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Etymology 1[edit]

Possibly from Malay kampong, kampung (group of buildings, village), via Dutch or Portuguese [1].


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkɒmpaʊnd/
    • (file)
  • (US) enPR: kŏm'pound, IPA(key): /ˈkɑmpaʊnd/


compound (plural compounds)

  1. An enclosure within which workers, prisoners, or soldiers are confined
  2. An enclosure for secure storage.
    • 2020 December 2, “Network News: News in brief: More cycle spaces”, in Rail, page 27:
      A total of 75 cycle spaces are being installed at three Greater Anglia stations - [...]. And a secure compound for bicycles is being built at Cambridge North.
  3. A group of buildings situated close together, e.g. for a school or block of offices
    • 2019 March 7, Masayuki, Yuda, “Thai court: pro-Thaksin party must disband for nominating princess”, in Nikkei Asian Review[1], Nikkei Inc, retrieved 2019-03-07:
      Some 20 supporters managed to get inside the court compounds. About half an hour after the verdict was delivered, they gathered near the Constitutional Court entrance and shouted: "On March 24, use your pen to oust the dictator."

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English compounen, from Middle French componre, compondre (to put together), from Latin componō, from Latin com- (together) + ponō (to put).



compound (not comparable)

  1. composed of elements; not simple
    a compound word
    • 1725, Isaac Watts, Logick, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard
      Compound substances are made up of two or more simple substances.
  2. (mathematics) dealing with numbers of various denominations of quantity, or with processes more complex than the simple process
    compound addition; compound proportion
  3. (music) An octave higher than originally (i.e. a compound major second is equivalent to a major ninth).
  • (composed of elements): simple
Derived terms[edit]


compound (plural compounds)

  1. Anything made by combining several things.
  2. (chemistry, dated) A substance made from any combination elements.
  3. (chemistry) A substance formed by chemical union of two or more ingredients in definite proportions by weight.
  4. (linguistics) A lexeme that consists of more than one stem; compound word; for example laptop, formed from lap and top.
    • 2018, Clarence Green; James Lambert, “Position vectors, homologous chromosomes and gamma rays: Promoting disciplinary literacy through Secondary Phrase Lists”, in English for Specific Purposes, DOI:10.1016/j.esp.2018.08.004, page 8:
      Compositionally there is no great distinction between cell wall and cell surface, both are relatively transparent compounds, but both parts of the cell are of high significance in Biology due to their central role in cell functioning.
  5. (rail transport) a compound locomotive, a steam locomotive with both high-pressure and low-pressure cylinders.
    • 1961 March, "Balmore", “Driving and firing modern French steam locomotives”, in Trains Illustrated, page 148:
      From a dead stand, with regulator full open and the lever at about 50 per cent we got up to about 60 m.p.h. by the top of the bank. The big compound was making plenty of noise - but what musical and wonderful noise!


compound (third-person singular simple present compounds, present participle compounding, simple past and past participle compounded)

  1. (transitive) To form (a resulting mixture) by combining different elements, ingredients, or parts.
    to compound a medicine
  2. (transitive) To assemble (ingredients) into a whole; to combine, mix, or unite.
  3. (transitive) To modify or change by combination with some other thing or part; to mingle with something else.
  4. (transitive, law) To settle by agreeing on less than the claim, or on different terms than those stipulated.
    to compound a debt
  5. (transitive) To settle amicably; to adjust by agreement; to compromise.
  6. (intransitive) To come to terms of agreement; to agree; to settle by a compromise; usually followed by with before the person participating, and for before the thing compounded or the consideration.
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To compose; to constitute.
  8. (intransitive, finance) To increase in value with interest, where the interest is earned on both the principal sum and prior earned interest.
  9. (transitive) To worsen a situation.
    • 2020 April 12, Simon Tisdall, “US's global reputation hits rock-bottom over Trump's coronavirus response”, in The Guardian[2]:
      Europeans were already outraged by Trump’s reported efforts to acquire monopoly rights to a coronavirus vaccine under development in Germany. This latest example of nationalistic self-interest compounded anger across the EU over Trump’s travel ban, imposed last month without consultation or scientific justification.
  10. (horse racing, intransitive) Of a horse: to fail to maintain speed.
    • 1855, The Sporting Review (volume 34, page 240)
      At the hill, the Warrior must have been at least ten lengths in front of Wild Dayrell; but he compounded about 200 yards on the T. Y. C. side of the Red House.
Usage notes[edit]

The usage in sense 9 above, “to worsen a situation” is widespread but not wholly accepted. The original meaning of the word (see senses 4, 5 and 6 above) implies resolution of a problem, not worsening. It has been suggested (Fraser 1973) that the reverse usage arose by confusion with phrases such as compound interest.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, “compound”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.

Further reading[edit]