Well Known or Well-Known?

The term well-known as one hyphenated word is a compound word that you place directly before the noun it modifies. E.g., “Madonna is a well-known person.” Furthermore, well known as two words comes after the noun. E.g., “She is not very well known.”

The term well-known refers to someone or something that many people can recognize. There is no difference in meaning between well-known and well known, and both are correct spelling versions.

However, the grammar rules stipulate that well-known with a hyphen should come directly before the noun it modifies.

This example shows a sentence where the noun dish comes after the term well-known.

  • Lasagna is a well-known dish.

In contrast, you should use the non-hyphenated version, well known, when the noun comes before the term.

In the example below, the noun is beach.

  • This beach is well known as a local beauty spot.

Furthermore, you should follow this rule concerning the hyphen when writing in AP Style. Moreover, there are no differences between the rules in the UK and the US.

Using compound words correctly can be challenging. Therefore, please continue reading the rest of the page to learn more about using the different forms of well-known.

Well Known

The term well known as two words without a hyphen is correct, and you can use it in sentences where the thing it refers to comes before the term well known.

For example, in this sentence, the word place appears before well known, so there is no hyphen.

  • The place we went to for our vacation wasn’t very well known.

However, when the object appears after well known, you should include a hyphen.

In this example, the term place comes after well-known, so we use a hyphen.

  • We stayed in a well-known place.


The hyphenated version of well-known is a compound adjective that appears directly before the word it refers to.

You commonly use it to refer to people and places that are popular or easy to recognize.

  • She was one of the most well-known singers of her time.

In the above sentence, the word singers comes directly after well-known. However, when it comes before, you should remove the hyphen.

  • As a singer, she isn’t very well known.


Wellknown as a single word without a hyphen is incorrect, and you should not use this spelling version.

There are two ways to write the term correctly, and which you use depends on whether the noun is before or after well-known.

Here is an example of the noun directly after the term:

  • Correct: New York is a well-known city.
  • Incorrect: New York is a wellknown city.

While below is an example of the noun before the term:

  • Correct: We want to stay in a hotel that is well known.
  • Incorrect: We want to stay in a hotel that is wellknown.