Use a hyphen

Hyphen (-)

■ Use a hyphen whenever two or more words are joined together to serve as an adjective directly before a noun (unless the first word ends in -ly). → The well-regarded teacher was honored for his exceptionally hard work and dedication.
■ Use a hyphen when writing out fractions and compound numbers. → I spent one-third of my allowance on books and DVDs.
■ Use a hyphen with compound nouns. → My sister-in-law works at the local mall.

English to the Max: 1, 200 Practice Questions That Will Maximize Your English Power, Learning Express LLC, 2008, p.7


Creating words from nothing is comparatively rare. Most words are made from other words, for example, by combining whole words or word parts.

John Algeo, The Origins and Development of the English Language, 6th ed., Wadsworth, 2009, p.227

Scraps of conversation come back to me with the memory of her room. I remember her saying: ‘When I was a girl we were comparatively poor, but still richer than most of the world, and when I married I became very rich. It used to worry me, and I thought it wrong to have so many beautiful things when others had nothing. Now I realize that it is possible for the rich to sin by coveting the privileges of the poor. The poor have always been the favourites of God and his saints, but I believe that it is one of the special achievements of Grace to sanctify the whole of life, riches included. Wealth in pagan Rome was necessarily something cruel; it’s not any more.’

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, 1945

a dozen examples

(In a List of Beauty Recipes) 5. An infallible wrinkle-remover. 6. A superfluous hair-remover (i.e. a hair-remover that no-one wants). / The financial record of the Lloyd George-Winston Churchill Government (i.e. of the Government composed of Lloyd, Churchill, & George Winston). / Mr Scott Dickson, the ex-Tory Solicitor-General for Scotland (i.e. the Solicitor-General who formerly was but no longer is a Tory). / The Unionist Housing of the Working-Classes Bill was read a second time yesterday (i. e. the way the Unionists house the Working-Classes Bill; poor ill-housed Billy!). / Grieving, as a Nonconformist, over the sins of his fellow-Free Churchmen (i.e. of his Churchmen who are unhampered by companions). / (Heading) PEACE MEETING RIOT (i.e. the way peace deals with riot; what is meant is riot at a peace-meeting). / Even the most bigoted anti-trade unionist (i.e. the unionist who is most opposed to trade). / The Chancello, plans to reconstruct the Billow (Conservative-National-Liberal) Block (i.e. that of Conservatives, Nationals, & Liberals; what is meant is that of the Conservatives & the National Liberals). / Last April the Acting-British Consul at Shiraz was attacked (i.e. the Consul who was pretending to be British). / And Sir Henniker-Heaton is more fortunate than many of those who cry in the wilderness (If Henniker is Christian name, no hyphen; if it is surname, a Christian name is wanted; see hon.). / If lay-writers can publish what they please, are naval officers to remain compulsorily silent? (i.e. writers of lays). / (A Reichstag party) intent on introducing an anti-English & strong Navy agitation into the elections (i.e. a strong agitation about the Navy; but what is meant is an agitation for a strong Navy).

H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Oxford University Press, 1926; the classic first edition, 2009, pp.243-244.

Continue reading


banyan [17] Banyan originally meant ‘Hindu trader’. It is an arabization of Gujarati vāniyān ‘traders’, which comes ultimately from Sanskrit vanija ‘merchant’ (the Portuguese version, banian, produced an alternative English spelling). When European travellers first visited Bandar Abbas, a port on the Persian Gulf, they found there a pagoda which the banyans had built in the shade of a large Indian fig tree. They immediately applied the name banyan to this particular tree, and the term later widened to include all such trees.

John Ayto, Word Origins: The Secret histories of English Words from A to Z, 2nd ed. (A & C Black, 2005)