William Faulkner's Fabulous Compound Words

There are a lot of compound words in the English language which, really, I've not paid much attention to--southbound, moonlit, hardworking, lifetime, somewhat, schoolboy, Frenchman, barefoot, underclothes, outdoor, singsong, stairway, to name just a few.
While reading Light in August last month I noticed that William Faulkner takes quite the artistic and linguistic liberty with compound words.  The pages are littered with them--delightfully odd ones, too.
I loved it.  I thought it was brilliant.  It made me want to invent my own compound words!  Why not?!
I did a little googling to see if I could come across a list of Faulkner's splendid compound words, but didn't really find what I was looking for.  So, I am making my own list to post, solely from Light In August--though I am told this is part of his signature style.  It is far from being a comprehensive list.  I didn't notice the trend until I was a good ways into the book.  I didn't start writing them down until near the last third of it.  But, I think the following samples illustrate their marvelousness nonetheless.  All the "example" sentences using the compound words are mine.  I just thought it would be helpful to have them in context, but didn't feel like tracking down each word in the text in order to present them with Faulkner's context.
scarceused - The old car was scarceused.
inwardlistening - She sat quitely, inwardlistening.
downglare - They were standing in the downglare of the street lamp.
hardmuscled - The young man was hardmuscled.
swolebellied - She was swolebellied with pregnancy.
softcolored - There were two lovely, softcolored flowers.
quietlooking - She was a quietlooking woman.
stonevisaged - The stonevisaged minister spoke softly at first.
parchmentcolored - He was a man with parchmentcolored skin
chanceso - I'd chanceso that was the case.
oftwashed - He loved the old, oftwashed coat.
mansmelling - The house was mansmelling and dank.
farmbred - She was a hardworking, farmbred girl.
liplifted - He sat, liplifted, in concentration.
countrywoman - He liked a plain, simple countrywoman.
moongleaned - The moongleaned waters lapped at the boat's hull.
ironcold - His gaze was ironcold.
downfalling - The steady downfalling snow was magical.
manshape - His manshape was silhouetted against the sky.
pinkcolored - She is known for her pinkcolored hair.
softungirdled - The woman appeared, softungirdled in her nightdress.
manstale - Without a woman around the house it had grown manstale.
foreknowledge - His foreknowledge of the events was helpful.
womansuffering - He was not sympathetic to womansuffering.
backlooking - Life is too short to spend it backlooking.
oftenbrushed - The horse's oftenbrushed coat shone brilliantly.
flatvoiced - His reply was flatvoiced.
yetgray - They rose in the yetgray light of morning.
forwardlooking - She sat sternly forwardlooking on the bench.
chocolatecolored - They have a chocolatecolored dog.
threeday - He needed to shave his threeday's stubble.
downlooking - He was downlooking and mournful.
upflare - The logs crackled with the upflare of the flames.
overladen - The car was overladen with luggage and passengers.
oftenwashed - Her shiny, oftenwashed hair was her pride.
pleasantfaced - He was a pleasantfaced fellow.
womanfilth - The preacher railed against the temptations of womanfilth.
sootgrimed - The fireplace was quite sootgrimed with use.
pinkwomansmelling - Her room was tidy and pinkwomansmelling.
leatherlooking - The old man's leatherlooking hands were warm.
stonefaced - They both sat there stonefaced.
lightcolored - She prefered the lightcolored dress.
cabinshapes - All we could make out in the darkness were cabinshapes.
stillwinged - They were motionless, like stillwinged birds.
Augusttremulous - The Augusttremulous morning light is fleeting.
ranklyodored - They avoided the ranklyodored dog.
spreadkneed - He squated down, spreadkneed, upon the ground.
brasshaired - She was a pretty, brasshaired young lady.
diamondsurfaced - His demeanor was diamondsurfaced and untouchable.
countrybred - They exhibited countrybred manners.
icecold - He stared at the man with eyes icecold.
womanroom - He looked around the clean, bright womanroom with awe.
manvoice - His booming manvoice startled them.
faceup - She set the book on the table faceup.
pinkfoamed - The sun set over the pinkfoamed waves.
womanshenegro - The womanshenegro rocked on the front porch.
wellkept - It was the family's deepest, most wellkept secret.
clashedto - They applauded the clashedto racket of the cymbals.
batebreathed - He was batebreathed and nervous in anticipation.
supperward - Before long they were headed supperward home.
childtrebling - I called the police with childtrebling hands.
inyawned - The door opened, inyawned, and she greeted us warmly.
duskfilled - The duskfilled room was cold and lonely.
cinderstrewnpacked - The refinery lot was cinderstrewnpacked and empty.
My favorite?  I think its too hard to say.  I would probably have to lobby for '"cinderstrewnpacked," and "pinkwomansmelling," on account of their triple-compound-word awesomeness.  I don't know that I'd ever have the chance to use them in regular, day-to-day conversation, but I think they're pretty neat words.  I believe "yetgray," and "mansmelling," might be able to work their way into my regular vocabulary though!  What a wonderful way to play with language!


  1. Wow! What a list - I think you're on to something. And I like the catcharmed photos. :)

    1. I was pretty wordsmitten. It seemed a list was in order. Maybe other people are wordsmitten, too. And Ginger goes with everything, right?! Thanks for joining in.

  2. There were decidedly fewer unusually compound words in The Sound and the Fury. I jotted down:


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!

Popular Posts