Compound Words

A compound word is a combination of two or more words that function as a single unit of meaning.

Students begin to recognize and understand simple compound words, such as into, in first grade, then progress to more complex compound words, such as airplane and toothbrush. Students learn that compound words are made up of two whole words, and that the two words give clues to the meaning of the compound word. Students also begin to notice that there are many compound word families that use the same base word, such as house (doghouse, birdhouse, farmhouse).

Studying compound words offers a great opportunity to engage students in understanding the language. It builds an interest in words and will help prepare students to learn prefixes, suffixes, and word roots.

There are three different types of compound words:

Closed form: Two words are joined together to create a new meaning (firefly, softball, redhead, keyboard, makeup, notebook).
Hyphenated form: Words are joined together by a hyphen (daughter-in-law, over-the-counter, six-year-old).
Open form: Words are open but when read together, a new meaning is formed (post office, real estate, full moon).

To help engage your students and instill long-term learning of compound words, try a classroom activity like “Compound Words Day,” in which students come to school wearing objects that are compound words (see photo above ). You can have your students go on a scavenger hunt at home or using items you supply in the classroom. The kids can attach the items to their clothes or a hat, and describe them in class, or go “on parade” to another classroom to show their creativity and what they learned.

View the Common Core State Standards Related to Compound WordsClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Compound Words

Use knowledge of the meaning of individual words to predict the meaning of compound words (e.g., birdhouse, lighthouse, housefly; bookshelf, notebook, bookmark).

View Words at a GlanceClose

1st Grade Compound Words:

  • bluebird, starfish, sunset, bathtub, sandbox, sailboat, flagpole, teacup, backpack, playpen

2nd Grade Compound Words:

  • List 1: suntan, notebook, inside, myself, outside, birdhouse, homework, birthday, without, something
  • List 2: butterfly, footprint, goldfish, ladybug, mailbox, raincoat, snowman
  • List 3: seesaw, rainbow, cupcake, sunshine, airplane, lunchbox, lipstick, barnyard, anyone, cowboy

3rd Grade Compound Words:

  • List 1: downtown, teaspoon, airport, grandmother, snowflake, afternoon, drumstick, baseball, racetrack, handshake
  • List 2: toothbrush, sunburn, underwater, flashlight, newspaper, peanut, textbook, doorbell, rowboat, spaceship
  • List 3: anthill, backyard, daylight, earring, handstand, scorekeeper, seashell, shoelace, sunrise, yearbook

4th Grade Compound Words:

  • List 1: dishwasher, playground, teammate, yardstick, windshield, fisherman, saltwater, weekend, homesick, mailbox
  • List 2: cardboard, downstairs, fingerprint, haircut, lifeguard, sandpaper, sidewalk, sunlight, thunderstorm, toothpaste

5th Grade Compound Words:

  • List 1: earthquake, countdown, candlestick, barefoot, bathrobe, classroom, fingernail, roommate, dashboard, overdue
  • List 2: breakfast, shipwreck, tombstone, wildlife, guardrail, suitcase, surfboard, tiptoe, lighthouse, chairperson

6th Grade Compound Words:

  • courthouse, landslide, windmill, goalkeeper, coastline, homemade, sawdust, drawstring, skateboard, flashback

7th Grade Compound Words:

  • heartbreak, whirlpool, daredevil, earache, pitfall, thumbtack, password, wallpaper, soundtrack, newborn

8th Grade Compound Words:

  • darkroom, masterpiece, sightseeing, drawback, milestone, landmark, stomachache, halfway, newcomer, daydream

9th Grade Compound Words:

  • mankind, viewpoint, guideline, headfirst, straightforward, icebreaker, throughout, marketplace, driftwood, whirlwind

10th Grade Compound Words:

  • levelheaded, threadbare, thoroughfare, layman, hindsight, awestruck, timberline, sharecropper, lackluster, pigeonhole provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to use their knowledge of indvidual words to predict the meaning of compound words.

Try Read-A-Word with the 2nd Grade Compound Words list.