ONE Word, Not Two

Divorce is suddenly epidemic in Worddom, with couples splitting like crazy. You’d think that no one gets that in English and almost every other language, singles often marry as compound words. A few examples of the happy couples? Armchair, candlestick, figurehead, nutshell, and softball. Many others are hyphenated (e.g., know-how, never-ending, well-being).

Why worry? Because separating compound words sometimes either muddies a sentence or changes its meaning. “With out its after taste, this wine wouldn’t be as impudent” starts a sentence rather bumpily, while the proper “Without its aftertaste, this wine wouldn’t be…” is a smooth ride. And when it comes to meaning, take greenhouse: Split it apart and it says, “a house painted green” rather than “a glass outbuilding used for protecting or cultivating plants.”

Following is an alphabetical list of 50 compound words that are often split apart when they should remain a single unit. And take note: When wondering whether to go with one word or two, just access onelook.com, key in the word in question, and click Definitions. The result? A page with the word stacked in a long list and hyperlinked to dictionary after dictionary after dictionary — a quick way to learn whether it is single, married, separated, or hyphenated.

  • airbag
  • artwork
  • birthplace
  • brainwash
  • campfire
  • cornerstone
  • dishcloth
  • doormat
  • earache, earlobe
  • fearmongering
  • fundraiser
  • giveaway
  • groundbreaking
  • handcuffs, handout
  • heartbreaking
  • icebreaker
  • inchworm
  • jackhammer
  • jailbait
  • kindhearted
  • kowtow
  • laughingstock
  • lockstep
  • mainstream
  • midair, midday
  • namesake
  • necktie
  • overworked, overpaid, overweight
  • paperweight
  • poorhouse
  • racehorse
  • rainstorm
  • saltwater
  • schoolchild
  • tablecloth
  • topcoat
  • underweight
  • upcountry
  • viewpoint
  • voicemail
  • warlord
  • wrongdoing
  • yardstick
  • yearbook
  • zigzag

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