Compound noun word stress

A compound noun is created when two or more words (often an initial noun or an adjective that modifies a final noun) are joined together or used adjacent to one another so often that the combination of words is interpreted as a single noun. Closed compounds are the easiest to recognize because they look like a single word. However, open compounds, where a space remains between the words, are also quite common in English.

When compound nouns are spoken aloud, the first word usually receives more stress than the second word.

Closed compound

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Open compound (space between the words)

stop sign
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3+ syllable compound nouns

If the first word of a compound noun is more than one syllable in length, the normally stressed syllable of the first word is the most stressed syllable of the entire compound. For instance, in the open compound 'security guard' the 'cur' syllable receives the most stress in the entire compound because that is the normally stressed syllable of the first word.

security guard
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Examples of compound nouns

Closed compounds

1. newspaper

2. footprint

3. classroom

4. grandmother

5. birthday

6. bathroom

7. keyboard

8. policemen

9. sunburn

10. waterfall

Open compounds

1. roller coaster

2. dining room

3. credit card

4. middle school

5. bus pass

6. swimming pool

7. stop sign

8. solar power

9. fire alarm

10. golf ball