We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip main navigation

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 møteroma meeting room, a room for meetings
et prosjekt + en leder = en prosjektledera 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 stueborda 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 tidsfrista deadline
et barn + en hage = en barnehagea kindergarten
When the first word in a compound ends in one of the following endings, you must add an -s:
-sjonInformasjonskanalInformation channel
-elseFrelsesarmeenThe Salvation Army
-skapSelskapsdameA lady’s companion
-hetKjærlighetsbrevA love letter
-domUngdomsskoleMiddle School
-tetMinoritetsspråkA minority language
-ing og ningAvdelingslederDepartment manager
Salvation Army
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 hageen barnehagekindergarten
dyr + et livet dyrelivanimal life
fisk + en eksportfiskeeksportfish export
Arctic fox
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
This article is from the free online

Norwegian for Beginners 3

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education