Compound nouns

Compound nouns can be formed in various ways (eg noun + noun, noun + verb, verb + noun, adjective + noun, noun + adjective).

Compound nouns that have become well established generally do not use a hyphen.

Set solid most common forms of:

  • noun + noun
    carpark     headache     shipwreck     website

    Noun + noun forms are more likely to be set open if either of the component words has more than 1 syllable

data management     kitchen bench     railway station
  • noun + verb, or verb + noun
haircut     scarecrow
  • adverb + verb
bypass     downfall     output
  • adjective + noun
blackboard     software   but   black market     red tape

Use a hyphen for:

  • nouns in which the modifier follows the base word
chief-of-staff     governor-general     lady-in-waiting     mother-in-law
  • nouns with rhyming components
culture-vulture     fuddy-duddy     mumbo-jumbo     walkie-talkie

If the components of a compound noun are of equal weight (as opposed to the first one modifying the second), use an en rule:

city–state     owner–occupier
Tip. See Compounds that can be nouns or verbs (eg go-ahead vs go ahead) for what to do with these compounds.

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