In this answer, the term "cutthroat compound" was mentioned as a name for the group of words like "scarecrow", which is neither part describes a specific kind of the other part. (A scarecrow is neither a kind of scare nor a kind of crow.)

That led me to wonder what the term for compounds like "cutthroat compound" is. A cutthroat compound is not a compound that is cutthroat, but a word that has a similar construction to the term "cutthroat".

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    Cutthroat compound is a perfectly regular endocentric noun + noun compound, the most common and productive type in English. The first element in such compounds has a very broad range of possible interpretations – the most basic is simple attributive description, but just about anything goes, as long as a connection can be made between them. Tennis shoes are not shoes which are tennis, but shoes used for tennis; tea leaves are leaves made of (or harvested from) tea; sales prices are prices applied during a sale; and ‘cutthroat’ compounds are compounds formed like ‘cutthroat’. Aug 13, 2021 at 22:17
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    The Sanskrit grammarians used the same kinds of names -- _bahuvrihi, tatpurusha, dvandva,, etc. Mnemonics are more useful than technical terms. Until they become technical terms.
    – jlawler
    Aug 14, 2021 at 1:24
  • Dvandva is always the first term that pops into my head for things like this (whether it's applicable or not :) )
    – chepner
    Aug 30, 2021 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


At the risk of not actually answering your questions, I suggest

autological (or sometimes autologous or homological) - something that describes itself

and 'autological' is an example of its own meaning, it does describe itself.

As there are other words like 'short' or 'multisyllabic' that also describe themselves, 'autological' seems to be a word that describes the entire set, including itself

As a very different kind of word and closer in idea to 'cutthroat' is the term:

tosspot word.

A tosspot is an archaic term for someone who, in tossing a pot, is considered a drunkard. By metonymy (or is it schenectady?), a tosspot -word-, or simply a tosspot, is a word that collapses a verb and direct object into a single word, like cutthroat, pickpocket, clambake, turncoat, and of course tosspot. So tosspot is an example of a tosspot word, the example becoming the group word, the hypernym.


@chepner Also, this case is possible to describe as 'self-reference word':


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