Makeup, Make-up, or Make Up?

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Makeup, Make-up, or Make Up?

Should I write "makeup," "make-up," or "make up"?
  • For the noun and adjective, use "makeup."
    • I have bought some new makeup.
    • (Here, "makeup" is a noun.)
    • I have bought a new makeup box.
    • (Here, "makeup" is an adjective.)
  • For the verb, use "make up."
    • I will make up the dancers first.
makeup, make-up, or 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 a verb ("make") and a preposition ("up"). Compound nouns can be closed (without a space), open (two words), or hyphenated. "Makeup" is a closed compound noun.

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
  • ("Make up" is a poor choice for the adjective because it should have a hyphen to mark it as a compound adjective, i.e., a single adjective comprising more than one word.)
When "makeup" is used as an adjective, it is, in fact, not a normal adjective but an attributive noun. This is why there is no distinction between "makeup" the noun and "makeup" the adjective. They are both "makeup" the noun. (You can read more about attributive nouns on the adjectives page.)

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.

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? List of easily confused words