This question is inspired by the question of whether there is a single term for the sports surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding.

I think many native speakers would read this question and think the answer is "board sports", similar to how the question "What is a term for all the windows of a house?" would elicit the term "house windows".

When I searched Google, there was an overwhelming number of results for "board sports" that came from retailers of the said item type, but no dictionary entries (please correct me if I'm wrong). The term "board sports" seems "obvious" in the same way that the compound "front door" is, but this is a dictionary term.

Is there a term for an "obvious" but not (dictionary-)"accepted" compound/term such as "board sports"? I think it might be something like "lexical gap", but 865,000 results on Google when searching "board sports" with quotation marks suggests that the gap might be considered filled.

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    “Compound that happens not to have been included in dictionaries” is the best that comes to mind for me. There are likely thousands of such compounds, since compounding is a natural and extremely productive means of derivation in English. The compounds that happen to make it into dictionaries are just particularly commonly used (or were at some point, particularly in literature)—that doesn’t mean others are any less accepted, just that they might be narrower or rarer in usage. I’m a bit surprised dictionaries don’t have ‘board sport’, though. The OED has ‘racket sport’, for example. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 22:52
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Exactly my point. I can understand that it wouldn't be included on the basis of it having use in only a small, specific context, but then it seems the only logical term to use. Perhaps it is just awaiting longevity, if Ngrams is anything to go by: books.google.com/ngrams/….
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 22:58
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    I suppose, though surfing is fairly old, both skateboarding (1960s) and snowboarding (1980s) are relatively new sports—and other boards sports probably even newer; so the need to think of an umbrella term for them is fairly new. It seems to rise steeply from around 1995 onwards, so dictionaries may just not have come across it yet. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:08
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    Unlike ‘board sport’, though, ‘twerk’ (even if it may be short-lived and a fad) is absolutely huge at the moment—it’s everywhere. It’s also non-obvious: if you don’t know the word, you can’t guess what it means. Even if someone compiling for the OED comes across ‘board sport’, they may just not even consider that it might not already be there. It’s so obvious that they’re like as not to not even think about it as a possible lacuna. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:43
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    @Oldcat I think common usage speaks for itself. One refers to skateboards, surfboards, and snowboards. "Board" in "board sports" refers to the "board" being common to all of these. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/board
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


The term temporary compound fits:

A permanent compound is one that has been accepted into the general vocabulary and can be found in the dictionary. A temporary compound is a new combination created for some specific, often one-time purpose; such compounds, though some eventually become permanent, are not normally found in the dictionary. [Chicago Manual of Style, 7.78]

Admittedly, temporary compound lacks the connotation of being 'obvious,' but it fits the bill otherwise.

  • Yes, that seems pretty much what I'm looking for. My search reveals this from Merriam Webster: "Most compounds whose meanings are self–evident from the meanings of their component words also will not be listed in the dictionary, even if they are permanent and widely used." (merriam-webster.com/help/faq/compound.htm) "Self-evident" is what I meant by "obvious" and definitely a better term! "Temporary compound" seems itself to be a temporary compound, as does"permanent compound."
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 13:20

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