Compound Nouns

Compound Nouns

Compound Nouns:

Compound Nouns


What are Compound Nouns?

Compound nouns are nouns that are made from two or more words. They are combined to create a new meaning.  Each Compound Noun acts as a single unit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns. 

In this combination, we usually find two parts where one is a noun and the other word can be a noun, an adjective, a verb or a preposition. We also find some other combinations. (List is given below) 


There are three types of Compound Nouns: 

  • Open Compound Nouns (with spaces)  – air pack, ice cream, root beer, coffee table, fish tank, swimming pool, full moon, roller coaster, bus stop, sleeping bag, first aid, Christmas, tree, Christmas card,  bomb squad, case study, death rate, shock wave, street smarts etc.,


  • Closed Compound Nouns (without spaces) – airbag, shotgun, housework, eyelid, toothpaste, schoolhouse, bedroom, rollback, restroom, classroom, breakfast, needlepoint, slingshot, deathtrap, eyewitness, fingerprint, pickpocket, wheelchair  etc.


  • Hyphenated Compound Nouns (with hyphens) – baby-sitter, laughing-gas, father-in-law, four-door, daughter-in-law, six-pack, sister-in-law, passers-by, jack-in-the-box, state-of-the-art, shout-out, mind-set, seven-year-old, backpedaling, by-product, do-gooder, no-brainer, plea-a bargain, self-defense, stretcher-bearer, president-elect, ex-partner, great-grandmother, a two-year-old, self-esteem, step-granddaughter, step-great-granddaughter etc., Click here for more Compound Nouns


How to form Compound Nouns:

As we discussed in the beginning paragraph of this topic, we find two parts in every Compound Noun. 

Let us observe these two parts.

The words earth and quake are two different nouns with their own meaning, but when we combine them together they form a new word – earthquake giving us new meaning.


Similarly, the word black is an adjective and board is a noun, but when we combine them together they form a new word – blackboard with a new meaning.


What we find in both these examples is that the first word modifies or describes the second word and when combined with the second word, it tells us what kind of object or person the noun is. And the second part identifies the object or person in question.


The following is a list of Compound Nouns with their different combinations of other words.

Modifier Head Word Compound Noun
Noun + Noun armchair, air ticket, air hostess, blackboard, blue whale, cellphone, cricket ball, crime novel, door-step,  ear-ring, engine driver, family business, field glasses, firefighter, fish tank, football, football, garden flowers, handbag, headteacher, ice-cream, lion -tamer, man-servant, maid-servant, money market, moneylender, moonlight, newspaper oil-lamp, picture book, police officer, postcard, postman, railroad, ring-leader, shoemaker, signpost, sunlight, taxpayer, teaspoon, timetable, toothpaste, trap-door, windmill etc.,
Adjective + Noun madman, stronghold, nobleman, sweetheart, blackboard, full moon, black eye, blue jeans, hot-dog, shorthand, blackbird, quicksilver,  national flag, historical monument, economic data,  traditional values etc.,
Verb + Noun pickpocket, tell-tale, stop-gap, make-shift, spendthrift, breakfast, daredevil, passport, breakwater, swimming pool, cross-road, cookbook, washing machine, jump rope, etc.
Noun + Verb browbeat, daybreak, toothache, bloodshed, earthquake, root cause, backbite, cloud burst, bee sting, handshake, snowdrop, air dash, tongue slip, bookmark, headline, bus stop, timeline, earmark, monthly pay, tie knot,, house arrest, telephone call, headache, moonlight, sunset, sunrise, haircut, waylay, etc.
Noun + Verb+Ing blood poisoning, firefighting, crime-fighting, decision making, lifesaving, name-calling, report writing, shoplifting, wife-beating, drug testing, safecracking, whistleblowing, problem-solving, troubleshooting, street–fighting cat walking, slow cycling, air blowing, cross heading, ear piercing, whitewashing, time-consuming, account checking, time-serving, heart-rending, English training, daydreaming, bread baking, heart bleeding, etc.
Verb+Ing + Noun laughing-stock, skipping-rope, walking stick, swimming pool, washing machine, drinking water, sleeping pill, writing desk, looking glass, stepping-stone, passing cloud, driving school, fishing net, starring hero, sitting bench, glittering jewels, visiting card, cleaning lady, spinning wheel, steering wheel, spelling book, cooking gas, waiting list, helping hand, blotting paper, drawing room, living room, blotting paper, etc.
Adverb + Noun downtime, overcoat,  overload, overdose, overtime, afterthought, postscript, undertone, foresight, downfall, outpatient, upland, offshoot etc.
Adverb + Verb input, income, intake, output, offspring, upswing, outbreak, outlook, outfit, upstart, outburst, outlet, out-cast, outcome, upkeep, outset, outcry etc.,
Verb + Adverb tumbledown, takeout, cover-up, backup, blackout, drive-by, show-off, flareup, lineup, sign-out, flashback, lockdown, size-up, breakout, pileup, spin-out, checkout, get-together, standby, cleanup, hangout, runaway, cop-out, hideaway, runoff, washdown, shootout, walkthrough, ripoff, follow-up, wind-up, break-in, knockdown etc.,
Preposition + Noun underworld, underground, underline, underclass, outlaw, forethought, offspring, offshore, off-day, overcoat, afternoon, inside, inbox, in group, in service, middleman, downfall, downhill, upland, top-hat, inmate, foresight, onlooker, forehead, on line, outpatient, overfed, overweight, byline, bypath,  bystander etc.
With a letter Email, H–bomb, T-shirt, U-turn, X chromosome, X-rated, Y-axis, X-ray etc.,
Family Titles and Certain other Phrases  sister-in-law, father-in-law, step-great-granddaughter, a free-for-all, a good–for–nothing, a know-it-all, make-believe, hide-and-seek, a pick-me-up, a stick-in-the-mud, a johnny-come-lately, man-of-war, brothers-in-arms, etc.,
Rhyming Reduplicatives pooper-scooper, razzle-dazzle, walkie-talkie, boo-boo, goody-goody, hanky-panky, hocus-pocus, nitty-gritty, no-no  etc.,


