We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Hyphenated Compound?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A hyphenated compound is made from two words in English combined by a hyphen. The two words are often adjectives or nouns, and can be used by themselves, but combined with a hyphen they represent a different thing. Common examples are “part-time,” “high-speed,” and “editor-in-chief.” Because English is not completely consistent, and because the written language changes, the use of a hyphenated compound is not always regulated.

The hyphenated compound is generally the least used form of compound word. Often words will begin as an open compound, progress into a hyphenated compound, and with frequent use in the English language, are combined in the common lexicon as one word. An example is the combination of the two words “key” and “board” used separately to describe a computer tool in the early days of its use. They are then combined after some usage into a hyphenated compound: “key-board.” Often, when this usage becomes common, the hyphen gradually gets dropped and the term becomes a one-word compound: “keyboard.”

Modifying and descriptive pronouns often use a hyphenated compound to avoid confusion. Descriptive words like big-time, yellowish-green, and high-rise are combined to make sentences more clear and to combine two unrelated words into one idea. A term like “high-danger situation,” without a hyphenated compound could create confusion. The term obviously refers to a situation with imminent danger. Without the hyphen it would read “high danger situation,” and could describe the same as the hyphenated situation, or it could describe a “high” situation (as in elevated), with a threat of danger (not necessarily “high”). This new construction alters the meaning completely.

Also, English terms with words in the middle or more than two words are usually hyphenated, such as merry-go-round, father-in-law, or ten-year-old. In cases like these, most of the time the term is made plural by adding an “s” to the last of the set of words. In some unusual cases, though, the term is made plural by adding an “s” to the first word, usually the noun, such as “attorneys-at-law.”

Many words began as one type of compound in England under the Germanic languages, but changed to another type of compound after the altering of the language in 1066 with the Norman invasion. Some words have just been changed throughout time because of awkward spelling or usage, and some words, like the original title of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” were just dropped because they made more sense or seemed more natural without a hyphenated compound.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By daphne — On Jan 08, 2009

Hi, I came across this site while looking for the specific term for descriptive compound words used in epic poetry. For example: "rosy fingered Aurora", "Far seeing Ulysses", etc. Anybody know the term? Thanks!!

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.