Glossary: compound



A compound word contains at least two root words in its morphology; e.g. whiteboard, superman.

Compounding is very important in English.

  • blackbird, blow-dry, bookshop, ice-cream, English teacher, inkjet, one-eyed, bone-dry, baby-sit, daydream, outgrow

A root word is also known as a lexical base. Compounds are written in different ways: sometimes as one word, sometimes hyphenated, and sometimes as separate words. A neoclassical compound is a compound consisting of two combining forms derived from classical languages, e.g. bio- + -graphy.

Compound word creation

An interactive activity to explore how compounds are made

In this activity, students work with an interactive smart board display to build compound words.

The Activity pages for this starter can be found in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. Each Activity page contains slides that can be displayed using a projector or smart board. 

Compound word creation: Activity 1

An interactive activity to explore how compounds are made

Compound word creation: Activity 2

For each word, see how many compounds you can think of which include the word.

Neoclassical compounds

In this activity, students analyse neoclassical compounds, which are compounds where often the word elements were taken from the classical languages (ancient Greek and Latin) and were combined in new ways in English (the element neo- comes from the Greek for ‘new’). Neoclassical compounds involve combining forms. They are meaningful elements drawn from Greek and Latin, which can combine with other elements to form words.

Activity 1

Compounds: Break apart the words

Break down each of the following words into its meaningful parts. Label each part as either a prefix, a suffix, or a lexical base (a part which can typically be used as a word on its own).

Example: unkindness: un- (prefix) + kind (lexical base) + -ness (suffix)

You can check your work by pressing the buttons to see the answers.

Word structure: Compounds

Compounds are combinations of root words, i.e. words that can occur on their own, to form a new established combination. They are sometimes spelt as one word, but also with a hyphen or as two words.

In English compound nouns, e.g. bookcaselaptopsmartphone, and compound adjectives, e.g. dripping wettax-free, are very common.

Word structure: Derivation

Derivation is the process of creating new words. The technical term derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words. Here are some examples of words which are built up from smaller parts:


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