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Learn About Spanish Compound Nouns

What do sunflowers, scarecrows, and blackboards have in common? Simple: each word constitutes a noun resulting from the junction of two morphemes (words with different semantic meanings).

Semantic StructureNoun + NounVerb + NounAdjective + Noun
Compound NounSun + flowerScare + crowBlack + board

Today, we’ll learn about frequently used compound nouns in Spanish. When translating, be aware that an English compound will not always lead to another compound in Spanish, and vice versa. The semantic structure may also change from one language to the other. 

SunflowerScarecrowBlackboard
Spanish MeaningGirasolEspantapájarosPizarra
Semantic Structure Verb + Noun(gira + sol)Verb + Noun(espanta + pájaros)Not a compound
Translation(turn + sun)(scare + birds)

Noun + Noun

Tip: Click on any of the linked sentences in this article (while on a mobile) to add them directly to your Fluent Forever app, so you can study them later. Don’t have our app yet? Download it here!

Note: Aeropuerto (airport) combines the nouns aero (prefix that comes from “air”) and puerto (port). In the English translations, we can identify another compound noun (airplane = air + plane) that lacks a compound counterpart in Spanish (avión).

Note: This example reflects the other way around, as guardiacivil does not keep a compound structure in English (civil guard).


Verb + Noun

skyscraper and airplane against a blue sky
What do airports, skyscrapers, and midday have in common? They’re all compound nouns!
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Note: Rascacielos (skyscraper) is a verb + noun structure combining rasca (scrape) and cielos (skies). However, its semantic meaning in English changes to a noun + noun structure: “sky” (cielo) + “scraper” (rascador).


Adjective + Noun

Note: Mediodía (midday) is formed by the adjective + noun structure medio (mid) and día (day). Another valid English translation of mediodía is “noon,” which lacks a compound structure.

That’s all for today; now let’s get compounding!


Written by Nicole Oliveira

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