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Word Formation: Compounding, Clipping, and Blending

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 11/8/2012

The word formation processes of compounding, clipping, and blending are important concepts when creating words. Also included for download are vocabulary lists of common English compounds, clipped words, and blends.

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    Compounding

    Compounding is the word formation process in which two or more lexemes combine into a single new word. Compound words may be written as one word or as two words joined with a hyphen. For example:

    • noun-noun compound: note + book → notebook
    • adjective-noun compound: blue + berry → blueberry
    • verb-noun compound: work + room → workroom
    • noun-verb compound: breast + feed → breastfeed
    • verb-verb compound: stir + fry → stir-fry
    • adjective-verb compound: high + light → highlight
    • verb-preposition compound: break + up → breakup
    • preposition-verb compound: out + run → outrun
    • adjective-adjective compound: bitter + sweet → bittersweet
    • preposition-preposition compound: in + to → into

    Compounds may be compositional, meaning that the meaning of the new word is determined by combining the meanings of the parts, or noncompositional, meaning that the meaning of the new word cannot be determined by combining the meanings of the parts. For example, a blueberry is a berry that is blue. However, a breakup is not a relationship that was severed into pieces in an upward direction.

    Compound nouns should not be confused with nouns modified by adjectives, verbs, and other nouns. For example, the adjective black of the noun phrase black bird is different from the adjective black of the compound noun blackbird in that black of black bird functions as a noun phrase modifier while the black of blackbird is an inseparable part of the noun: a black bird also refers to any bird that is black in color while a blackbird is a specific type of bird.

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    Clipping

    Clipping is the word formation process in which a word is reduced or shortened without changing the meaning of the word. Clipping differs from back-formation in that the new word retains the meaning of the original word. For example:

    • advertisement – ad
    • alligator – gator
    • examination – exam
    • gasoline – gas
    • gymnasium – gym
    • influenza – flu
    • laboratory – lab
    • mathematics – math
    • memorandum – memo
    • photograph – photo
    • public house – pub
    • raccoon – coon
    • reputation – rep
    • situation comedy – sitcom
    • telephone – phone

    The four types of clipping are back clipping, fore-clipping, middle clipping, and complex clipping. Back clipping is removing the end of a word as in gas from gasoline. Fore-clipping is removing the beginning of a word as in gator from alligator. Middle clipping is retaining only the middle of a word as in flu from influenza. Complex clipping is removing multiple parts from multiple words as in sitcom from situation comedy.

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    Blending

    Blending is the word formation process in which parts of two or more words combine to create a new word whose meaning is often a combination of the original words. For example:

    • advertisement + entertainment → advertainment
    • biographical + picture → biopic
    • breakfast + lunch → brunch
    • chuckle + snort → chortle
    • cybernetic + organism → cyborg
    • guess + estimate → guesstimate
    • hazardous + material → hazmat
    • motor + hotel → motel
    • prim + sissy → prissy
    • simultaneous + broadcast → simulcast
    • smoke + fog → smog
    • Spanish + English → Spanglish
    • spoon + fork → spork
    • telephone + marathon → telethon
    • web + seminar → webinar

    Blended words are also referred to as portmanteaus.

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    Printable Downloads

    For more complete lists of English words formed through compounding, clipping, and blending, please download the following free printable vocabulary lists:

Word Formation: Creating New Words in English

The articles in this series define and exemplify the most common word formation processes, or the creation of new words, in English including derivation, back-formation, conversion, compounding, clipping, blending, abbreviations, acronyms, eponyms, coinages, nonce words, borrowing, and calquing.
  1. Word Formation: Derivation and Back-Formation
  2. Word Formation: Conversion
  3. Word Formation: Compounding, Clipping, and Blending
  4. Word Formation: Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Eponyms
  5. Word Formation: Coinages, Nonce Words, Borrowing, and Calquing