Compound words are language elemts, formed by combining two or more words to create a new meaning. In English, compound words can be found everywhere, from everyday conversations to complex academic texts. They come in different types, including closed compounds, hyphenated compounds, and open compounds. In this guide, we will explain the topic of compound words, their formation, and their role in effective communication.

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Types of Compound Words: Open, Closed, or Hyphenated

Compound words are formed when two or more words are combined to create a new one with a different meaning. These come in three main types: closed, hyphenated, and open.

Closed Compound Words

These words are written as a single word without any spaces or hyphens. They often evolve from open compound words as they become more commonly used. For example, “notebook” (from “note” and “book”) and “sunflower” (from “sun” and “flower”) are closed compound words.

Other common examples:

  • Toothbrush
  • Keyboard
  • Basketball
  • Bookstore
  • Raincoat
  • Classroom
  • Firefighter
  • Cupcake
  • Earthquake
  • Haircut

Hyphenated Compound Words

These words are connected by a hyphen, which helps to clarify their meaning and avoid confusion. Examples include “mother-in-law” (a mother related by marriage) and “well-being” (a state of health and happiness).

Other common examples:

  • Sister-in-law
  • Long-term
  • Editor-in-chief
  • Six-pack
  • Check-in
  • Father-in-law
  • Merry-go-round
  • Up-to-date
  • Well-known
  • Part-time

Open Compound Words

These words are written as separate words, but together they form a single concept. For example, “ice cream” (a frozen dessert) and “high school” (a secondary school for older students) are open compound words.

  • Full moon
  • Post office
  • Real estate
  • Science fiction
  • Living room
  • Coffee table
  • High school
  • Ice cream
  • Credit card
  • Tennis court

Meaning and Usage in Context

The meaning of a compound word often relates to the meanings of the individual words, but it can also have its own unique sense and definition. For instance, a “goldfish” is a type of fish that is often gold in color. The context, or how the word is used, can also influence the formation of compound words. For example, “apple” and “pie” can combine to form “apple pie,” a dessert made with apples, but only in the context of food.

Do you make mistakes when using compound words? Try our Free Grammar Checker

Exercises on Compound Words

After learning the basics, let’s try a few exercises to better remember the concept.

Exercise 1: Creating Compound Words

Combine the words in each pair to form a compound word. Write your answer in the space provided.

  1. tooth + paste = ____________
  2. class + room = ____________
  3. grand + mother = ____________
  4. foot + ball = ____________
  5. bed + room = ____________

Exercise 2: Classifying Compound Words

For each compound word, decide whether it should be written as a closed compound, a hyphenated compound, or an open compound.

  1. high/school = ____________
  2. mother/in/law = ____________
  3. tooth/brush = ____________
  4. well/being = ____________
  5. ice/cream = ____________
  6. check/in = ____________
  7. week/end = ____________
  8. long/term = ____________
  9. full/moon = ____________
  10. self/esteem = ____________


  1. high school
  2. mother in law
  3. toothbrush
  4. well being
  5. ice cream
  6. check in
  7. weekend
  8. long term
  9. full moon
  10. self esteem

All in All

So, compound words are integral to the richness and versatility of language. They allow us to express complex ideas succinctly and add depth to our communication. As we continue use compound words, it’s important to appreciate the role they play in shaping our language. So, let’s pay attention to these linguistic building blocks and embrace the creativity they bring to our communication.


What are compound words?

Compound words are formed by combining two or more words to create a new word with a unique meaning. These words can be written as one word (closed compounds), with a hyphen (hyphenated compounds), or as separate words (open compounds). Examples include “notebook,” “mother-in-law,” and “ice cream.”

How are compound words formed?

Compound words are formed by joining two or more words together. The process involves taking words that can stand alone and combining them to create a new word with a different meaning. The way the words are combined can vary, resulting in closed, hyphenated, or open compound words.

How do compound words change meaning or form in different contexts?

Compound words can change meaning or form depending on the context in which they are used. For example, “check-in” as a noun is hyphenated, but as a verb, it is written as two separate words (“check in”). The meaning of such a word can also vary based on context, such as “school bus” (a bus for transporting students) versus “bus stop” (a place where a bus stops to pick up passengers).

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