Cool Compound Words: Engaging Readers With the Details

Happy Friday, everyone!


Dumbledore quote from the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Have you ever noticed that compound words sound cooler than ordinary words? Like…Darkshore. Silverglass. Nightstorm. Don’t they just make you want to know more?

Authors, particularly in the speculative fiction genres, often make up compound words like these to add an element of intrigue to their works. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood series. (Ah, did you notice—”Goldstone”?) Some of the book titles are compound words, including my personal favorite, Starflower. There are also other compound names within the stories, such as “Farthestshore.”
  • Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive. (Ahem. “Stormlight.”) Sanderson uses a plethora of compound words in this series, including “Blackthorn,” “Highstorm,” and “Soulcaster.” And they all have the intended effect of sounding super cool.
  • A host of other books including Morgan L. Busse’s upcoming Ravenwood Saga (which sounds SO good, can’t wait for the release) and Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings trilogy, which has a kind of magic called “bloodvoicing.”

The point is, compound words are everywhere in fiction, and they can really spice up a story and draw in readers. Only you can decide if such words will benefit your story, but just for fun, I’ve created a list of words that lend themselves to epic compounds! This is by no means a complete list, but see what you come up with by combining some of these words:

  • Animals and Related Words (only a small sample of the possibilities!)
    • Bear
    • Claw
    • Dove
    • Eagle
    • Fang
    • Feather
    • Hawk
    • Lion
    • Snake (can also be more specific, like “viper”)
    • Talon
    • Wolf
  • Landscape
    • Dell (a.k.a. valley)
    • Dust
    • Flower
    • Leaf
    • Mount (the short form of “mountain” lends itself more to compound words)
    • Rock
    • Sand
    • Stone
    • Thorn
    • Vale (valley again!)
    • Wood (can be used to indicate the material or as a synonym for “forest”)
  • Shiny Things and Metals
    • Bronze
    • Copper
    • Gem (can also use specifics, like “ruby” or “onyx”)
    • Glass
    • Gold
    • Iron
    • Jewel
    • Mirror
    • Silver
    • Steel
  • Space, Sky, and Light (or lack thereof)
    • Dark
    • Day
    • Dusk
    • Light
    • Moon
    • Night
    • Shine
    • Sky
    • Smoke
    • Star
    • Wind
  • Water Words
    • Ice
    • Mere (an old-fashioned word for a body of water. Think “Mirrormere” in Tolkien’s Middle-earth.)
    • Mire
    • Mist
    • Rain
    • River
    • Sea
    • Shore
    • Snow
    • Storm
  • Other
    • Blood
    • Brew
    • Clan
    • Heir
    • Song
    • Veil
    • Wing

What were some of the best combinations that you came up with? Can you think of some good “base” words that I didn’t include on this list? Have fun and leave me a comment below!

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