Nouns : Compound Nouns

Nouns : Compound Nouns

A compound noun is a noun that is made up of at least two words: firewood, pet shop, jack-in-the-box, blackboard,post office, six-pack

There are three forms for compound nouns:


  • With Spaces: ice cream, water tank, printer cartridge
  • Without Spaces: footprint, stopwatch, suitcase
  • With Hyphens: merry-go-round, passer-by, daughter-in-law

There are no hard and fast rules on which form to use. Just be aware that many of the words exist in more than one form.

You’ll just have to look them up if there is any doubt, Google is as good as anywhere…

Composition of Compound Nouns

Though there is no need for pupils of primary school age to be aware of any of what follows, I have included it for interest’s sake…


Most compound nouns are made up of two nouns or an adjective and a noun. For example:

  • Noun + Noun: bath tub, witchcraft, seaman, wall-paper
  • Adjective + Noun: hardware, highway, full moon, whiteboard
Compound elements Examples
noun + noun bedroom
water tank
motorcycle
printer cartridge
noun + verb rainfall
haircut
train-spotting
noun + adverb hanger-on
passer-by
verb + noun washing machine
driving licence
swimming pool
verb + adverb lookout
take-off
drawback
adverb + noun onlooker
bystander
adjective + verb dry-cleaning
public speaking
adjective + noun greenhouse
software
redhead
adverb + verb output
overthrow
upturn
input