This article is about the punctuation mark.
For other uses, see Hyphen (disambiguation).
The use of hyphens is called hyphenation.
Non-hyphenated is an example of a hyphenated word.
The hyphen should not be confused with dashes (figure dash ‒, en dash –, em dash —, horizontal bar ―), which are longer and have different uses, or with the minus sign −, which is also longer and more vertically centred in some typefaces.
As an orthographic concept, the hyphen is a single entity.
In terms of character encoding and display, the entity is represented by any of several characters and glyphs (including hard hyphens, soft or optional hyphens, and non-breaking hyphens), depending on the context of use (discussed below).
Although hyphens are not to be confused with en dashes and minus signs, there are some overlaps in usage (in which either a hyphen or an en dash may be acceptable, depending on user preference, as discussed below) and in informal typing (which often uses the same character – called a "hyphen-minus" – to represent any of the hyphen, the minus sign and the en dash, see below).
The word is derived from Ancient Greek ὑφ' ἕν (huph' hén), contracted from ὑπό ἕν (hypó hén), "in one" (literally "under one").
The word (ἡ) ὑφέν ((he) hyphén) was used for an undertie-like ‿ sign written below two consecutive letters to indicate that they belong to the same word when it was necessary to avoid ambiguity, before the space 'character' was in regular use.
Use in English
Some stark examples of semantic changes caused by the placement of hyphens to mark attributive phrases:
- Disease-causing poor nutrition is poor nutrition that causes disease.
- Disease causing poor nutrition is a disease that causes poor nutrition.
- A hard-working man is a man who works hard.
- A hard working man is a working man who is tough.
- A man-eating shark is a shark that eats humans.
- A man eating shark is a man who is eating shark meat.
- Three-hundred-year-old trees are an indeterminate number of trees that are each 300 years old.
- Three hundred-year-old trees are three trees that are each 100 years old.
- Three hundred year-old trees are 300 trees that are each a year old.
Origin and history
The first known documentation of the hyphen is in the grammatical works of Dionysius Thrax.
At the time hyphenation was joining two words that would otherwise be read separately by a low tie mark between the two words.
Scribes used the mark to connect two words that had been incorrectly separated by a space.
This era also saw the introduction of the marginal hyphen, for words broken across lines.
His tools did not allow for a hyphen, and he thus moved it to the middle of the line.
The Gutenberg printing press required words made up of individual letters of type to be held in place by a surrounding non-printing rigid frame.
Gutenberg solved the problem of making each line the same length to fit the frame by inserting a hyphen as the last element at the right-side margin.
This interrupted the letters in the last word, requiring the remaining letters be carried over to the start of the line below.
His double hyphen appears throughout the Bible as a short, double line inclined to the right at a 60-degree angle: ⸗
Usage in date notation
Further information: Date and time representation by country
In parts of Europe and in India, the hyphen is used to delineate parts within a written date.
Plaques on the wall of the Moscow Kremlin are written this way.
Use of hyphens, as opposed to the slashes used in the English language, is specified for international standards.
International standard ISO 8601, which was accepted as European Standard EN 28601 and incorporated into various typographic style guides (e.g., DIN 5008 in Germany), brought about a new standard using the hyphen.
Now all official European governmental documents use this.
These norms prescribe writing dates using hyphens: 1789-07-14 is the new way of writing the first Bastille Day.
This is also the typical date format used in large parts of Eastern Europe and Asia, although sometimes with other separators than the hyphen.
This method has gained influence within North America, as most common computer filesystems make the use of slashes difficult or impossible.
DOS, OS/2 and Windows simultaneously support both \ and / as directory separators, but / is also used to introduce and separate switches to shell commands (unless reconfigured to use the hyphen-minus in DOS).
Unix-like systems use / as a directory separator and, while \ is legal in filenames, it is awkward to use as the shell uses it as an escape character.
Unix also uses a space followed by a hyphen to introduce switches.
Apart from the separator used the non-year form of the date format is also identical to the standard American representation.
Apart from dash and minus sign, Unicode has multiple hyphen characters:
- U+002D - HYPHEN-MINUS (HTML -), a character of multiple uses
- U+00AD SOFT HYPHEN (HTML · ) (see note)
- U+2010 ‐ HYPHEN (HTML ‐ · ‐, ‐)
- U+2011 ‑ NON-BREAKING HYPHEN (HTML ‑)
Note: The SOFT HYPHEN serves as an invisible marker used to specify a place in text where a hyphenated break is allowed without forcing a line break in an inconvenient place if the text is re-flowed.
It becomes visible only after word wrapping at the end of a line.
And in non-Latin scripts:
- U+058A ֊ ARMENIAN HYPHEN (HTML ֊)
- U+1806 ᠆ MONGOLIAN TODO SOFT HYPHEN (HTML ᠆)
- U+1B60 ᭠ BALINESE PAMENENG (HTML ᭠) (used only as a line-breaking hyphen)
- U+2E17 ⸗ DOUBLE OBLIQUE HYPHEN (HTML ⸗) (used in ancient Near-Eastern linguistics and in blackletter typefaces)
- U+05BE ־ HEBREW PUNCTUATION MAQAF (HTML ־) (used in hebrew)
- U+30FB ・ KATAKANA MIDDLE DOT (HTML ・) (has the Unicode property of "Hyphen" despite its name)
- U+FE63 ﹣ SMALL HYPHEN-MINUS (HTML ﹣) (compatibility character for a small hyphen-minus, used in East Asian typography)
- U+FF0D － FULLWIDTH HYPHEN-MINUS (HTML －) (compatibility character for a wide hyphen-minus, used in East Asian typography)
- U+FF65 ･ HALFWIDTH KATAKANA MIDDLE DOT (HTML ･) (compatibility character for a wide katakana middle dot, has the Unicode property of "Hyphen" despite its name)
Unicode distinguishes the hyphen from the general interpunct.
The characters below do not have the Unicode property of "Hyphen" despite their names:
- U+1400 ᐀ CANADIAN SYLLABICS HYPHEN (HTML ᐀)
- U+2027 ‧ HYPHENATION POINT (HTML ‧)
- U+2043 ⁃ HYPHEN BULLET (HTML ⁃ · ⁃)
- U+2E1A ⸚ HYPHEN WITH DIAERESIS (HTML ⸚)
- U+2E40 ⹀ DOUBLE HYPHEN (HTML ⹀)
- U+30A0 ゠ KATAKANA-HIRAGANA DOUBLE HYPHEN (HTML ゠)
- U+10EAD 𐺭 YEZIDI HYPHENATION MARK (HTML 𐺭)
- Double hyphen
- Hyphen War
- French orthography#Hyphens
- Papyrological hyphen: equivalent in pre-modern Greek
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyphen.