I'm thinking similar to a compound word, but you could break the word at a different or multiple places.

Granted I cannot think of a real-world example, but I have included two situations where this has happened.

If I had a domain name that was photospork.com, this could be interpreted as:

  • photo + spork, a gallery of a cutlery collector's obsession with sporks, or
  • photos + pork, a culinary site dedicated to showing users the best cuts of pork.

Another example is when I named a work project toolscore, which can again be represented as either:

  • tools + core, to represent the core component of the tools, or
  • tool + score, to show the highest score reached using that tool.
  • 6
    – Robusto
    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:12
  • Must it be an already established word or term, or would a good neologism be acceptable?
    – user98990
    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:19
  • @LittleEva it could be either a neologism or a 'traditional' word, as long as it can break into two (or more) 'words'. I've used the above as an example. Do you have any in mind to throw into the mix?
    – eggy
    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:25
  • 3
    I think Robusto's redivider link is the right answer. Whether you like it or no tis a not hers tory.
    – Jim
    Feb 11, 2015 at 5:15
  • 1
    I don't think it is a "dupe" but "related" as Robusto put it.
    – ermanen
    Feb 11, 2015 at 5:34

2 Answers 2


Psycholinguist Gary Libben coined a term for these kind of compounds: ambiguous novel compound.

Ambiguous novel compounds are strings such as clamprod which have two possible parses (in this case clam-prod and clamp-rod).

["Ambiguous Novel Compounds and Models of Morphological Parsing" Gary Libben, Bruce L. Derwing, and Roberto G. de Almeida, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada]

It is not a well-established term yet but it seems like it is an accepted term in morphological studies. There are several publications using Libben's term and mentioning his experiments regarding morphological parsing.

One of the publications is "The Oxford Handbook of Derivational Morphology" edited by Rochelle Lieber, Pavol Štekaue and below is an excerpt about ambiguous novel compounds from the book:

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A 2003 article by Eric Shackle (to which I contributed some examples) referred to words that can be broken into two smaller unrelated words as hyp-hens. It noted that prior to widespread use of computer word processors, newspapers often broke words over a line at an inappropriate point, sometimes generating two new words that on occasion bring about an amusing change in the meaning of the sentence.

Here are some more examples of so-called hyp-hens in English:

  • bed-raggled
  • brains-canner
  • broke-rage
  • cart-ridge
  • diver-gent
  • gene-rations
  • leg-end
  • male-diction
  • man-aging
  • mans-laughter
  • men-swear
  • mess-age
  • mist-rust
  • past-oral
  • plum-age
  • pronoun-cement
  • prose-cute
  • red-raft
  • red-raw
  • stars-truck
  • surge-on
  • the-rapist
  • wee-knight
  • yell-ow

Some words even offer the possibility to be hyp-hens in more than one way:

  • ram-page or ramp-age
  • his-tory or hi-story
  • 1
    while reading that article I wonder how they didn't include "no-tables" while mentioning "not-ables" 😮
    – archo
    Aug 13, 2021 at 16:15

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