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A Grammar of Interlingua

Alexander Gode & Hugh Blair IALA 1951

Word Building - compounding

Compounding forms

Compounding by means of compounding forms


Compounds which result from the COMBINATION OF TWO FULL-FLEDGED WORDS are formed either by simple juxtaposition - as illustrated by English 'teapot,' 'thunderstorm,' 'goose flesh,' etc. - or involve the use of a compounding feature - e.g. 'cylindr-o-cellular,' 'man-i-cure,' etc. Interlingua lacks the unlimited possibility of active compounding by simple juxtaposition which is characteristic (although not a distinctive feature) of the Teutonic languages. Among the expressive devices available in Interlingua as complements of its compounding system, the following are to be noted:

  1. English compounds often correspond to Interlingua suffix formations.

    • 'milkman' lactero
    • 'milkmaid' lactera
    • '(milk shop) dairy' lacteria
    • 'rice field' risiera
    • 'swineherd' porchero
    • 'pigsty' porchiera
    • 'pork shop' porcheria
    • 'plum tree' pruniero
    • 'raspberry bush' frambesiero
  2. English compounds correspond very frequently to Interlingua prepositional phrases. The choice of the preposition permits often a clear statement of the relationship between the elements which in English is left to context and common sense. e.g.: it is not the words 'seaman' and 'milkman' which tell us that the latter does not sail on milk and that the former does not sell sea water.

    • 'bus station' station de omnibus
    • 'cashbook' libro de cassa
    • 'caterpillar tractor' tractor a erucas
    • 'chamber music' musica de camera
    • 'waiting room' sala a attender
    • 'handbag' sacco a mano
  3. In numerous instances English compounds are best rendered in Interlingua by nouns modified by adjectives.

    • 'sunlight' lumine solar
    • 'tearpit' sacco lacrimal
    • 'redskin' pelle rubie
    • 'blood vessel' vaso sanguinari


Active compounding in Interlingua is bound to, but completely free within the limits of, analogical patterns. This means that - apart from compounding forms which function as virtual affixes (see §161, §164 below) - the elements to be joined in a new compound must each occur in one or several traditional compounds which serve to show under what form the separate words enter into the compound. Note that most compounds are linked by a vowel compounding feature. This disappears generally when the first sound of the second element is again a vowel. The compounding vowel is often but not necessarily the normal ending of the first element when used as an independent word. In the great majority of compounds the vowel link is o or i.

In the following examples active compounding is illustrated within the pattern of the equation: traditional compound A and traditional compound B permit the formation of the new compound C.
Note: Some of the compounds given as new Interlingua formations may naturally exist in the vocabulary of one or another ethnic language.

hepatologia appendicectomia hepatectomia 'removal of the liver'
cyanotypo claustrophobia cyanophobia 'fear of the color blue'
sciamachia necromantia sciamantia 'prophecy by shadows'
genealogo idolatria genealatria 'worship of descent'
agricultura lignicole lignicultura 'cultivation of wood'
microcosmic pseudoclassic pseudocosmic 'pseudocosmic'


A considerable number of words occur so frequently in compounds that their compounding form (together with the compounding vowel if any) differs little from a prefix or suffix. Those to be used freely in any meaningful combination with another element (which may but need not occur in traditional compounds) are listed below followed by one or several traditional examples and new formations. They will prove especially useful for various scientific and technical requirements. Cf. also §164 below.

First elements or prefixes.

