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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Spanish has quite a few compound nouns of a type not so commonly seen in the other Romance languages. They are formed with verb in the 3rd-person singular present + a noun in the plural. The noun is understood as the object of the verb, but the compound designates neither the verb nor its object, but the subject (the one that does the verb to the object) or the instrument (what one would use to do the verb to the object.) Despite the final plural suffix (which is likely to be confusing to non-native speakers), the compound is regularly a singular noun, and it is of masculine gender regardless of the gender of the component noun. Thus the verb mata ‘(he/she/it) kills’ combines with moscas ‘flies(feminine plural)’ to form matamoscas ‘flyswatter (masculine singular)’.

A close equivalent in English would be the noun sawbones, meaning ‘(frontier) doctor’. Other nouns like scarecrow or pickpocket are similar except that their component noun is singular.

As with certain other Spanish words ending in s, the plural form of these words is the same as the singular: el matamoscas, ‘the flyswatter’ los matamoscas ‘the flyswatters’. If the noun refers to a female, it will be feminine: thus a female movie-star would be una matahombres ‘a knock-out, mankiller’, not un matahombres. Sometimes, especially when the object is a mass noun or has a unique referent, it is singular, and forms its plural in the more standard way: e.g. mirasol (sees-sun) ‘sunflower’, mirasoles ‘sunflowers’.

The construction is quite productive, and new examples are not uncommon.

Here is a list of such words which do not yet have entries in Wiktionary.

  1. asaltabancos
  2. buscapleitos
  3. calientabraguetas
  4. calientahuevos
  5. calientapollas
  6. cantamañanas
  7. Cantarranas
  8. chotacabras
  9. chupacirios
  10. comepiedras
  11. converticombis
  12. correcaminos
  13. cortabolsas
  14. cubreasientos "seat cover - (car or toilet), not in RAE"
  15. cupalámparas
  16. cortaplumas
  17. descansabrazos
  18. escurreplatos
  19. espantacucarachas
  20. espantasuegras
  21. friegaplatos
  22. guardagujas
  23. guardallamas
  24. lavacoches
  25. lavaautos, lava autos "car wash" Mexico, not in RAE -- seems not to be set
  26. lavamanchas
  27. lavaparabrisas
  28. lavatrastes
  29. limpiabrisas "windscreen/windshield wiper (washer?)", not in RAE
  30. limpiacristales
  31. manchamanteles "tablechloth stainer" - a type of mole sauce
  32. mata-avispas
  33. mataburros
  34. matacandelas
  35. matabichos
  36. matacucarachas
  37. matahambres
  38. matahormigas
  39. matalombrices
  40. matamanchas
  41. matamoros
  42. Matamoros "Moor-killer" - a family name
  43. matamoscas
  44. mataniños
  45. mataperros
  46. matapolicías
  47. matarratas
  48. matasanos
  49. matasuegras
  50. mondadientes
  51. montacargas
  52. paragolpes
  53. pasamontañas "ski mask"
  54. pasarríos
  55. Picapiedras
  56. portamonedas
  57. portapapeles
  58. portatrajes
  59. portaviandas
  60. posavasos
  61. prensapapas
  62. quemacocos
  63. quemadiscos
  64. robacoches
  65. robaniños
  66. robautos
  67. rompehielos "icebreaker"
  68. rompemuellas "speed bump"
  69. sacabocados "punch"
  70. sacabotas "bootjack"
  71. sacaclavos "pincers"
  72. sacacorazones "apple corer"
  73. sacacuartos "racket"
  74. sacadineros "racket"
  75. sacadólares
  76. sacafaltas "faultfinder"
  77. sacamanchas
  78. sacamantecas
  79. sacamuelas "tooth-puller"
  80. sacaniguas "squib" (certain areas only)
  81. saltaparedes
  82. salvabarros "mudguard"
  83. salvamanteles "tablemat"
  84. salvapantallas "screensaver"
  85. salvaplatos "tablemat"
  86. secamanos "hand dryer"
  87. soplacausas "incompetent lawyer"
  88. soplagaitas "idiot"
  89. soplamocos "blow"
  90. soplapollas "berk"
  91. sujetapapeles "paperclip"
  92. suplefaltas "scapegoat"
  93. tapaboquetes "stopgap"
  94. tapagrietas "filler"
  95. tapagujeros, tapaagujeros "jerrybuilder; substitute"
  96. tapaporos "primer"
  97. tejemanejes
  98. tirachinas "catapult", "slingshot"
  99. tiragomas "catapult"
  100. tiralevitas "bootlicker"
  101. tiralíneas "drawing pen"
  102. toca-DVDs
  103. tomavistas "cine camera"
  104. trabacuentas "miscalculation"
  105. trabapalancas
  106. tragabalas "braggart" (certain areas only)
  107. tragafuegos "fire-eater"
  108. tragaldabas "glutton"
  109. tragaleguas "quick walker"
  110. tragamonedas "slot-machine", "coin slot"
  111. tragaperras "slot-machine"
  112. tragasables "sword-swallower"
  113. tragasantos "excessively pious person"
  114. trepamonos
  115. trepatroncos
  116. trotamundos "globetrotter"
  117. tumbaburros
  118. vendehúmos
  119. vendemotos
  120. vendepatrias

See also


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