“Outside, he saw the VonBraun-wheel-designed space station orbiting the Earth.”

(As a side note, I do not study the English language, I'm merely an amateur writer)

A “VonBraun wheel” is an idea, and thus a noun, except, it is also two nouns combined together to create a new noun with a different meaning. I'm trying to say that something is noun-verbed, denoting that connection with a hyphen (as taught in HS). Examples being black-colored, water-washed, etc.

I'm arguing with myself whether it should be as it is, or: “... VonBraun wheel-designed ...” or “... VonBraun wheel designed ...” or “... VonBraun-wheel designed ...”

1 Answer 1


I don't think any of your examples make sense; they're not phrases that one hears or reads very often. "XXX-colored" and "XXX-designed" are not the same thing, but it's difficult to explain why. (But first, we'll set aside the fact that "XXX-colored" is unnecessary—a "red-colored car" is just a "red car.")

  1. In "red-colored," "red" is an adjective and "colored" a participle, so this is an adjective-participle compound modifier (or maybe an adjective-adjective compound modifier). So a "red-colored car" is a car that is red.
  2. In "water-washed," "water" is a noun and "washed" is a participle, so this is (you guessed it) a noun-participle compound modifier. A "water-washed deck" is a deck washed with water.
  3. "VonBraun-wheel-designed space station," however, means "a space station designed by VonBraun wheel" or possibly "a space station wheel-designed by VonBraun" (neither of which makes sense). "Designed" is not necessary. You could just call it a "VonBraun-wheel space station." If you must have "designed," you could say "a space station designed like a VonBraun wheel" or "a space station designed in the form of a VonBraun wheel."

In any case, you can read more about compound modifiers here:


or here:


  • Compound modifiers have very diverse semantic properties, but I'd agree that the candidate here is best ditched rapidly. Nov 4, 2017 at 12:51

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