Examples of compound words in Italian

Examples of compound words in Italian

Compound words are those words which are formed by combining two or more words.

In Italian, compound words are especially common in scientific and technical terminology. Some examples of compound words used in scientific fields, for example, are elettrocardiogramma (electrocardiogram) and gastroscopia (gastroscopy).

However, you can find many compound words also in standard Italian. Examples of compound words in standard Italian are maleducato (ill-mannered), mezzogiorno (midday).

So, today I’m writing an article about compound words in Italian because it can be useful for you to know how compound words are formed.

In Italian compound words can be formed in different ways.

NOUN + NOUN

Caffè + latte -> Caffelatte (latte)
Capo + classe -> Capoclasse (class president)
Pesce + cane -> Pescecane (shark)

There isn’t a specific rule for the formation of the plural.

If the two nouns are of the same genre – i.e. masculine – you usually change only the suffix of the second word.

Esempio: pesce (masculine) + cane (masculine)
pescecane -> pescecani

If the two nouns are of a different genre, you usually change only the suffix of the first word.

Esempio: capo (masculine) + classe (feminine)
capoclasse -> capiclasse

ADJECTIVE + ADJECTIVE

Sordo + muto -> Sordomuto (deaf-mute)
Agro + dolce -> Agrodolce (sweet and sour)
Piano + forte -> Pianoforte (piano)

They form the plural changing the suffix of the second word.

Esempio: pianoforte -> pianoforti and not pianiforti

NOUN + ADJECTIVE; ADJECTIVE + NOUN

Mezzo + giorno -> Mezzogiorno (midday)
Cassa + forte -> Cassaforte (safe)
Basso + rilievo ->Bassorilievo (bas-relief)

There isn’t a specific rule for the formation of the plural.

Usually, adjective + noun forms the plural changing the suffix of the second word.

Esempio: bassorilievo -> bassorilievi

Noun + adjective, instead, usually changes the suffix of both words.

Esempio: cassaforte -> casseforti

VERB + VERB

Dormi + veglia ->Dormiveglia (half-sleep)
Sali + scendi -> Saliscendi (latch)
Fuggi + fuggi ->Fuggifuggi (stampede)

Italian compound words formed by/of verb + verb do not change in the plural.

Esempio: dormiveglia -> dormiveglia

VERB + NOUN; NOUN + VERB

Porta + ombrelli -> Portaombrelli (umbrella stand)
Para + fango -> Parafango (fender)
Capo + volgere -> Capovolgere (to turn upside down)

Also in this case there isn’t a specific rule for the formation of the plural.

Generally, if the second word is a plural noun, the compound word does not change in the plural.

Esempio: portaombrelli -> portaombrelli

Instead, if the second word is a singular masculine noun, it generally changes the suffix in the plural.

Esempio: parafango -> parafanghi

Finally, if the second word is a singular feminine noun, the compound word, generally, does not change in the plural.

Esempio: spazzaneve -> spazzaneve

ADVERB + VERB; VERB + ADVERB

Male + educato -> Maleducato (ill-mannered)
Male + dire -> Maledire (to curse)
Bene + stante -> Benestante (wealthy)

Adverb + verb does not change in the plural.

Esempio: maledire -> maledire

Verb + adverb, instead, generally changes the suffix of the second word in the plural.

Esempio: maleducato -> maleducati

ADVERB + ADJECTIVE

Some examples of Italian compound words following this tructure are:

Sempre + verde -> Sempreverde (evergreen)
Mal(e) + sano -> Malsano (unhealthy)

They do not change in the plural.

Esempio: sempreverde -> sempreverde

PREPOSITION + NOUN; ADVERB + NOUN

Sotto + ufficiale -> Sottufficiale (non-commissioned officier)
Lungo + mare -> Lungomare (seafront)
Inter + vista -> Intervista (interview)

If the noun and the compound word are of the same genre, you change the suffix of the noun in the plural.

Esempio: sottufficiale (masculine); ufficiale (masculine) -> sottufficiale -> sottufficiali

Instead, if the noun and the compound word aren’t of the same genre, you don’t change the compound word in the plural.

Esempio: sottoscala (masculine); scala (feminine) -> sottoscala -> sottoscala

I hope this article and the examples of compound words helped you to understand how to form compound words in Italian.

If you need to master or revise basic Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar A1-A2.

Did you already know how to form compound words in Italian? Are there some Italian compound words that you find particularly tricky?


Credits

Original image by SHAWSHANK61

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *