hyphenate (audio) \ noun

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: Verb 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, "Mom wonders why daughter keeps her at arm’s length," 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, "500 Years Later, da Vinci's Mechanical Lion Is Brought to Life," 19 Sep. 2019 These are rated as second-highest quality and their names are often hyphenated with the nearby town (e.g. Meursault-Charmes). Lettie Teague, WSJ, "Beat the Burgundy Bubble: 11 Still-Affordable Wines," 7 Dec. 2017 Whether or not to hyphenate is entirely your choice: Jane Riley, Eleanor Rose, Ann-Morgan. Southern Living, "Let Mama Name Your Baby in 2017," 27 Dec. 2016 Whether or not to hyphenate is entirely your choice: Jane Riley, Eleanor Rose, Ann-Morgan. Southern Living, "Let Mama Name Your Baby in 2017," 1 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And now, the multi-hyphenate has taken the time to explain why. Natalie Morin, refinery29.com, "Selena Gomez Shares Her New Cottagecore Hideaway & Why She’s Been Off Social Media," 31 July 2020 The multi-hyphenate started off by making history with international superstar Shakira as the first two Latinas to headline the Super Bowl and is ending 2021 with the launch of her skin-care line, JLo Beauty. Gabi Thorne, Allure, "Jennifer Lopez Accepted Her Billboard Icon Award While Wearing a Very ’90s Hairstyle," 11 Dec. 2020 As hip-hop continues to mourn the Brooklyn hyphenate's death, a bevy of artists paid tribute to the late star. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, "Seven Can't Miss Moments From the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards," 27 Oct. 2020 The charismatic multi-hyphenate has made her mark on virtually every segment of the entertainment industry. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Keke Palmer on hosting the VMAs, 'WAP' and the enduring popularity of 'Sorry to this man'," 27 Aug. 2020 From her iconic acting roles (hello, Elle Woods) to her more recent success as a producer, the multi-hyphenate is certainly a Hollywood powerhouse. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, "Where the Crawdads Sing," 5 Aug. 2020 But the media multi-hyphenate has always known that she was destined for greatness — and the knowledge of her star power influences her every move in Hollywood. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Michaela Coel Makes The Case For Turning Down A $1 Million Netflix Offer," 7 July 2020 At a hypersensitive moment when even an outspoken mega-hyphenate like LeBron James goes mute from China anxiety, Carrey and Vachon conjure brutal visions of the Cultural Revolution. Darren Franich, EW.com, "Jim Carrey talks Memoirs and Misinformation, his novel about Jim Carrey," 7 July 2020 Pair Pothos with Golden Pyrite Golden pyrite and pothos paired cultivate abundance—something every multi-hyphenate needs in her toolkit. Tanya Lichtenstein, Sunset Magazine, "How Pairing Crystals and Plants Can Alleviate Stress and Cultivate Abundance," 22 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hyphenate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hyphenate


circa 1889, in the meaning defined above


1974, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hyphenate


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

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Time Traveler for hyphenate

Time Traveler

The first known use of hyphenate was circa 1889

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Cite this Entry

“Hyphenate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyphenate. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for hyphenate


How to pronounce hyphenate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hyphenate

: to connect (words or parts of words) with a hyphen


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

Kids Definition of hyphenate

: to connect or mark with a hyphen

More from Merriam-Webster on hyphenate

Nglish: Translation of hyphenate for Spanish Speakers

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