What Is a Compound Adjective? Definition, List and Examples

Compound adjectives are adjectives that are made up of two or more words usually with hyphens (-) between them.

Compound adjectives can be formed as follows:

1. Adjective + Past participle

  • narrow-minded

I can’t stand narrow-minded people who are intolerant of new ideas.

  • high-spirited

The students gave a high-spirited musical performance.

  • old-fashioned

We had lunch in an old-fashioned restaurant.

  • short-haired

He was dancing with a short-haired woman.

  • absent-minded

His absent-minded comment hurt his sister’s feelings.

  • strong-willed

She’s a strong-willed woman who won’t stop until she gets what she wants.

  • quick-witted

The quick-witted detective solved the crime before anyone else had a clue.

  • kind-hearted

A kind-hearted stranger helped us find the train station.

2. Adverb + Past Participle

  • well-behaved

They have three well-behaved children.

  • well-educated

A lot of well-educated people are still having trouble finding jobs.

  • densely-populated

This densely-populated area has the highest crime rates in the country.

  • widely-recognized

She’s a widely-recognized expert in technology.

  • highly-respected

Our speaker tonight is a highly-respected scholar.

  • brightly-lit

We live on a brightly-lit street in the city center.

3. Noun + Past Participle

  • sun-baked

We strolled along the sun-baked streets of Naples.

  • child-wanted

I wanted to buy my daughter the most child-wanted toy.

  • middle-aged

A lot of middle-aged men are dissatisfied with their lives.

4. Noun + Present Participle

  • English-speaking

United Kingdom is an English-speaking country.

  • time-saving

These time-saving techniques will help you work more efficiently.

  • record-breaking

The athlete’s record-breaking performance won him the gold medal.

  • mouth-watering

There was a variety of mouth-watering desserts at the wedding reception.

  • thought-provoking

It was a thought-provoking novel.

5. Adjective + Present Participle

  • good-looking

Who’s that good-looking guy over there?

  • long-lasting

This long-lasting makeup will keep you looking lovely day and night.

  • slow-moving

I was stuck in slow-moving traffic for over an hour.

  • far-reaching

The new law will have far-reaching effects in the economy.

6. Adverb + Present Participle

  • never-ending

Learning a language seems to be a never-ending process.

  • forward-thinking

Some forward-thinking politicians are proposing reforms to the educational system.

7. Noun + Adjective

  • world-famous

We had dinner at a world-famous Italian restaurant.

  • ice-cold

There’s nothing better than drinking an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

  • smoke-free

This is a smoke-free restaurant.

8. Adjective + Noun

  • full-length

The director produced his first full-length movie in 1998.

  • last-minute

It was a last-minute decision.

9. Noun + Noun

  • part-time

We have 20 part-time members of staff .

10. Adjective + Adjective

  • fat-free

These fat-free cookies are delicious!

 

A list of compound adjectives with their meanings:

  • Kind-hearted: kind; generous
  • Brightly-litfull of light
  • Old-fashionednot modern
  • Deeply-rooteddifficult to change
  • Good-lookingattractive
  • Labor-savingmaking work easier
  • Left-handeduses left hand for writing ≠ Right- handed
  • Short-sighted: unable to see far things ≠ Long-sighted
  • Well-knownfamous
  • Easy-goingeasy to accept things without worrying
  • Brand-newcompletely new
  • Part-time (job)carries fewer hours per week
  • Badly-writtenwritten in a bad or wrong way
  • Well-paidproviding or receiving good payment
  • Second-handnot new; used by someone before
  • Well-informedknows a lot
  • Open-mindedflexible
  • Red-handeddid a crime or something wrong
  • Tight-fistedmean; not generous with money
  • Well-earneddeserved
  • Self-reliantindependent
  • Self-centeredselfish
  • Ever-lastingeternal
  • Heart-brokendepressed
  • Narrow-mindedinflexible
  • Absent-mindedforgetful; likely to forget things
  • Middle-agedaround 40-50 years old
  • Quick-witted: intelligent, clever, fast at thinking and discovering things
  • Strong-willedstrong desires, stubborn, does not desist
  • High-spiritedwith a lot of energy

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