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In physics, we say that something is "degenerate" when it exists in more than one "equivalent" versions. What is the proper form of saying that there are n versions of X -- that X is "n-degenerate" or "n degenerate"? I have used the first form in my paper, but the editor changed it to the second. It is possible that they were wrong, hence my question.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

N-degenerate is correct here, since the hyphen shows that n modifies degenerate, and not X. So [n-degenerate] X is the meaning, not n [degenerate Xs].

Take American-football player, for another example. Without the hyphen, the player is American, not the football. A general rule of thumb is that when a word modifies an adjective, it is proper to hyphenate.

This post and Wikipedia are a great follow-up from here.

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