(combining form of aere 'air'), e.g.
aeronave 'airship,'
aerodynamic, aerostatica 'aerostatics'
new formations:
aeropression 'air pressure'
aerophobia, aerotherapia 'aerotherapy,'
aerotransporto 'air transport'
('arch-, archi-'), e.g.
archiepiscopo 'archbishop'
new formations:
archidarwinista 'arch-Darwinist'
archilegal 'archlegal, legal beyond the shadow of a doubt'
(combining form of electric, electricitate, etc. 'electric, electricity, etc.'), e.g.
electromotor, electrotherapia 'electrotherapy'
new formations:
electropropulsion 'propulsion by electricity'
electropiano 'electric piano'
(combining form of eque with the meaning of equal 'equal, equally'), e.g.
equilateral, equivaler 'to be equivalent'
new formations:
equicurvate 'having two equal curves'
equisonantia 'equal sounding'
('other, different'), e.g.
new formation:
heteroracial 'of different races'
(before vowels hom-; 'same'), e.g.
homologe 'homologous', homocentric
new formations:
homolithic 'consisting of the same stone'
homopersonal 'having one person'
(before vowels home-; 'like, similar'), e.g.
new formations:
homeolithic 'consisting of similar stone'
homeoracial 'of similar races'
('water'), e.g.
hydroelectric, hydrocephalo 'hydrocephalus'
new formations:
hydrosaturate 'water-saturated'
hydrochimia 'chemistry of water'
(synonym of equi-; 'equal'), e.g.
isometric, isodynamic
new formations:
isoradial 'having equal radii'
isoglotte 'speaking the same language'
('long, large,' often contrasted with micro-), e.g.
macroscopic, macroseismo 'major earthquake'
new formations:
macroorganismo 'large organism (visible to the naked eye)'
macropetale 'large-petaled'
('small; microscopic,' often contrasted with macro-), e.g.
microcosmo 'microcosm',
microcephale 'small-skulled'
new formations:
microcellular 'of microscopic cells,'
microphono 'microphone'
('new, modern'), e.g.
neolatin, neonato 'new-born baby'
new formations:
neo-jeffersonismo 'neo-Jeffersonianism'
(combining form of omne 'all, every'), e.g.
omnivore 'eating anything,'
omnipotente 'onmipotent'
new formations:
omniaudiente 'hearing everything,'
omniprotector 'all-protector'
('old, ancient'; often contrasted with neo-), e.g.
new formations:
paleohistoria 'early history,'
paleoindoeuropean 'primitive Indo-European'
('including all'), e.g.
panamerican 'Pan-American'
new formations:
pandualismo 'universal dualism,'
panarchia 'universal rule'
(1. 'light'; 2. 'photography'), e.g.
photographia 'photography'
new formations:
photoanalyse 'analysis of or by means of light'
photosculptura 'photosculpture'
('first, primitive, prototypal'), e.g.
prototypo 'prototype'
new formations:
protoreligion 'prototype of religion'
('pseudo-'), e.g.
new formations:
pseudohuman 'pseudohuman(e),'
pseudotolerantia 'pseudotolerance'
('quasi-'), e.g.
quasi-delicto 'quasi delict'
new formations:
quasi-ver 'quasi true,'
quasi-confidentia 'quasi trust'
(1. 'ray'; 2. 'radio'), e.g.
radiographia 'x-ray photography'
radiodiffunder 'to broadcast'
new formations:
radiotheoria 'ray theory'
radiopropaganda 'radio publicity'
('far off'), e.g.
telescopio 'telescope,'
new formations:
telediffunder 'to broadcast long-distance,'
teleanalyse 'analysis at a distance'

Second elements or suffixes.

Note: The initial vowels indicated in the form below are the norm. In combinations with first elements which have an established compounding pattern, the normal vowel may disappear or be replaced by another. e.g. tele- (which enters into compounds without a compounding vowel) plus -ometro would yield telemetro.

('killer'), e.g.
matricida 'killer of his mother'
new formations:
bufonicida 'toad killer,'
draconicida 'dragon killer'
('killing'), e.g.
matricidio 'killing of one's mother'
new formations:
odoricidio 'killing of odors,'
hippicidio 'killing of horses'
('mad'), e.g.
megalomane 'megalomaniac (adj.)'
new formations:
alcoholomane 'alcohol-craving,'
telephonomane 'madly addicted to the use of the telephone.'
Note: The derivatives -omano 'a man thus afflicted,' -omana 'a woman thus afflicted,' and -omania 'the affliction itself' may likewise be used as suffixes.
('measuring instrument'), e.g.
serometro 'serometer'
new formations:
crystallometro 'crystallometer,'
cardiometro 'cardiometer'
(1. 'instrument that writes or records'; 2. '-grapher'), e.g.
seismographo 'seismograph,'
biographo 'biographer'
new formations:
heliographo 'heliograph,'
fluxographo 'instrument measuring quantity or speed of flow.'
Note: The derivative -ographia 'system or technique of recording' may likewise be used as a suffix.
('-ologue, -ologer, -ologist'), graphologo 'graphologist'
new formations:
petroleologo 'oil expert'
scientiologo 'student of the organization of the sciences.'
Note: The derivative -ologia 'science' may likewise be used as a suffix.
('loving, fond of'; often contrasted with -ophobe), e.g.
bibliophile (adj.)
new formations:
heliophile 'fond of the sun,'
palestinophile 'Palestinophile.'
Note: The derivatives -ophilo 'a man thus characterized,' -ophila 'a woman thus characterized,' and -ophilia 'the tendency itself' may likewise be used as suffixes.
('fearing, disliking'; often contrasted with -ophile), e.g.
new formation:
hispanophobe 'Hispanophobe.'
Note: The derivatives -ophobo 'a man thus characterized,' -ophoba 'a woman thus characterized,' and -ophobia 'the tendency itself' may likewise be used as suffixes.
('-oscopist'), e.g.
cranioscopo 'cranioscopist'
new formation:
röntgenoscopo 'x-ray examiner.'
Note: The derivatives -oscopio 'the instrument serving the -oscopist,' -oscopia 'the field of study,' and -oscopic 'pertaining to the study' may likewise be used as suffixes.


On compound numerals, cf. §119 above; on numerals as compounding elements §128.

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