The hyphen (‐) is a punctuation mark used to join words and to separate syllables of a single word. The use of hyphens is called hyphenation.
The hyphen symbol is believed to have been first used in the English language in the 14th century. However, its use became more widespread in the 16th century, during the Renaissance period. The first recorded use of a hyphen in English was in 1495, in William Caxton's printing of The Canterbury Tales.
The hyphen should not be confused with dashes (‒, –, —, ―), which are longer and have different uses, or with the minus sign (−) which is also longer.
Hyphens are mostly used to break single words into parts, or to join ordinarily separate words into single words. Spaces should not be placed between a hyphen and either of the words it connects except when using a suspended or "hanging" hyphen (e.g. nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers).