• an office worker
  • a jewelry maker
  • a potato peeler
  • a shopping list
  • a swimming lesson
  • a walking holiday

What is it called in English when two nouns comes in a row as in the above examples?


They're called noun adjuncts. From that Wikipedia article...

a noun adjunct or attributive noun or noun (pre)modifier is an optional noun that modifies another noun; it is a noun functioning as a pre-modifier in a noun phrase.
For example, in the phrase "chicken soup" the noun adjunct "chicken" modifies the noun "soup".


@FumbleFingers' answer is very good, but there's a structure that's very closely related to noun adjuncts and that matches at least two of your examples (potato peeler and office worker), at least in my dialect of AmE.

A compound noun is two nouns (or an adjective and a noun) that are treated as a single noun. In spoken English, the most noticable difference between {adjunct noun + noun} and {compound noun} is that the compound noun has undergone a shift in vocal stress. With a noun preceded by a modifier, the vocal stress is generally on the second word; in a compound noun, the stress is on the first word.

Consider these two sentences using "office" as a noun adjunct:

  1. She is an office worker.

  2. She locked the office doors.

If I speak them aloud, then in sentence 1, I definitely stress the "off" syllable in "OFFice worker," but in sentence 2, the stress is more on the word "doors." That's because "office worker" is used so often that it has become a compound noun; but "office doors" isn't so common, so it hasn't become a compound noun.

Historically, many compound nouns began as modified nouns (with the stress on the second word), and over time became compound nouns with the stress on the first. Eventually, many compound nouns become hyphenated or collapse into one word.

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