If you take a makeup test, is it correct to call it a makeup, make up, or make-up test?

I know that makeup is also what some people put on their faces to look different. I think that make-up is what is used when you "make-up something" as in do something late. I think that "make up" is when you create something. So if you take a "makeup quiz" what is the correct one to use?

Is the following a correct sentence:

You can make-up the makeup exam?

  • 9
    Since I missed the first cosmetics test, the teacher created a new one for me on the spot. It was a make up make-up makeup exam. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 17:00
  • A similar question, with very useful answers, is When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?. Note that English readily, over the course of time, drops the hyphen in compounded words, with notable exceptions that seemingly can be defined by rules.
    – JEL
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 21:18
  • @JEL: Yes, IMHO this question is a duplicate of that one. But it cannot be closed as a duplicate because it has a bounty. (Why does a bounty protect a question from being closed?)
    – Drew
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 20:41

4 Answers 4


You said:

You can make-up the makeup exam.

Unless it's a make-up exam about cosmetics, this wouldn't be what you're looking for, especially since "make-up" is a descriptor and "make up" is an action.

You can make up the make-up exam.

Would be a consistent, sensible convention. As noted by @J.R. below, it's not necessarily correct since Harvard lists both. However, this is the convention that I would use.

[Make up] as the action and [make-up] as the descriptor.

Makeup as a compound word used to represent cosmetics.

  • 3
    That's one convention that could be used, but hardly a definitive answer. M-W gives specific mention of makeup exam, with the descriptor as a single word (no hyphen); so does OOD. Harvard omits the hyphen as well (at least on this web page), but Harvard's Extension School leaves it in.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 18:58
  • @J.R. I'll change my answer to recommend it as a convention rather than stating correctness Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 12:43
  • 2
    @J.R.: Maybe you could write an answer? I see that this question has almost 10000 views and we could all benefit form a more detailed answer.
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 14:39
  • @J.R.: The bounty expires in one day....
    – Thomas
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 13:13
  1. Make up (verb)

    • Make up you mind. (to settle)
    • Twenty kids make up the class. (to constitute)
  2. Makeup (noun, or attributive adjective)

    • The makeup of the diverse sample is reflective of the population at risk for diseases.
    • He wore makeup. (cosmetics, sometimes "make-up")

    • We will take a makeup test. (something that makes up for)

  • Thanks. I came here wondering about genetic makeup, which this answer addresses. But it would be better with some sources to back it up. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 3:04

If you have to take a test over, you make up the test. The test you make up is a make-up test. Be sure to put on your makeup before making up the make-up test. (When used as an adjective, make-up requires a hyphen.)

  • 1
    Hello, AnaP. Are you saying that M-W and Harvard are wrong when they use the solid compound as an attributive adjective? Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 22:45

As stated previously, "make up" is a verb, "make-up" is an adjective, and "makeup" is a noun. Therefore, if an esthetics student missed an exam on cosmetics and then missed the alternative exam, it is possible that the student would have to make up a make-up makeup exam.

  • Is this answer different from the comment by Digital Chris on Oct 31, 2014? Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 14:21

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