What is a Compound Noun? Compound Noun Examples


It is quite likely that you know many compound nouns and use them every day, perhaps even without knowing! But, just what are compound nouns?

I’m a native English speaker, and even I didn’t know what they were until I started to teach English, so, let us take a look.

When two separate words are joined and form a new word that is a noun, it becomes a compound noun. (Compound, the meaning of this word is to join two or more things into one.)

Look carefully at our very first sentence of this post, can you find a compound noun we used there? If you said, without, you are correct, well done! It contains the words with and out.

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Common Compound Nouns

Below are some of the most common compound nouns, their independent forms, and examples of how to use the compound noun. It is not a complete list by no means.

Boyfriend/girlfriend – boy+friend/girl+friend

  • My boyfriend and I are going to the movies tonight.
  • Gemma is my girlfriend.

Policeman/Fireman – Police+man/Fire+man

  • The Policeman rushed to the scene of the crime.
  • A fireman was severely injured in the blazing fire.

Rainfall – Rain+fall

  • We have had a lot of flooding because of the constant rainfall of late.

Haircut – Hair+cut

  • Get your haircut today, please.

Lookout – Look+out

  • We are going up to the lookout on the mountain.

Onlooker – on+looker

  • The onlookers cheered the football team as they ran onto the field.

Overthrow – over+throw

  • The rebels were unable to overthrow the government.

Football – Foot+ball

  • Football is the most popular sport in the world.

Blackboard – black+board

  • The teacher had written his name on the Blackboard before class.

Toothpaste – Tooth+paste

  • Please brush your teeth with Toothpaste.

Breakfast – Break+fast

  • We are going to the Café to have Breakfast.

Sunrise – Sun+rise

  • We got up very early to watch the sunrise.

Sunset – Sun+set

  • The colors in the sky were beautiful because of the sunset.

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Spaced Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are a controversial part of the English language. Some compound nouns are not joined into one word but just placed in a particular word order. If misused within a sentence these words do not typically go together.

Bus Stop

  • I am going to catch the bus at the Bus Stop.

Full Moon

  • It is going to be a Full Moon tonight.

Swimming Pool

  • I have swimming lessons at the local Swimming Pool.

Water tank

  • We collect rain water in our Water Tank.

Fish Tank

  • You have many beautiful fish in your Fish Tank.

Throw up

  • I was so sick last night I thought I was going to throw up what I had eaten earlier.

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Hyphenated Compound Nouns

Hyphenations are another way of creating compound nouns.



  • We need to pick up our dry-cleaning before they close tonight.


  • My —in-law is coming to visit us next week.


  • While I park the car can you please look after the check-in at the Hotel reception desk.

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Forming Compound Nouns

Compound nouns can be made up of many these types of words and in all of the different combinations.

Adjectives + Adjectives/Prepositions/Nouns/Verbs

Prepositions + Adjectives/Prepositions/Nouns/Verbs

Nouns + Adjectives/Prepositions/Nouns/Verbs

Verb + Adjectives/Prepositions/Nouns/Verbs

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Test your knowledge!

Great, now that you have learned this, test your knowledge and understanding.

Match the following compound nouns to their type.

  1. Football hyphened compound noun
  2. Dry-cleaning spaced compound noun
  3. Fool Moon compound noun


There are many other Compound nouns, can you give us an example of one and how to use it in a comment below?

Check out our other fantastic posts on the website too!


Test your Knowledge – Answers

  1. C
  2. A
  3. B

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