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Compound Nouns

Grammar features
Compounds - Word Cloud
© NTNU

You may not believe it, but Norwegian can be very creative and almost seem to have a fondness for Compound nouns, or Sammensatte ord in Norwegian.

We like to come up with new words, preferably joining together one or two or several of them into one long beautifully shaped word.

We share this linguistic feature with other German languages, so if you speak German or Dutch you’ll probably know what we are talking about.

But don’t worry, we are going to explain this in detail in this very step.

Just keep reading!

Meeting Room

Et møterom, en kaffekopp og en datamaskin: Alle er sammensatte ord!

Sometimes, two or more nouns are needed to give a precise description of an object. In such cases, the nouns are written as one word in Norwegian.

The last part of the compound noun tells you what kind of thing it is, while the first part gives more precise information.

For instance:

et møte + et rom = et møterom a meeting room, a room for meetings
et prosjekt + en leder = en prosjektleder a project leader, a leader of a project
So, in order to know and understand the meaning of a Norwegian compound, you actually have to start with the last word of the compound and make your way up to the one at the beginning.
Are you curious and want to know how long a Norwegian word can get?
Here’s an example:
Minoritetsladningsbærerdiffusjonskoeffisientmålingsapparatur
An instrument that measures the distance between particles in a crystallized substance.
Well…that says it all!
But don’t panic! in this step, we’ll work on much shorter examples!
N.B: The last part of the compound noun defines its gender and inflection:
ei stue + et bord = et stuebord a living room table
mange stuebord (bord is a short neuter) many living room tables
In some compound nouns an -s- or an -e- is used to combine the words:
en tid + en frist = en tidsfrist a deadline
et barn + en hage = en barnehage a kindergarten
When the first word in a compound ends in one of the following endings, you must add an -s:
-sjon Informasjonskanal Information channel
-else Frelsesarmeen The Salvation Army
-skap Selskapsdame A lady’s companion
-het Kjærlighetsbrev A love letter
-dom Ungdomsskole Middle School
-tet Minoritetsspråk A minority language
-ing og ning Avdelingsleder Department manager
Frelsesarmeens julegryte
When the first word is a short, one syllable word that refers to collective concepts like humans, animals and plants you often have to add an -e:
barn + en hage en barnehage kindergarten
dyr + et liv et dyreliv animal life
fisk + en eksport fiskeeksport fish export
Fjellrev er et typisk eksempel på Norges dyreliv
Here, you find a short but comprehensive list of possible combination for compounds:
  • Same gender:
en buss (bus) + en sjåfør (driver) en bussjåfør (bus driver)
et regn (rain) + et tøy (clothing) et regntøy (rainwear)
  • Different genders – the last noun’s gender is used:
et fjell (mountain) + en tur (hike) en fjelltur (mountain hike)
en bagasje (luggage) + et rom (room) et bagasjerom (trunk)
  • Compound noun + noun:
en barnehage (kindergarten) + en lærer (teacher) en barnehagelærer (preschool teacher)
  • Verb + noun:
å jogge (jog) + ei sko (shoe) ei joggesko (sneakers)

And that’s it!

We have covered the basics and more of Norwegian compounds.

Do you want to give it a try?

Why don’t you try to put together the longest word you can. You now have the tools to do that!

It should be something that either already exists or potentially could exist. And you have to follow the rules for compounds!

Share your word with your learning community and check what they say.

Have fun!

© NTNU
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Norwegian for Beginners 3

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