I've seen both being used, so I'm having a hard time telling which one is correct. Logic dictates that it's supposed to be "multi-elemental" and "multi-attributed," considering we have "multicolored," "multiparous," and "multilateral," so you should use -adjective, but then I thought about how we have five-story buildings, three-star restaurants, and the like, in which we have -noun, so that threw me for a loop (and it doesn't help that there's an entry for "multielement" in the Merrian-Webster online dictionary).

On a related note, would the answer of this question also apply when multi- is replaced by another term, such as fire- or light- (as in, fire-attributed [or fire-elemental] damage), or is multi- a special case?

Below are some examples, for reference. Rather embarrassing ones, I guess, given the lack of context, but they are the situations I have in mind, in any case.

  • He suffered multielemental/multielement (multiattribute/multiattributed) damage.
  • That is a fire-attribute/attributed spell.
  • A multielement/multielemental (multiattribute/multiattributed) sigil. (In other words, a sigil comprised of multiple elements.)

If it helps, the meaning "element" has in the sentences above is the following (taken from the Cambridge Dictionary):

Earth, air, fire, and water from which people in the past believed everything else was made

And yes, before anyone comments on it, I know that when using "fire," "light," and similar terms, I can just remove -attribute/attributed (-element/elemental) and use those terms directly as adjectives, but I also want to have the option to use them as compound words.

  • I think in the context of having multiple attributes attribute is a noun, and multi-attribute sounds right to me. You mentioned multicoloured, but note that multicolour is also a word.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 0:17
  • @nnnnnn Thanks for the input! You're right. I've just confirmed it: most dictionaries have entries for both multicolour and multicoloured, and their meanings are stated to be literally the same. Lovely. Regarding attributes, I see where you're coming from. Do you think that'd also apply to elements? Moreover, when there's only a single attribute as opposed to multiple ones, as I mentioned in the last paragraph (such as fire- or light-), would you still consider attribute a noun, thus leading to the usage of -attribute instead of -attributed?
    – user398789
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 0:29
  • I think context will matter, but I'm not clear on how you want to use these terms. Can you perhaps edit your question to include some full sentence examples?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 1:11
  • @nnnnnn Done. I'm not sure of how much help it'll be, considering they pertain to a very specific domain of fiction, but I was hoping a parallel could be drawn between them and the grammar rules regarding the structure of compound words.
    – user398789
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately the lack of context does not help, however,


Elemental, B. noun. An entity or a force which is regarded by occultists as capable of producing physical manifestations.

1894 H. Nisbet Bush Girl's Romance 235 So that we may not be horrified or shy aside at the sight of the strange beings and elementals that surround us.

Since the definition was written in 1891, the term has often been used in horror stories and the like – An elemental is basically a supernatural and invisible intelligence that can cause things to happen in the real world[1], e.g. make tables move, cause wind to blow, turn on electrical appliances, create the spirits of demons, ghosts of the dead and living, etc.

To avoid misunderstandings, I would not therefore use “elemental” in your context if the story were concerned with “magic” in general unless it were connected to such supernatural beings.

[1] allegedly

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