I recently learned that there are some compound words in English that are called "rhyming compounds". I'd like to know:

1- Are there any grammatical rules for making these compound words?

2- What are the different types/forms of such compound words? (I mean on what basis the second word is chosen: semantically, phonologically, or something else?)

3- Can we use them in formal conversations or contexts too?

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  • Thanks,@CowperKettle. Do you mean that I can find the details by searching "reduplication"?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:16
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    @Soudabeh: Here's a (non-exhaustive) list. Be aware that almost all such words are to some extent informal and/or "childish", except with words like couscous, voodoo, jigsaw, seesaw which have either been effectively "imported", or have been around for generations with no credible surviving ("formal") alternative. You're very unlikely to sound like a native speaker if you go out of your way to maximise use of such terms (especially if you try to make up your own! :) Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:25
  • I'm not sure, Soudabeh, I only thought that this is the mechanism that is at work here, and added the tag. For some reason I was never interested in the origin of such words, it seemed self-evident: a desire to create a compound that sounds 'cute'. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:42
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    Thanks again, @CowperKettle.:) Thanks to your first comment, I googled "reduplication" and found some information about its types in : en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduplication
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


1) There are no grammatical rules: you don't even have to use real words. It's more about making something that sounds right.

2) I am not sure what you mean by subtypes: maybe this document will answer your question. http://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/rhyming_compounds01.html

3) Rhyming compounds are very informal, even intimate. You use them a lot with children, and people often use rhyming compounds to make up affectionate nicknames for their friends. I use such nicknames, but I would be embarrassed to reveal them in this context. They are probably best avoided in formal conversations, unless you have heard somebody else use the same one in the same context.

In the document that I referred to earlier, I have heard variations of many of the examples, and most of them seem pretty weak to me: I would not consider using even in informal conversation.

My personal favourites are the onomatopoeic 'yada-yada' which refers to meaningless talk, and 'wrongy bongy' which was coined by an Egyptian friend.

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    I linked to the same page in my comment. It's a very idiosyncratic list, with many entries that look very "non-standard" to me - quite apart from those I've never encountered, there's cha-ching (cash register sound) for what almost everyone else writes/says as ker-ching, and klip-klop - which is astonishingly rare compared to clip-clop, clipclop. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:36
  • Sorry @FumbleFingers, we were writing at the same time. I agree, it's a weird list.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 16:51
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    Their list of broad categories (Rhyming, Alliterative, Duplicative, Complex Rhyming) might be helpful to someone. Certainly the Yiddish Rhyming Compound Rule is pervasive in many sociolinguistic quarters (and most usages for that one are effectively one-offs; you might have trouble finding an exact duplicate usage elsewhere). Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 17:27

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