Compound Words: Meaning, Types, Examples with Practise Worksheet

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Compound Words

Compound Words: The lingua franca- English language has multiple characteristics that can be confusing to individuals. Words with multiple forms are used without conscious effort every day (even as you read this blog!). This makes us overlook some core features of different branches of grammar like adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, etc. that are also a major part of competitive exams. Homophones, homonyms, and compound words are word pairs that look and sound alike but have completely distinct meanings. In this blog, we will discuss compound words, how they are formed, and some basic words that may look similar but carry different meanings.

Did you know? About 4,000 words are added to the dictionary each year and the two most common words in English are I and you. 

What are Compound Words?

Compound words are formed when two words are used together to create a new meaning. Two or more independent words are combined to form a new word with their own distinct meaning in linguistics. Since the English Grammar has evolved and has led to so many compound terms, many individual words have been overlooked.

Also Read: 23 Common Grammar Mistakes in English to Avoid From Now On

25+ List of Compound Words with Meanings

Here is a table of compound words along with their meanings:

ButterflyA flying insect with colorful wings
ToothpasteA substance used for cleaning teeth
SunflowerA tall plant with large, yellow flowers
RaincoatA waterproof coat worn to protect from rain
FirefighterA person who extinguishes fires
BookshelfA piece of furniture for storing books
ToothbrushA tool for cleaning teeth
MoonlightLight from the moon
BaseballA sport played with a bat and ball
BreakfastThe first meal of the day
CupboardA cabinet used for storing items
HeadachePain in the head
StarfishA marine animal with five arms
WindmillA structure that converts wind into energy
RaindropA single drop of rain
SnowmanA figure made of snow
WaterfallA cascade of falling water
CrosswalkA marked path for pedestrians at an intersection
BackpackA bag carried on the back
LighthouseA tower with a light to guide ships

Also Read: 8 Types of Nouns You Must Know [with Definitions & Examples]

Types of Compound Words

Compound words can be written in three ways: as open compounds (spelled as two words, e.g., ice cream), closed compounds (joined to form a single word, e.g., Afterlife), or hyphenated compounds (two words joined by a hyphen, e.g., long-term). Sometimes, more than two words can form a compound (e.g., Brother-in-law).

Open Compounds

When the modifying adjective is combined with its noun to form a new noun, the result is an open compound word. This isn’t the same as using a modifying adjective with a noun. Because we just put a space between the adjective and the noun, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if it’s a compound; nevertheless, if the two terms are frequently used together, it’s a compound.

For example: School bus, police officer, high school, hot dog, web page

Closed Compounds

Closed compound words appear to be a single word. These terms weren’t always used together, but they’re now considered a “genuine term” in the English language. The majority of closed compound words are made up of simply two words. Here are some instances of closed compounds.

For example: Birthday, runaway, eyeball, firewall, classmate

Hyphenated Compounds

There are a lot of things to remember when it comes to hyphenated compound words. The most important thing to understand is that an open compound word will almost always be hyphenated if it is used to modify another noun. Hyphens are also commonly used before a participle or a word formed from a verb when a compound adjective is placed before it. These terms can also be used to alter a noun.

For example: follow-up, well-being, two-faced, get-together, self-esteem, check-in.

Quick Read5 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your English Writing

How are Compound Words Formed?

Compound words, like many other aspects of the English language, are the outcome of language evolution. When two words are often used together in speech and writing, they become increasingly close in meaning over time. Typically, this occurs first in speech and then in writing, where compounds are recognized as words in their own right.

The closed compound word notebook is a good example of this. We would have called it “a book to write notes in” before the word “notebook” was introduced.

However, sometimes compounds are produced as a result of a language gap. For example, the word football would have been coined out of necessity because the game would have lacked a name, to begin with. The act of kicking the ball with the foot is thought to be the origin of this compound, which is a compound of foot and ball.

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Some Common Compound Words with Meanings

Compound words, which can be one or two words long, can be particularly confusing. someday vs. some day, everyday vs. every day, anytime vs. any time, awhile vs. a while, and sometime vs. some time are four of the most confusing word pairings. Let’s see how these words look similar but carry different meanings.

Some day vs. Someday

“Someday” – This compound word is an adverb that implies “at some unspecified future period.”
“Someday” – Someday is both an adjective and a noun. Some phrases mean “unknown” or “unspecified.” When used with the word day, it refers to a single unnamed day.

Everyday vs. Every day

“Everyday” can be used as both a noun and an adjective. It expresses the mundane, the everyday. The two-word phrase “every day,” on the other hand, denotes a period of time.

Anytime vs. Any time

We’re talking about the difference between “at any time” (whenever) and just “any time.” Use the adverb “anytime” if you want to convey the notion “at any time.” Keep the terms separate if you’re simply going to use “any time.

Awhile vs. A while

It’s simpler to comprehend the difference between a while and awhile now that we’ve gone over the difference between anytime and any time. Our adverb here is “awhile,” which signifies “for a while.” To communicate “sit down and remain for “a while”, you can write “sit down and stay awhile.”

Sometime vs. Some time

Sometime is an adverb.  It’s used to convey an undetermined period of time or an uncertain future time. The terms “some time” (both an adjective and a noun) refer to a period of time, usually one that is quite long.

For example, It’s the difference between “let’s get together sometime” and “it’s been some time since the old friends have spoken.”

Also Read: Determiners in English Grammar: Definition, Type & Rules

Buy Best Books for Compound Words!

Given below are some of the best books that can be considered to lean more about compound words

Books Links
Thumbtacks, Earwax, Lipstick, Dipstick: What Is a Compound Word? (Words are Categorical) Click Here to Buy!
Developing Writing Skills for IELTS: A Research-Based Approach Click Here to Buy!
Word Power Made Easy Click Here to Buy!

Compound Words Quiz!

Q1.___ of the children are French.

  1. One third
  2. Onethird
  3. One-third

Q2.Which ___ do you go to?

  1. highschool
  2. high-school
  3. high school

Q3 I need to get a ___.

  1. hair-cut
  2. hair cut
  3. haircut


Q1. one-third
Q2. high school
Q3. haircut

Compound Words Exercise [Download PDF] for Practise

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What are compound words and types?

A compound word is a word where two or more root words are merged together to form a new word. There are three types of compound word: open, closed, hyphenated.

Can compound words have hyphens?

Yes, compound words can also be written with hyphens, creating hyphenated compounds, like “mother-in-law” or “well-known.”

What are the two main types of compound words?

Compound words can be divided into two main types: open compounds (words written separately, such as “ice cream”) and closed compounds (words written as a single word, like “classroom”)

In this blog, we discussed Compound Words in-depth, hope the information provided was helpful. You can make your ideas more fascinating and descriptive for the reader by using compound terms in your writing. Using too many compounds, especially hyphenated compound terms, can be complex; therefore, use compound terms carefully. For more educational content, stay connected with us at Leverage Edu!

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