What kind of adjectives could one create?

I mean, there are a lot of adjectives that are compound, but if you looked them up in a dictionary, you wouldn’t see them. You understand their meaning as they are formed.

Like :

  • Your red-colored eyes are so beautiful.
  • I saw a man-eating shark.
  • I live in an English-speaking country.
  • We live in a densely populated city.

You would not find “red-colored”, which is considered to be a compound adjective, in dictionaries. But it is easy to understand that it means that the color of your eyes, which are red, is so beautiful.

On the other hand, there are a lot of compound adjectives that do exist in dictionaries.

well-known; short-lived; fishing-dependent; modern-day

  • She is a world-famous singer.
  • This is a smoke-free restaurant.

Why do these exist but the ones above not?

I have two questions. The first is: Could anyone combine words to make the term they want without the term or compound words already being in a dictionary? Are there any rules to follow related to this matter?

The second is: when should one hyphenate the adjectives?

  • 2
    Human beings put dictionaries together with the aim of helping other human beings. They make judgments about what is self-explanatory and what might need an explanation. Clearly, "red-colored" needs no explanation if you know what "red" and "colored" mean, yet even though you might know what "world" and "famous" mean, you might not quite understand how world functions there. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 2 '18 at 0:13
  • 2
    Hyphenation is not necessary with adverb + adjective, and tends to be used with noun+noun, e.g. world-famous, or noun+ -ing form, man-eating, death-defying, toll-taking, hair-raising, skin-tingling, nose-diving. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 2 '18 at 0:14
  • This is a reference which may help: grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp – Livrecache Jan 2 '18 at 7:51
  • Some of the definitions may be related to whether the meaning is literal. For example, a 'man-eating' shark is literally a shark that eats 'man'. However, a smoke-free restaurant isn't exactly free of smoke unless we are talking about some innovative technique of cooking with no charring whatsoever. Similarly, a world-famous singer may not literally be famous all over the world, but only in parts of it. That is probably why the dictionary editors felt the need to include those quirky constructs while leaving out the more literal compound adjectives. – urnonav Jan 2 '18 at 15:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.