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Title: Bahuvrihi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sarasvati River, Navaratna, Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi, Vyakarana, Proto-Indo-European numerals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A bahuvrihi compound (from Sanskrit बहुव्रीहि, bahuvrīhi, literally meaning "much rice" but denoting a rich man) is a type of compound that denotes a referent by specifying a certain characteristic or quality the referent possesses. A bahuvrihi is exocentric, so that the compound is not a hyponym of its head. For instance, a sabretooth (smil-odon) is neither a sabre nor a tooth, but a feline with sabre-like teeth.

In Sanskrit bahuvrihis, the last constituent is a noun, more strictly, a nominal stem, while the whole compound is an adjective. In Vedic Sanskrit the accent is regularly on the first member (tatpurusha rāja-pútra "a king's son", but bahuvrihi rājá-putra "having kings as sons", viz. rājá-putra-, m., "father of kings", rājá-putrā-, f., "mother of kings"), with the exception of a number of non-nominal prefixes such as the privative a; the word bahuvrīhí is itself likewise an exception to this rule.

In English bahuvrihis, the last constituent is usually a noun, while the whole compound is a noun or an adjective. Accent is on the first constituent. English bahuvrihis often describe people using synecdoche: flatfoot, half-wit, highbrow, lowlife, redhead, tenderfoot, longlegs, and white-collar.


  • "Houndstooth", a woven fabric with a patterns resembling dog's teeth: "She's wearing houndstooth."
  • "Old money", members from established upper-class who have usually inherited their wealth: "He's definitely old money."
  • "Bluestocking", an educated, intellectual or artistically accomplished woman: "Auntie Maud will never marry; she's a bluestocking."

Non-English examples

See also

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