My question is a little broader than the title and applies to a term which is described by more than one "word". Is the term (in this case "ice cream") one word, or two?
Based on my research, the three dictionaries that I consulted, Merriam-Webster (MW), MacMillian (MM), and the Oxford Dictionary (OX) all seem to provide some leeway in expressing exactly what a word is and if it must be delimited by spaces and/or punctuation. See definitions below:
MW(b)(2): "any segment of written or printed discourse ordinarily appearing between spaces or between a space and a punctuation mark"
OX 1a: "single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed"
MM 1: "[countable] a single unit of written or spoken language"
MW and OX use words like typically and ordinarily indicating that there is the possibility for multi-word words, but don't exactly provide sample sentences with any. Even MM doesn't quite spell out what comprises a single unit. However, I would argue that "ice cream" independently, that is, taken as two separate words, is two units of language, rather than one.
Even in looking up compound word examples, these are delimited by a space on either side, that is, condensed into one clear-cut word by means of placement (such as backstab) or they use a hyphen (such as white-collar).
With this predicament in mind and as a yes or no question (providing justification), is "ice cream" as is, no hyphen and not stuck together as "icecream" or "ice-cream", one word, or two?