compound words

This language lesson is designed for 6 to 12-year-old children. It helps the child learn about forming compound words with pictures. 

What are Compound Words?

Compound words are formed when two or more words are joined together to make new words. They have their own different mean than the root words. For example, the compound word football means a game or the name of the ball; it is made up of two root words: foot and ball, which again have very different meanings. 

It can be a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, or even a preposition like within, outside, and without.

Definition of compound words according to the Oxford Learner’s dictionary:

“A compound word is a noun, an adjective or a verb made of two or more words or parts of words, written as one or more words, or joined by a hyphen.”

Please note: Compound words are often confused with blended words, also known as portmanteaux, but in reality, they are not the same. In compound words, each root word doesn’t change, whereas in portmanteaus, or blended words, only parts of each word are used. For example, butterfly is made of two complete root words: butter and fly. No word is blended here. Whereas a word like internet is formed by two root words interconnected and network. These two words are blended together to form a new word i.e. internet. 

In this video lesson, picture cards are used to help a child form new compound words. It also helps the child to practice breaking the compound word into its root words.

Common Examples of Compound Words

  • foot + ball = football 

  • butter + fly = butterfly.
  • cup + cake = cupcake
  • tree + house = tree house
  • rain + bow = rainbow
  • tooth + brush = toothbrush
  • book + shelf = bookshelf
  • arm + chair = armchair
  • bread + stick = breadstick
  • lip + stick = lipstick
  • ear + ring = earring
  • snow + man = snowman
  • drum + stick = drumstick and more

Types of Compound Words

There are three types of compound words:

  • Open compound words
  • Closed compound words
  • Hyphenated compound words

Open Compound Words

Words that are formed by combining two or more root words, written as separate words but spelled and used together, are known as open compound words. It is formed to create a new idea with a specific meaning and is mostly formed by combining an adjective and a noun to form a compound noun.

Examples of Open Compound Words

  • First aid
  • Real estate
  • No one
  • Attorney general
  • Post office
  • Living room
  • High school
  • Rocket science
  • Ice cream

Closed Compound Words

It is the most commonly used compound words. The words formed by combining two or more root words without any space between them are known as closed compound words

Examples of Closed Compound Words

  • Bedroom
  • Butterfly
  • Keyhole
  • Football
  • Backlink
  • Backpack
  • Snowball
  • Mailbox
  • Armchair

Hyphenated Compound Words

As the name suggests, hyphenated compound words are words formed by combining two or more root words joined together with a hyphen. 

Note: hyphenated compound words are mostly used when the words are combined to form an adjective before a noun.

Examples of hyphenated Compound Words

  • In-depth
  • Long-term
  • Sun-dried
  • Up-to-date
  • Mother-in-law
  • One-half
  • Full-time
  • Day-to-day

Watch the video to learn how to form compound words and break them to create two different words.

Invite the child to make new compound words with pictures of familiar objects around them, as shown in the video, and help them enhance their vocabulary.

Related Resources:

  1. Suffixes
  2. Alphabetical Order
  3. Matching Opposites Words

You can also download the compound words worksheet and practice them.

For more language resources, click here.

Video Created by: Justine McNeilly


  • Can a compound word have 3 words?

A compound word is formed by combining two or more words with an altogether different meanings. Therefore, yes, it is possible that a compound word to have three or more words, this is not very common. “Mother-in-law”, “sister-in-law” and “up-and-coming” are some examples. To start, introduce a child to two-letter compound words and then increase the complexity.

  • What are the 3 types of compound words?

Compound words can be classified as closed compound words, open compound words, and hyphenated compound words. A closed compound word is a single word formed with no space in between, for example, a butterfly. Open compound word has a space between them but are read together, for example, high school. A hyphenated compound word is a compound word joined together with a hyphen, for example, long-term.

  • What is a simple compound word?

A simple compound word is the most common form of the compound word. It is also known as closed compound words. By definition, these are formed by combining two simple root words. This can be illustrated by the example of mail + box = mailbox.


  • Elementary
  • English
  • grammar
  • Language