Shut-in is a hyphenated 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. 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. 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 shut-in, its etymology, and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

A shut-in is an invalid, someone who is incapacitated and confined to his room or his home for an extended period of time. A shut-in cannot partake in normal activities and/or must stay sequestered from others. The word shut-in came into use at the turn of the twentieth century. When rendered as two, unhyphenated words, shut in, the term is considered a verb phrase that means to be enclosed in a location.


Before the meal was served, center director Karen McLaughlin praised her staff, who managed to deliver thousands of meals to shut-in seniors despite the long COVID closure. (Suffolk Times)

“My wife is somewhat of a shut-in and reads an awful lot of books, so it’s been very helpful to us,” said longtime Shelby County Library patron Don White. (Spectrum News)

However, don’t be a shut-in if you do feel it is safe to go outside and interact with people again. (Independent)

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