How to form plurals of Compound Nouns:

Generally, plural forms of a compound noun are formed by adding -’s’/ or -’es’ to the base or important word. The following list illustrates the singular and plural forms of the Compound Nouns.

Compound Nouns in Singular  Compound Nouns in Plural 
Attorney-general Attorneys-general
Assistant Secretary Of State Assistant Secretaries Of State
Brother-in-law Brothers-in-law
Blackboard Blackboards
Bystander Bystanders
Commander-in-chief Commanders-in-chief
Court Martial Courts-Martial
Cupful Cupfuls
Doctor Of Philosophy Doctors Of Philosophy
Father-in-law Fathers-in-law
Forget-me-not Forget-me-nots
General Staff General Staff
Go-between Go-betweens
Good-for-nothing Good-for-nothings
Governor-general Governors-general
Grown-up Grown-ups
Handful Handfuls
Has-been Has-beens
Heir Apparent Heirs Apparent
Higher-up Higher-ups
Lady-in-waiting ladies-in-waiting
lily-of-the-valley lilies-of-the-valley
Maidservant Maidservants
Man-of-war Men-of-war
Mix-up Mix-ups
Mother-in-law Mothers-in-law
Mouthful Mouthfuls
Notary Public Notaries Public
Passer-by Passers-by
Sergeant Major Sergeants Major
Sister-in-law Sisters-in-law
Son-in-law Sons-in-law
Step-parent Step-parents
Step-daughter Step-daughters
Step-mother Step-mothers
Many Stops For Buses Many Bus Stops
Tablespoonful Tablespoonfuls
Takeoff Takeoffs
Toothbrush Toothbrushes
150 Trees With Oranges 150 Orange Trees 
Vice-Principal Vice-Principals
Woman-doctor Woman-doctors


How to form possessives of Compound Nouns:

Generally, the possessive form of the Compound Noun is formed by adding -’s’ to the ending word, regardless of whether it is singular or plural. The following list illustrates the Possessive Form in singular and plural of the Compound Nouns.

Possessive form in Singular Possessive form in Plural
Vice-principal’s duty Vice-principals’ duty
Son-in-law’s marriage Sons-in-law’s marriage
Sergeant Major’s jeep Sergeants Major’s jeep
Attorney-general’s villa Attorneys-general’ villa
Governor-general’s speech Governors-general’ speech
Sister-in-law’s car Sisters-in-law’s cars
Colonel-in-chief’s arrival Colonels-in-chief’s arrival
Maid of honour’s address Maids of honour’s address