Compound Words

What Are Compound Words?

Compound words are two or more words, each with separate meanings, that join together to form a new word with its own meaning. 

An image of ice cream cones to represent the compound words ice cream.

Why Learn Compound Words?

Children begin learning compound words in The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts Level 1 course. They learn that a compound word is made of two words joined together. Learning to read compound words introduces new readers to longer words.

Children in Language Arts Level 1 read simple one- to two-syllable words like bath, tub, butter, and fly. Joining words like these into compound words boosts confidence as children read longer words with ease. Learn more about our FREE homeschool curriculum.

Sunflower image to represent the compound word sunflower.
A butterfly image to represent the compound word butterfly.
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Compound Words for Kids

We’ve created a list of more than 300 common compound words for kids. A printable version of this list is in our free download below.

Image of the compound words PDF pages.
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Compound Words for Advanced Readers

The compound words shared so far in this blog are called closed compound words; two words joined together to form a single new word. Two other types of compound words are open and hyphenated

Readers recognize open compound words as two separate words that team up to have one joint meaning. For example, “peanut butter” is made of two separate words that team together to form one meaning. Here are some other examples.

An image of a living room to represent the open compound words living room.
An image of a roller coaster to represent the open compound words roller coaster.
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When to Hyphenate Compound Words

Knowing when to use a hyphen or space between compound words can be tricky. The easiest way to learn when to use each is by becoming familiar with seeing them in print. Reading great books like those on our FREE Book List builds children’s vocabulary and helps them know when to hyphenate words!

Reading great books builds children’s vocabulary!

Hyphenated compound words are easy to identify by a hyphen, rather than a space, used between each word. The rules for when to use a hyphen in a compound word can be a bit confusing.

For example, in the sentence, “He took a year-long journey through South America,” a hyphen is used between the words year and long because the words are used as an adjective.

Used as nouns, however, hyphenated compound words look like this: “We gave the traveler a big send-off as he boarded the plane.”

A red car to represent the compound word fast-paced.
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Download our free Compound Words list, with more than 300 words!

Image of the compound words PDF pages.

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  • Cynthia L

    This is/will be so handy when my son and I start working on compound words. Love all the resources available on TGTB!

  • Angelina Gussman

    These have been great in our homeschool! I’ve been using them with my daughter to help teach her how to read, spell and write. I recommend them to anybody and everybody! Best part is anybody can use them homeschooling or not.