Is it setup, set-up or set up?

It is always tricky recognising US English spellings and British English spellings with words like these.

Whether we like it or not, much of our language is now heavily influenced by US English spellings.

Hence, ‘setup’ is used when talking of initiating computer programs, but, in any other sense, we use the verb (doing word) ‘to set up’ and the noun from that verb ‘the set-up’.

When referring to the IT world, we would still use the verb ‘to set up’, but would be more likely to use the noun form without the hyphen ‘setup’.


This is the noun or adjective, mainly when referring to computers and their setup.

  • Go to the setup screen. [adjective]
  • This PC’s setup is rather odd. [noun]


This is the main noun ‘a/the set-up’.

  • It was a complete set-up from start to end!
  • The set-up of this children’s climbing frame is so tricky.

Set-up [something]

This is the main adjective, when referring to things which are not the above ‘computers and their setup’.

  • The bank account attracted a £10 set-up fee.
  • The set-up time was extremely short.

Set up

This is the verb ‘to set up’.

  • You must set up your computer.
  • To set up your stall now would be most wise.
  • He was told lies and was completely set up.