A Blackbird is Black, Yes – Compound Words


By Jacqueline Schaalje

In English, as in many other languages, you can make new words by combining two words.

Here are some examples:

1 lighthouse – made from light and house

A lighthouse is the tower with a strong lamp on top that warns ships to stay off the coast.

But a light colour is not a compound word. Here, light just means that the colour is closer to white than to black.

Light can also mean not heavy.

Lightweight is a compound word. A lightweight is someone who doesn’t weigh a lot. This term is used in sports such as boxing, judo or weightlifting where it matters how heavy you are. There is also middleweight and heavyweight.

But a light meal is not a compound word. A meal can also be heavy or healthy, etc.

2 Software is a compound word. They are the programs that your computer or phone uses.

But soft wool is not a compound word.

3 Hothouse is a compound word. It’s the building, often made of glass, in which plants grow in an artificially environment. Usually the glass house is hotter than the weather outside, so that’s how it got its name.

But a house can also be hot or cold, so a hot house it’s not a compound word.

4 Fruitcake is a compound word. It’s a cake made with fruits. But you can also say this to someone who is mad.

Fruit tree is also a compound word. It’s a tree that bears fruit.

But a large tree is clearly not a compound word. Trees can also be small, wide, green, etc.

5 Blackbird is a compound word. It’s a common black bird with a yellow beak which sings beautifully.

A black bird is not a compound. It’s just a bird that’s black. But it could also be purple.

What Stress Tells You about Compound Words

Note: In compounds, the stress is most usually on the first word. So in blackbird, the stress is on “black.”

Whereas, if it’s not a compound word, the stress is most often on the second word in the compound. So, in “black bird,” which is not a compound, the stress would be on “bird.”

6 A darkroom is a room that is kept dark (no light), for instance to develop photographs. It can also be a room without light in a bar or club, in which case it is meant for anonymous sexual activities.

A dark room is not a compound. It could be a room in which the windows are small or even without windows at all.

7 A sunflower is a large yellow flower that is grown for its seeds. Its head turns into the direction of the sun.

A garden flower is not a compound. It’s any flower that grows in a garden.

8 Doorman is a compound word. It is the man who gives service at the entrance to a building, for instance a hotel. (I haven’t seen any women in this job.)

A businessman (or –woman, or –person) is a compound. Businesspeople do business for a living.

A gentleman is a compound as well.

But a young man is not a compound word.


Use only compound words (from above).

You can do this exercise online here.

1 I was woken up by the beautiful song of a __________ in our garden.

2 Whenever I buy my mother a large bunch of __________, it makes her extremely happy.

3 He’s short and doesn’t weigh a lot, so he’s competing in the ___________ category.

4 Frank Sinatra asked the ___________ who had given him the biggest tip ever. The good man answered: “You did, last time when you visited the hotel.”

5 A ___________ is a male who opens the door for a woman, extends his arm when she struggles on her high heels, and always lets her win at tennis or chess.

6 Guiding ships into the port, the ___________ of Alexandra was at 120 meters high one of the tallest buildings in antiquity.

7 Stay away from that woman. She’s a ___________.

8 The tomatoes were growing splendidly in the ___________.

9 Click on “yes” if you want to install this ___________ on your computer.

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2 thoughts on “A Blackbird is Black, Yes – Compound Words

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