Word of the Month: Free-for-all

Shana Goodwin, May 1, 2022



  1. A disorderly fight, argument, or competition in which everyone present participates. Example: When the Cerro and Olimpia fans met on the street after the Super Clásico, a free-for-all broke out.
  2. A disorderly situation in which there is little regard for authority or rules. Example: When the daycare teacher allowed the children to play in the mud, the yard turned into a free-for-all.

Synonyms: brawl, commotion, scuffle

While May’s “Word of the Month” isn’t really a word you might find yourself using a lot, it’s a great example of a compound word. Compound words can be confusing for native and non-native English speakers alike, partly because some are open (two or more words, such as “full moon”), some are hyphenated (like “free-for-all” or “self-control”), and some are closed (appearing as two words squished together, such as “bookstore” or “makeup”). While there are some rules for when to hyphenate compound words, in most cases the only way to know the correct form is to look it up in a dictionary and memorize it.

Other Common Compound Words

  • Daydream
  • Driveway
  • Eyeball
  • Eyesight
  • Flowerpot
  • Goodnight
  • Keyhole
  • Keyboard
  • Landslide
  • Lifeguard
  • Newspaper
  • Nonstarter
  • Rainfall
  • Sailboat
  • Skyscraper
  • Teaspoon
  • Textbook
  • All-or-nothing
  • All-star
  • Ex-boyfriend
  • Merry-go-round
  • Mother-in-law
  • Pro-vaccine
  • Self-denial
  • Up-to-date
  • Bus stop
  • Fire drill
  • High school
  • Hot dog
  • Ice cream
  • Lawn mower
  • Living room
  • Taxi driver
  • Traffic light