How is parameter(s) hyphenated in UK English?

   pa-ram-e-ter (Merriam-Webster)
or pa-rame-ter  (Word XP)
or para-met-er  (TCItex)
or para-meter   (OAL Dictionary)
or pa-ra-me-ter (seems to bee the hyphenation of Parameter in German)
or pa-ra-m-e-t-er (combination of all possible locations for hyphenations)
or some other way?

Is there a difference for parameters? I know that there are rules about the minimum number of letters before the first hyphenation (two letters) and after the last hyphenation (three letters), but those don't appear to be strict rules but more like a recommendation. Or do they prohibit something like "paramet-er" and allow "paramet-ers" (regardless of the hyphenation being right or wrong otherwise)?

As there are differences between US and UK English also regarding hyphenation, please point out if US hyphenation of parameter(s) is different. (I don't need it, but the information might be useful for somebody else.)

  • In the interest of text formatting? Break on a syllable. Apr 4, 2012 at 18:47
  • @cornbreadninja That doesn't indicate whether the hyphen comes before or after the t or the first r (for example).
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 4, 2012 at 19:39
  • @AndrewLeach, that was my attempt to make sense of what OP is asking, as parameter is not a normally-hyphenated construction on its own. Apr 4, 2012 at 19:43
  • 1
    As with balaclava and prerequisite, these are matters of typesetting. I think typesetting is off-topic here on ELU, so I'm voting to close them all. Apr 4, 2012 at 20:08
  • 2
    Etymologically it is para- and meter so that is by far the best place to put a hyphen.
    – Henry
    Apr 4, 2012 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


As Cornbread says, break on syllable boundaries.

In general, if there are two consonants in a row, you can break between those consonants. So you would break "barter" as "bar-ter", or "inventive" as "in-ven-tive".

If there is a single consonant surround by vowels, break before the consonant. So "customer" is "cus-to-mer".

When there are multiple consonants that make a single sound, like "pl" in "template", you must keep these two letters together. So you could hyphenate that as "tem-plate".

When a suffix like "-ed" or "-ing" or "-en" is added to a word, the break usually comes before the suffix, even when this violates one of the above rules. So "thinking" is "think-ing", not "thin-king".

So "parameter" can be broken "pa-ra-me-ter".

There are many special cases and exceptions. This is what keeps English lively.

  • That is the breaking I would have guessed, but with the different breaking points in the references I feared to be wrong. Thus it is now "pa-ra-me-ter" for me. Thanks, +1 and accepted.
    – Stephen
    Apr 5, 2012 at 18:00
  • The hyphenation cus-to-mer disagrees with many dictionaries, because custom is a word and one of the rules of hyphenation (that this answer completely neglects) is that you put your breaks at morpheme boundaries. (Not just for suffixes like -ed, -ing, etc). Feb 11, 2019 at 13:01
  • @PeterShor Hmm, you're right, I checked several dictionaries and they all broke it cus-tom-er. I find this surprising because, while "-er" is a common suffix that indeed would be broken like that in a word like, say, "renter" or "employer", I thought that here that was simply a coincidence. A customer is not someone who customs. :-) Perhaps light would be shed on this by studying the etymology.
    – Jay
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:47
  • @Jay: A customer is somebody who gives you custom. Oxford Dictionaries: custom: British [mass noun] Regular dealings with a shop or business by customers. Feb 11, 2019 at 17:21
  • Both custom and customer come to English from Latin and French, and a quick Google search didn't untangle the etymology of the various meanings. But this apparently didn't stop the dictionary compilers from considering that -er was a suffix on custom (which it originally was in at least one of these languages). Feb 11, 2019 at 17:31

Some more confusion to this. Oxford on-line dictionary lists the following hyphenation:


I couldn't figure out if there is a difference between | or ¦. In doubt, I will stick to the Merrian-Webster hyphenation.

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    “|” indicates a recommended hyphenation. “¦” indicates a possible, but not recommended hyphenation. Suggesting that the asker stick to Merriam-Webster (which is American) is hardly useful in a question that specifically states that UK English is needed. Feb 10, 2014 at 9:15

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