Three-word compound

Thinking about @The_Other_Waldo_Pepper, from outdoorsman my brain went to sportsman → sportsmanship (sports - man- ship) to a possible outlier outdoorsmanship (a possible 4 word compound?!). Yes, it’s a word.

I’d argue that “whippoorwill” and “sportsmanship” are not compound words. “whippoorwill” is onomatopoeia, not the combination of several words. “sportsman” is a compound word, the combination of “sports” and “man”, but the “-ship” in “sportsmanship” is a suffix ending, not the word “ship”.

On the other hand, I don’t think that hyphenation or lack of it is a useful distinction in compound words. Hyphenation is a question of orthographic convention. Words are not defined by orthography, but by usage.

It’s the way Merriam-Webster has it. I just wanted an example of a hyphenated compound. But Pleonast is right, it’s not really a compound.

I figured I’d collect all examples of three-word compounds written as solid words and see what patterns there were.

It depends if the OP is asking for compound words formed solely from independent nouns or verbs, or compound words with a mixture of nouns, verbs, suffixes and prefixes.

If the latter is permitted, there is “antidisestablishmentarianism”, composed of the verb, “establish”, turned into the noun, “establishment”, with prefixes “dis-” and “anti-”, and the suffix “-ary”, turned into the suffix “-arian”, and the suffix “-ism”.

Since people don’t speak the hyphens, I’m not sure there’s much difference between nevertheless and never-the-less (which is rare, but not unknown) (note that Latin and Greek were originally written without any spaces). Including hyphenated phrases, we’d get face-to-face as another example.

Without hyphens, I like the previously suggested “Whodunnit”

This is correct, but hyphenation is used to disqualify words from use in various word games. Scrabble, for example.

Nope, suffixes and prefixes do not count as words for this question.

Does German make compound words solely out of nouns and verbs?


“Fisherwoman” counts if we consider etymology - “woman” is a compound word (from “wife-man”)

“withal” is a compound of “with” and “all”. Since “with” is a preposition, it doesn’t meet the OP’s requirements. “Where” is an adverb, and also doesn’t meet the OP’s requirements.

“-ship” is a suffix, not a noun, and doesn’t meet the OP’s requirements.

I was curious about “rent-a-cop” vs. “rentacop”. The latter spelling is still uncommon, but pops up occasionally.

How about “midshipman”, as in the U.S. Naval Academies athletic teams?

“mid” is a contraction of “amid”, which is a preposition and therefore does not meet the OP’s terms.

I may have overlooked something … the OP seems to allow prepositions, no?

What about the Canadian province of Newfoundland?

It’s true that I’m not especially interested in those with prepositions, but go ahead and contribute them anyway. I’m not trying to make things harder, so don’t worry too much about what part of speech the constituent words are.

So « antidisestablimentarianism » counts now?

I’m not so sure about words like antidisestablishmentarianism because it really just one full word (establish) with layers of prefixes and suffixes piled on. None of the added prefixes or suffixes are, in themselves, full words.

I was going to suggest all the words you could make beginning with ultra- or super-, but the same remark applies to all those.

Exactly, Senegoid. I said don’t worry about parts of speech. But suffixes and prefixes are not parts of speech or even whole words.

But I’m still curious about the reference to German in the OP. Does the German language make portmanteau words solely out of nouns and verbs? Or does it also include other parts of speech?

Maybe @Schnitte or @EinsteinsHund could help?

Edited to add: Oh, I see you were asking if other parts of speech than nouns and verbs were included. Let me think about that for a second. (I’m leaving the rest of my reply up.)

Yes, both German and other Germanic languages does this. I think German is as strict, but in Norwegian, you definitely cannot, correctly, write a compound noun with a space. It’s not the Foreign Office, it’s “Utenriksdepartementet”, it’s not a lamb shank, it’s a “lammelår”, it’s not the declaration of human rights it’s “menneskerettighets­erklæringen”. The last one is slightly misleading in that Norwegian does use phrases with prepositions, but a significant number of descriptors that would do so in English has a single compound noun in Norwegian.