Beachcomber is a closed compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. Compound words are usually composed of two nouns, or an adjective and a noun. New compound words usually consist of two or more separate words, and are called open compound words. An open compound word is a noun that is composed of two words that are often used together, yet still maintain a space between the two words. This type of compound is also referred to as a spaced compound word. It might be difficult to identify such a term as a compound word. To qualify as an open compound word, the term must have a different meaning from the definitions of each of the original words. Midway through their evolution, compound words may acquire hyphens between the two or more words. A hyphenated compound word is a compound that is composed of two or more words linked by hyphens. Hyphenated compound words are the most likely type of compound words to be composed of two adjectives or two verbs. Hyphenated compound words are often coined by writers, as J.K. Rowling did when she created the phrase He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to describe Lord Voldemort. In general, hyphenated compound words are midway on the journey between being rendered as separate words to being rendered as one word. When a compound becomes a closed compound word, which consists of two or more words joined without any hyphen or space, it has usually been in use for a long time, though the advent of the internet has sped up the process of becoming a closed compound word. Understanding words that are compound words will expand one’s basic English vocabulary. We will examine the meaning of the word beachcomber, its etymology, and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

A beachcomber is someone who scavenges a beach, usually one adjacent to an ocean, in order to find things that he can use or sell. For instance, someone who looks for shells along the shore to take home and display is a beachcomber; someone who looks along the shore for amber to sell is also a beachcomber. The word beachcomber is derived from the word beach—meaning land adjacent to an ocean—and comber, meaning someone who searches in fine detail. The word beachcomber was first used in the book, Two Years Before the Mast, written by Richard Henry Dana Jr. in 1840. Originally, beachcomber referred to sailors who had jumped ship and lived as bums along tropical islands. They eked out livings by picking up flotsam and jetsam deposited along the shoreline and selling it. Today, a beachcomber is simply someone who enjoys looking for treasures along a shoreline. The word beachcomb is often used as a verb, though the word is not yet found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Related words are beachcombs, beachcombed, beachcoming.


Professional beachcomber and columnist, Kristin Hissong, was heading back to her car after a long patrol on one of her favorite Hatteras Island beaches for shelling. (Island Free Press)

A beachcomber for many years, Mr Clark said although he had walked along the stretch of rocky coastline from the beach towards the former signal station pilot’s house near the entrance to New River Estuary regularly, he had felt drawn to the spot where he discovered the cranium exposed to the elements — on an eroded bank. (Otago Daily Times)

Folks are invited to bring in their unique, mysterious or everyday beachcombed objects and he will be on hand to identify and educate. (North Coast News)

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