1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Plural of Italian Compound Nouns

Plurale dei Nomi Composti


In Italian, compounding (or word-compounding or composition) is a widely used linguistics process, which involves joining two or more different words to create a new word. Italian nouns formed in this way are called compound nouns (nomi composti).

Forming the plural of Italian compound nouns depends upon the types of words used to create them. Here are the most common cases:

Noun + Noun / Sostantivo + Sostantivo

  • Compound nouns formed from two nouns only change the second element into the plural:


l'arcobaleno—gli arcobaleni

la ferrovia—le ferrovie

la banconota—le banconote

la madreperla—le madreperle

il cavolfiore—i cavolfiori

l'autostrada—le autostrade

Compound nouns with the word capo (boss, head) do not always behave the same way.

» In some cases the second element is pluralized: il capogiro—i capogiri, il capolavoro—i capolavori, il capoverso—i capoversi.

» In many other instances the first element is usually changed into the plural (especially when capo means "person who is in charge of something"): il capobanda—i capibanda, il capoclasse—i capiclasse, il capofamiglia—i capifamiglia, il capolista—i capilista, il capopopolo—i capipopolo, il caposcuola—i capiscuola, il caposquadra—i capisquadra, il capostazione—i capistazione, il capotavola—i capitavola, il capoufficio—i capiufficio.

» When the compound noun is feminine, it remains unchanged in the plural: la capoclasse—le capoclasse, la capolista—le capoliste, la caposquadra—le caposquadra, la capotavola—le capotavola.

Noun + Adjective / Sostantivo + Aggettivo

  • Compound nouns formed from a noun followed by an adjective change both elements into the plural:


il caposaldo—i capisaldi

il pellerossa—i pellirosse

la cartastraccia—le cartestracce
scrap paper—scrap paper

la piazzaforte—le piazzeforti

la cassaforte—le casseforti

But palcoscenico becomes palcoscenici; pellerossa can also remain unchanged: i pellerossa.

Adjective + Noun / Aggettivo + Sostantivo
  • Compound nouns formed from an adjective followed by a noun only change the second element into the plural:


l'altoparlante—gli altoparlanti

il bassorilievo—i bassorilievi

il francobollo—i francobolli
postage stamp—postage stamps

il mezzogiorno—i mezzogiorni

There are also exceptions in this instance: la mezzaluna—le mezzelune, la mezzanotte—le mezzenotti, la mezzatinta—le mezzetinte, il purosangue—i purosangue (invariabile)

Verb + Noun / Verbo + Sostantivo

  • Compound nouns formed from a verb and a noun behave differently depending on whether the noun is singular or plural.
  • If the noun is plural, the compound noun remains unchanged:

l'accendisigari—gli accendisigari

il lustrascarpe—i lustrascarpe
shoe shine—shoe shines

il cavatappi—i cavatappi

il portaombrelli—i portaombrelli

il guastafeste—i guastafeste

lo stuzzicadenti—gli stuzzicadenti

  • If the noun is singular, the compound noun can take the plural ending or remain unchanged. It takes the plural ending when the noun element is masculine:

il battibecco—i battibecchi

il parafango—i parafanghi

il parafulmine—i parafulmini
lightning rod—lightning rods

il passaporto—i passaporti

  • It remains unchanged when the noun element is feminine:

l'aspirapolvere—gli aspirapolvere
vacuum cleaner—vacuum cleaners

il portacenere—i portacenere

il cacciavite—i cacciavite

il salvagente—i salvagente
life jacket—life jackets

Verb + Verb and Verb + Adverb / Verbo + Verbo e Verbo + Avverbio

  • Compound nouns formed from two verbs or a verb and an adverb are invariable in the plural:
l'andirivieni—gli andirivieni
comings and goings—comings and goings


il saliscendi—i saliscendi

il dormiveglia—i dormiveglia

il posapiano—i posapiano

il parapiglia—i parapiglia

il viavai—i viavai
comings and goings—comings and goings

Preposition or Adverb + Noun / Preposizione o Avverbio + Sostantivo

  • Nouns formed from a preposition and a noun or an adverb and a noun are not technically compound nouns but prefixed nouns. They do not follow a uniform rule; some remain the same, while others change the ending of the second element:

il doposcuola—i doposcuola
after-school activity—after-school activities

il senzatetto—i senzatetto

il retroterra—i retroterra

il sottoscala—i sottoscala
closet under the stairs—closets under the stairs

il dopopranzo—i dopopranzi

il sottopassaggio—i sottopassaggi

la soprattassa—le soprattasse

la sottoveste—le sottovesti

There are also nouns formed from more than two elements, among them those comopund nouns consisting of two nouns joined by a preposition, such as: ficodindia (prickly pear), fiordaliso (cornflower), messinscena (mise-en-scène), which in the plural become: fichidindia, fiordalisi, and messinscene.

One case in particular is the noun pomodoro (tomato), which has three plurals: pomodori, pomidori (popular), pomidoro (regional).

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Italian Language
  4. Grammar
  5. Plural of Italian Compound Nouns

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.