A compound noun is a noun that is formed from two or more words. The meaning of the whole compound is often different from the meaning of the two words on their own. Compound nouns are very common. The main noun is normally the last one.
Compound nouns are commonly formed from the following word combinations:
|washing machine||driving licence|
- noun + noun,
- verb + noun,
- adjective + noun,
- phrasal verb used as noun,
- particle + noun.
|noun + noun:||boyfriend||skinhead|
|verb + noun:||breakfast||grindstone|
|adjective + noun:||software||hardware|
|phrasal verb:||a break-in||a take-over|
|particle + noun:||onlooker||aftershave|
The term particle is used for a word which could be either an adverb or a preposition. Compound nouns can be written:
|post office||fire engine|
|eye shadow||cough sweets|
Consult a dictionary to discover how the word is normally written. There are often alternative forms to be found, for example, drop down menu, drop-down menu, and dropdown menu are all currently acceptable forms of the same compound noun.
Nouns as modifiersThe compound noun girlfriend names a special sort of friend. Nouns can also be used as modifiers without forming a compound noun.
A noun that is used as a modifier has the same function as an adjective. The first noun usually makes the second one more specific, but we do not think of it as part of a combination that forms a new word. See Adjectives for more on modifiers.
|a concrete slab||old oak beams|
|a car mechanic||a store manager|