Compound Nouns in English
How nouns merge into compounds. A list of frequent and irregular compounds.
Compound nouns are nouns made of several words or at least roots. Most compound nouns in English are formed by nouns determined by other nouns or adjectives. Compound nouns act as single units.
Compounds are pluralized either wholly or in separate/hyphenated nouns.
- Noun + Noun
ticket inspector, bus stop, firefly, football
- (-Ing) Verb / Adjective + Noun
swimming pool, greenhouse, monthly ticket, breakfast, washing machine
- Noun + Prepositional Phrase
- Noun + Adverb
- Verb + Adverb
- Noun + Adjective
truckful, handful, mouthful
- Adjective + Noun
full moon, blackboard, software
- Preposition + Noun
- Noun + Preposition
- Noun + Verb
haircut, sunrise, train-spotting
- Adjective + Verb
- Preposition + Verb
- Verb + Preposition
- Closed/solid Compounds
- Hyphenated Compounds
- Open/spaced Compounds
full moon, tennis shoe
Compound nouns tend to have more stress on 1st words. For example, in the compound golf ball the 1st word is stressed more, though both words are nouns which are always stressed. Golf ball is a single compound noun with 1 main stress.
Stress is important in compound meanings. It helps tell greenhouse (a glass building for growing plants inside) from green house (a house painted green).
Different English dialects and even different writers may use the open, hyphenated or closed form for 1 compound. Frequent open compounds now tend for the hyphenated/closed spelling.
It is partly a matter of style which should be consistent.
container ship, container-ship, containership
Many author compounds have no clear root. It’s important to understand and recognize compound nouns. Good dictionaries tell how to write each compound.
higher-ups, also-rans, go-betweens, has-beens, good-for-nothings, grown-ups
Frequent Compound Words
afterthought, airplane, another, anybody, anyhow, anyone, anything, anywhere
backbone, backspace, backwoods, become, bedroom, beeswax, birthday, birthright, blackberry, blackbird, blackboard, blackmail, bluebell, bodyguard, bookkeeper, brainstorm, brushwood
cardboard, carefree, caretaker, carpet, chairman, clockwork, commonsense, copyright, cupboard
daylight, dead weight, downfall, downstairs
earring, earthwork, evergreen, everybody, everyday, everyone, everything, everywhere, eyeball
fatherland, fingerprint, firearm, fire-engine, firefly, fireman, fireplace, firework, first-rate, football, footlights, footman, footnote, footprint, footstep
gasworks, goalkeeper, goldfish, good-looking, good-morning, goodnight, gunboat, gun-carriage, gunmetal, gunpowder
haircut, handbook, handwriting, headdress, headland, headphones, headstone, headway, hereafter, herewith, herself, highlands, highway, himself, horseback, horseplay, horsepower, hourglass, houseboat, housekeeper, however
inasmuch, income, indoors, inland, inlet, input, inside, instep, into, itself
landmark, landslip, lawsuit, lighthouse, lipstick, loan shark, looking-glass, loophole
manhandle, manhole, meeting room, moonlight, myself
network, newspaper, nobody, nothing, nowhere
offspring, oncoming, oneself, online, onlooker, onto, ourselves, outburst, outcome, outcry, outdoor, outgoing, outhouse, outlaw, outlet, outline, outlook, output, outside, outskirts, outstretched, overacting, overall overbalancing, overbearing, overcoat, overcome, overdo, overdressed, overfull, overhanging, overhead, overland, overleaf, overload, overlook, overseas, overseer, overshoe, overstatement, overtake, overtaxed, overtime, overturned, overuse, overvalued, overweight, overworking
pincushion, plaything , policeman, policewoman, postman, postwoman, postmark, postmaster, post office
railway, receivership, runway, runaway
scarecrow, seaman, secondhand, shorthand, shutdown, sideboard, sidewalk, skyscraper, somebody, someday, somehow, someone, something, sometime, somewhat, somewhere, starlight, startup, steamship, suchlike, sunburn, sunlight, sunshade, sweetheart
themselves, timesheet, today, tonight, toothpaste, tradesman
underclothing, undercooked, undergo, undergrowth, undermined, undersigned, undersized, understatement, undertake, undertaker, undervalued, undo, update, upkeep, uplift, upon, upright, upstairs, uptake, uptight
wallpaper, waterfall, weekend, well-being, well-off, whatever, whenever, whereas, whereby, wherever, whichever, whitewash, whoever, windpipe, within, without, woodwork, workhouse , workman, workmanship, workout