Thursday, November 20, 2008

Compound Nouns in English

We know that a noun is the name of any person, place, object, concept or idea. We also know the classifications as proper noun, common noun, possessive noun, singular noun, plural noun, abstract noun and collective noun. There are more nouns in the English Language than any other kind of words. Have you conversant with compound nouns? You might be. Compound nouns are simply formed by joining two simple nouns together. Now it is striking. You must remember this. It is the noun phrase wherein a noun modified by another attributive noun. Thus you are free to modify the noun ‘Male’ with another attributive noun ‘Nurse’ and identify the health staff without any ambiguity. (Wikipedia)
There are three forms of compound words (British Council):

Closed form, In this form you may combine two suitable nouns together and form a single word. Consider the examples for better understanding: Barmaid, Bathroom, Breakdown, Buttermilk, and Butterscotch

Hyphenated form, In this form you are free combine a suitable noun pair with a hyphen inserted in between each word. (Here hyphens separate words) Consider the examples: Air-brake, Baby-sitter, Daughter-in-law, Editor-in-chief, Master-at-arms, Over-the-counter, White-wash

Open form, In this form there is a need to leave a single space between suitable nouns. No need for hyphens. Consider the examples: Attorney general, Fish tank, Half sister, Post office, Real estate, and Middle class.

I just have given an overview of compound nouns and its conventional forms. Though we are able to identify these three forms, the reason, for adopting these forms to combine and create compound nouns, is not explained in any known reference sources i.e. dictionaries or grammar books. Regarding hyphenation there are no uniform practices prevail. Some prefer to insert a hyphen, example: full-moon and some other prefer to write simply with a space, full moon.
I have collected 150 compound nouns under the three different forms mentioned above from standard dictionaries. I have listed them out under each form as shown below:

1. Closed form (One word)


I have collected and listed out 55 closed form compound nouns from standard dictionaries.

1) Applesauce,
2) Barmaid
3) Barman
4) Bathroom
5) Bedroom
6) Blackboard
7) Breakdown
8) Breakwater
9) Browbeat
10) Butterfly
11) Buttermilk
12) Butterscotch
13) Chairperson
14) Childlike
15) Crosstown
16) Eyebrow
17) Fingerprint
18) Fisherman
19) Flashlight,
20) Football
21) Footbrake
22) Footprint
23) Grasshopper
24) Handbag
25) Handbill
26) Handkerchief
27) Hardware
28) Highway
29) Hyperactive
30) Hypothermia
31) Keyboard,
32) Lifelong
33) Makeup
34) Milkmaid
35) Newspaper
36) Notebook,
37) Output
38) Overhead
39) Redhead
40) Salesman
41) Sandbag
42) Sandpaper
43) Sandstone
44) Saucepan
45) Seafood
46) Seaman
47) Seaweed
48) Secondhand
49) Shoelace,
50) Softball
51) Software
52) Supermarket
53) Underhand
54) Watergate
55) Witchcraft

2. Hyphenated form

I have collected and listed out 37 hyphenated form compound nouns from standard dictionaries.

1) Air-tight
2) Air-brake
3) Air-chamber
4) Air-cushion-vehicle
5) Air-port
6) Arm-chair
7) Baby-sitter
8) Blue-green
9) Born-again
10) Boy-friend,
11) Brother-in-law
12) Daughter-in-law
13) Dining-table
14) Editor-in-chief,
15) Father-in-law
16) Fly-leaf
17) Fly-wheel
18) Freeze-dry
19) Great-grandfather
20) Hyper-acidity
21) Hypo-thyroid
22) Love-in
23) Mass-produced
24) Master-at-arms
25) Mother-in-law
26) Multi-storey
27) New year’s day
28) Over-ripe
29) Over-the-counter
30) Sister-in-law
31) Six-pack
32) Six-year-old
33) Sky-scraper
34) Sub-urban
35) Twelve-year-old
36) Wall-paper
37) White-wash

3. Open form (Two or more words)

I have collected and listed out 58 open form (two or more words) compound nouns from standard dictionaries.

1) Attorney general
2) Bath tub
3) Beauty saloon
4) Birth day
5) Birth name
6) Bottom line
7) Broad gauge
8) Capital letter
9) Castor oil
10) Christian name
11) Curriculum vitae
12) Desk top computer
13) Dish washer
14) Elementary school
15) Family name
16) First cousin
17) Fish tank
18) Fish tank
19) Full moon
20) Grey matter
21) Half sister
22) High school
23) Ice land
24) Independence day
25) Indoor game
26) Indoor plant
27) Intelligence quotient
28) Knitting needle
29) Lap top computer
30) Living room
31) Lower middle class
32) Maiden name
33) Male nurse
34) Meter gauge
35) Middle class
36) Mineral water
37) Office assistant
38) Office stationary
39) Outdoor game
40) Paper clip
41) Petrol gauge
42) Police officer
43) Pony tail
44) Post office
45) Real estate
46) Registry office
47) Rest room
48) Scotch whisky
49) Seat belt
50) Tea cup
51) Trade name
52) Under cut
53) Under dog
54) Under way
55) Under world
56) Upper middle class
57) Wedding day
58) Word processor

Source:

1) Airtech – Quizzes http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~iteslj/quizzes/vm/m-cm.html
2) British Council – Learn English Central – Grammar – Compound Nouns http://www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish-central-grammar-nouns-compound.htm
3) Edufind – Grammar – Noun
http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/NOUNS4.cfm
4) ESL DESK Nouns – Grammar - Nouns
http://www.esldesk.com/grammar/nouns.htm
5) Grammar – CCC – Commnet – Grammar - Exercise in Compound Nouns and Modifiers http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/cgi-shl/par_numberless_quiz.pl/compounds_quiz.htm
6) Quia - Compound Nouns
http://www.quia.com/jg/553320list.html
7) Wikipedia - English compound http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_compound

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