Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Makeup, Make-up or Make Up?

The Quick Answer
Should I write makeup, make-up, or make up?

For the noun and adjective, use makeup.
For the verb, use make up.

Do I Write Make-up, Makeup, or Make Up?

The word makeup is a compound noun, which means it is a noun comprising at least two words. In the case of makeup, it is a compound noun made up of the verb (make) and the preposition (up).

Read more about compound nouns.

Write Makeup (for the Noun)

There are no definitive rules about when to use a hyphen (make-up), nothing (makeup), or a space (make up) with compound nouns. The best thing to do is use your spellchecker to determine whether the one-word version is a spelling mistake. If it isn't a spelling mistake (NB: makeup isn't), then you should use the one-word version as it is the most efficient and is highly likely to be the most current version of the noun. In summary, you should opt for makeup over make-up and make up. Therefore:
  • makeup
  • make-up
  • make up
  • (It is a little harsh to mark make-up and make up as wrong, but they are not the preferred style.)

Write Makeup (for the Adjective)

As makeup is the most efficient and current version of the noun, it follows that it should be used as the adjective too. Therefore:
  • makeup artist
  • make-up artist
  • (It is a little harsh to mark make-up as wrong, but it is not the preferred style.)
  • make up artist
  • (The make up option is a poor choice for the adjective because it should have a hyphen for being a compound adjective, i.e., a single adjective comprising more than one word.)

Write Make Up (for the Verb)

As a verb make up is a phrasal verb, i.e., a verb made up of a verb and another word (either a preposition or a particle). In the case of make up, make is the verb and up is a preposition. Phrasal verbs are never merged into one word or joined with hyphens. Therefore:
  • Anne, please make up the witch for the next scene.
  • I will make-up your daughter to look like a princess.
  • Can you makeup the lion?
  • Can you make the lion up?
  • (Note: Make up is a separable phrasal verb.)
Read more about phrasal verbs.