Is Batman a compound noun since it is made up of two nouns? Or being a name it remains only a proper noun?

  • 2
    If you're talking solely about the DC comics character and not any other uses of the word, I honestly don't know why it matters... It is a name. You could similarly ask if any other number of superhero names are compound nouns. There's no benefit to classifying this. – Catija Aug 19 '16 at 16:08

Batman as a name is still a compound noun, just as it is when it is a common noun.

  • Note that a batman in British English is an officer's personal servant, and as such, is just a common noun, not capitalized, nor living in bat caves. – DrMoishe Pippik Jun 21 '16 at 13:52

I would argue that proper nouns cannot, by definition, be thought of as compound nouns, even when they look like they are.

If we look at a compound noun like "doorknob", we see that we can break it up into two separate nouns that each contribute meaning to the final word. It is a knob for a door.

You wouldn't break apart someone's name to derive meaning, though. If my name is "River Bush", this would not imply that I am a flowing body of water or a type of plant. It's just my name. You can't break it up to derive meaning, as if it was a compound noun, even though it looks like it could be. Similarly, if my last name was "Toothpaste", I would still suggest that cannot be considered to be a compound noun. It shares the same letters with a commonly used compound noun but it's my name. You cannot break apart my name to derive meaning about me and therefore my name cannot be a compound noun.

So I would say the same for Batman, even though he actually is a man who has a proclivity towards bats. His name is formed from a compound noun but once it becomes a name, it is a proper noun and the guidelines for compound nouns no longer apply (you cannot decide to spell his name as Bat-man or Bat Man or even necessarily assume he has anything to do with bats, because it is just a name).

See also: https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-1/nouns/lesson-6/compound-nouns

A compound noun is the sum of its two parts. Just because you can divide a word into two other words doesn't make it compound.

  • And maybe another way to think about it, imagine my last name was "Cloud". While "cloud" is a common noun, the fact that it is my name makes it a proper noun in this case. You wouldn't say "Cloud is both a common noun and a proper noun". The word "cloud" is common. My name of "Cloud" is proper, not common. Ergo I submit that "Batman" is only a proper noun, not a compound noun. – JamieB Jul 20 '16 at 19:39
  • Well, the sobriquet of a superhero is hardly the same thing as a family name. – Alan Carmack Aug 19 '16 at 18:31
  • That's effectively how it's used, though. (In fact, some are passed down, such as Green Lantern.) Or maybe a better example is the question someone asked about why Deadpool isn't Dead Pool. Deadpool is his name. Kinda like asking why Billybob isn't Billy Bob. It's a single name. The fact that it looks like it could be two names is irrelevant. – JamieB Aug 19 '16 at 18:51
  • I disagree, but the import of the question itself eludes me. (And I've never met anyone named Billybob. Even the Texas actor spells it Billy Bob Thornton. But that's really beside the point.) Batman is a compound word used as a superhero name–to me that's a given. – Alan Carmack Aug 19 '16 at 18:58
  • I think it's a question of "what is a compound noun". Most definitions seem to include the idea that "each word makes up part of the meaning of the noun". I don't think you can say that each part of someone's name makes up the meaning of their name. John Blacksmith is probably not black, a smith, or a blacksmith (though some ancestor of his probably was). It's just his name. Superheroes are usually (but not always) described by their name but it's still "just a name". ("Robin" for example. That's his superhero name, not his actual name, but it's not a description of him or his powers.) – JamieB Aug 19 '16 at 19:18

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.