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Spanish Matters - a blog in English and Spanish for those learning the language

This blog is entitled "Spanish Matters", because it does! Matter, that is. If you have committed to living in Spain, you should also make a commitment to learn some Spanish. So this is a blog about matters Spanish, as well as promoting the notion that Spanish does indeed matter. The blog contains articles in both English and Spanish. Don Pablo hopes it will be helpful to those learning the language.

Bottle openers, bodyguards and balaclavas
Thursday, December 9, 2021 @ 6:30 AM

There is a common type of compound noun in Spanish which describes a person or a device that does something. Like a can opener, a corkscrew or a gamekeeper. These are known as exocentric verb-noun compounds. In Spanish such words are formed from the 3rd person singular of a verb and the plural of a noun. The resulting combination is always masculine singular, despite the fact that most of these words end in “s”. In this post don Pablo lists some of the more common and more interesting ones.





un aguafiestas – party pooper


un chupatintas - penpusher


un comecocos – brain teaser; un comefuegos – fireater;

un comehostias – goody goody (lit: a communion wafer eater)


un cortabolsas – pickpocket


un guardabosques – gamekeeper; un guardacostas –coastguard;

un guardaespaldas – bodyguard; un guardameta – goalkeeper


un lavacaras – toady, creep (lit: face washer = a**e licker)


un limpiabotas – bootblack, shoeshine boy; un limpiachimeneas – chimney sweep; un limpiacristales –window cleaner; un limpiacoches – street car washer;



Household items


un abrebotellas – bottle opener; un abrelatas – tin opener;

un abrecartas – letter opener


un cortahuevos – egg slicer, un cortahumedades – dampproof course;

un cortapapeles – paper cutter; un cortaalambres – wire cutters;

un cortacircuitos/cortacorrientes – circuit breaker;

un cortapapeles – paper cutter, guillotine; un cortapuros – cigar cutter;

un cortaúñas – nail clippers; un cortavidrios – glass cutter;


un lavamanos – handbasin; un lavapiés – footbath; un lavaplatos – dishwasher;

un lavavajillas – washing-up liquid;


un limpiacristales – window-cleaning fluid; un limpiadientes – toothpick;

un limpiahornos – oven cleaner; un limpiamuebles – furniture cleaner


un matamoscas – fly swat


un posavasos – coaster; beer mat


un sacacorchos - corkscrew


un quitaesmaltes – nail varnish remover; un quitamanchas – stain remover

un quitamiedos - handrail


un sacapuntas – pencil sharpener





un guardacostas – coastguard vessel


un lavacoches – car wash; un lavaparabrisas – windscreen washer fluid


un parabrisas – windscreen; un parachoques - bumper


un portaaviones – aircraft carrier;

un portamaletas, un portaequipajes – car boot; roof rack


un quitanieves – snow plough



Outside activities and equipment


un cortafuegos – firebreak; un cortavientos – windbreak


un espantapájaros - scarecrow


un paracaídas – parachute; un paraguas – umbrella;

un pararrayos – lightning conductor



Natural world


un chupasangres – blood sucker





un matasellos – postmark


un pasamontanas – balaclava



A handful that don’t end in “s”


un cortacésped – lawn mower


un parasol – parasol


un pasaporte – passport; un pasatiempo - pastime


un quitapintura – paint remover; un quitasol - sunshade;

un quitasueño – worry, problem (lit: sleep depriver)



If you know any more of these exocentric verb-noun compounds, please add them to the comment section at the end of this article.


Like 1


Margery said:
Saturday, December 11, 2021 @ 9:51 AM

Thankyou both interesting and informative. Great to know HOW words are formed.... makes it easier to understand new ones that we trip over

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