Compound Words – What are, what are, examples, simple

We explain what compound words are, how they are classified, and various examples. Also, what are simple and derived words.

compound words gaping
“Open-mouthed” is a compound word made up of a noun and an adjective.

What are compound words?

In Spanish, compound words are known as those that are the product of the morphological process of composition, that is, that arise from the union or coordination of two roots or lexemes, to thus form a new syntactic and semantic unit.

Composition is a common process in our language, and in many others (German usually takes the medal in this matter). It is used especially in relation to the formation of neologisms, that is, of new terms necessary to name a new reality.

This process occurs from any two words, sometimes of the same grammatical category and sometimes not. The result handles itself as a unit, normally governed by the rules of accentuation and spelling.

Instead, in some cases the two terms that compose it are separated with a short dash: This happens when they are only circumstantially obliged to live in the same term, which happens when both belong to the same grammatical category. In that case, each word will retain its customary spelling, unchanged.

The most usual thing is that they are two lexemes (two nouns), but there may be cases in which three or more are merged. Depending on the grammatical category to which each term belongs, the resulting compound words can be classified into:

  • Verb + noun, like in can opener (open + cans).
  • Noun + adjective, like in bowled over (mouth + open).
  • Adjective + adjective, like in deaf-mute (deaf + mute).
  • Noun + noun, like in turning (mouth + street).
  • Verb + verb, like in seesaw (go up + go down).
  • Adverb + adjective, like in well thought out (good + thinking).
  • Pronoun + verb, like in to do (what + to do).

Examples of compound words

compound words letter opener
Letter opener is a compound word without a hyphen.

Here is a list of compound words in Spanish:

  • Compound words without hyphen
sleepSleep + candleVerb + verb
stupidLeg + stiffNoun + adjective
bittersweetSour + sweetAdjective + adjective
KilljoyWater + partiesVerb + noun
take itCarry + and + bringVerb + conjunction + verb
correveidileRun + go + and + tell himVerb + verb + conjunction + verb
bootlickerSuck + stockingsVerb + noun
midnightHalf + nightAdjective + noun
laughing stockMake me laughVerb + verb
cemeteryHoly + fieldNoun + adjective
cauliflowerCabbage + flowerNoun + noun
whoeverWho + wantsPronoun + verb
letter openerOpen + lettersVerb + noun
two-stepStep + doubleNoun + adjective
safe passageExcept + conduitAdjective + noun
bloodsuckerSuck + bloodVerb + noun
Spanish speakerHispanic + speakerAdjective + noun
corkscrewTake out + corksVerb + noun
  • Hyphenated compound words
physiochemicalAdjective + adjective
artistic-musicalAdjective + adjective
Polish-GermanAdjective + adjective
institute-schoolNoun + noun
Science fictionNoun + noun
kilometer-hourNoun + noun
read-interpretVerb + verb
know to doVerb + verb
produce-consumeVerb + verb

Simple words

It is known as simple words to those that are composed of a single lexical unit, that is, by a single root, whether or not they have inflectional morphemes (inflectional suffixes). These are the words that generally designate a concrete, simple referent.

In addition, they serve as base pieces for composition processes. That is, a compound word involves several simple words.

For example: sun, dog, walking, eating, beautiful, ugly, good, bad, friendship.

Derived words

sunny derived compound words
Derived words come from simple words, like “sunny” from “sun.”

The derived words, finally, are those that are the result of a derivation process, that is, incorporation into a lexical root of morphemes (suffixes, generally) that definitively and obviously change their meaning.

Thus, “families” of words with a common origin are formed., since derived words come (derive) from other simpler words, known as primitive words (in the sense that they do not come from any other).

Examples of derived words are the following:

  • From the primitive word “tree” they derive: treeage, treeconvict, treericola, arbusto.
  • From the primitive word “sun” they derive: suneado, Sunar, inSunar.