I have seen such patterns several times but don't know what the pattern is. For instance this title: Autonomy-Supportive Teaching: What It Is, How to Do It and this also this one: Health-Aware Model-Predictive Control of a Cooperative AGV-Based Production System. They don't only appear in titles. For example in Heidi Grant Halvorson's book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals "autonomy-supportive" occur 12 times. I would like to quote one of those as follows:

Students perceive their teachers to be autonomy-supportive when those teachers focus on the students' needs,...

And I find more words elsewhere:
need-blind, need-based

Such compound words are intuitive. "Health aware" means being aware of health and "autonomy supportive" connotes being supportive regarding to autonomy.

What are the restrictions, if any? Can I combine words, by the same token, like "health supportive" and "autonomy aware" and "welfare supportive" and "crime aware" and etc?

  • Rule of thumb: as long as the grammar can be explained and the use is consistent, you can make up pretty much anything you like. There are no formal rules for these uses. autonomy supportive=supportive of autonomy.So both are X of Y patterns.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1, 2019 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


You can, in terms of generally accepted usage, do it with any semantically appropriate pair of words. However, it's mostly done in management-speak (the particular language patterns used in corporate management, management science and so on) and somewhat in academia. Basically, it's often used for 'buzzwords', or words that a writer is trying to make into a buzzword.

That's not say it's never useful, because it can help to make a phrase, and thus the concept it represents, easier to talk about and thus more widely talked about, and thus often more widely accepted. A good example is "patient-centred care", or the more recent update, "person-centred care". This is used to talk about the idea, in healthcare, of caring for the patient rather than their illness or injury. It has the literal sense of care centred on the patient (or person, preferred to ensure that doctors think about their patient as a person), but it carries a much wider set of meanings. Coining a compound term that is generally understood to include those wider meanings makes it easier to talk about, and the term being easy to say helps it catch on.

It can make things harder to understand, though, both because it can be harder to parse (depending on word choice and audience) and because you sometimes have to pick more esoteric vocabulary because you need (usually) an adjective rather than a very, and not all verbs have accepted adjective forms. Plus sometimes people are using it in order to sound more erudite or elitist, and thus pick a more obscure word to use in constructing the compound than they might otherwise.

  • Also, in the health care field.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1, 2019 at 14:23
  • @Lambie Most of the good, or at least not awful examples of it that I've come across are in healthcare. But yeah, there's a lot of it there. I've worked with doctors in a few contexts (never me delivering healthcare, though), and most of them haven't been fond of the buzzwordy use, but usually they seem to accept it as being the best available way to get something across.
    – SamBC
    Feb 1, 2019 at 14:52
  • In the US, we are plagued by euphemisms in healthcare because it's all recondite profit driving. Sickening, really. :)
    – Lambie
    Feb 1, 2019 at 15:11

That you can do this does not mean that you should do it. If you've had the double-edged pleasure of reading excellent writers, it can be quite a slog to have to make your way through prose that overdoes it with phrases like health-aware model-predictive control.

In that particular case, such adjectives are for the sake of brevity in the title: they collapse into a compound word what would otherwise be expressed as a relative clause or prepositional phrase.

The "restrictions" are stylistic, not grammatical.

I'm not sure that politician even knows what the truth is.

I'm not sure that politician is even truth-cognizant.

Why depart from the idiomatic as that second sentence does?

  • I thought we can see them not only in titles, please see my update. Feb 1, 2019 at 13:16
  • @zhang: I don't think you've understood what I've written.
    – TimR
    Feb 1, 2019 at 13:22
  • "such adjectives are for the sake of brevity in the title" led me to add some counterexamples, leaving the rest of your answer in abeyance. I thought the second one in your example is more compact than the first one, which I thought agrees with the last sentence in your answer. By the way, I wonder if "restrictions" might be verbiage-vulnerable... Feb 1, 2019 at 14:10
  • I had written "In that particular case, such adjectives ..." so I wasn't implying "in all cases". I don't know what you mean by "verbiage-vulnerable", but restrictions was your word.
    – TimR
    Feb 1, 2019 at 15:11
  • I saw that you used double quatation marks around the restrictions, then I thought you might mean that it sounds inappropriate to you. Feb 2, 2019 at 0:52

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