Bahuvrihi compound

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Bahuvrihi compound is a term first used by the Sanskrit grammarians to refer to a particular type of compound, viz. compounds that lack a phonologically visible head, and which predominantly refer to pejorative properties of human beings.


In regular compounds such as bloedneus 'bloody nose' the word neus functions as the head, and bloed as the modifier which attributes a property to the head neus, viz. that it is bleeding. Bahuvrihi compounds like wijsneus 'wise guy' (lit. 'wise nose') or roodhuid 'redskin' (='Native American') are crucially different in this respect. A wijsneus is not a nose that is wise.


To distinguish between both types of compounds, the term endocentric compound is used for compounds such as bloedneus, while the term bahuvrihi compound or exocentric compound is used for compounds such as wijsneus.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Kiparsky, P. 1982. From Cyclic Phonology to Lexical Phonology. In van der Hulst, H. & Smith, N. (eds.) The Structure of Phonological Representations I, 131-175.
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Other languages

German Bahuvrihi-Kompositum