Foreleg [Why one word?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by d_christo4, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. d_christo4 New Member

    English - American
    Recently noticed the differences between preferred spelling of foreleg and forewing as opposed to hind leg and hind wing.

    Why is foreleg one word and hind leg is two...? Just curious.

  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It's just one of those things, d_christo4.

    Compounds wander between two-word forms, hyphenated forms, and single-word forms. The way they end up is pure chance - and subject, always, to modification.
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    And I don't think there is any firm convention: 'fore leg' and 'hindleg' look fine to me. With 'hind' there are two possible pronunciations: either of the syllables can be stressed. If you said 'hind leg' you'd be more inclined to write it with a space.
  4. d_christo4 New Member

    English - American
    Agreed. But the PREFERRED spelling is what got my attention as the matter arose during a game of SCRABBLE on the computer... FORELEG and FOREWING were both acceptable words but HINDLEG and HINDWING were not...

    I just did a Google search on Definition of HINDLEG and got the annoying "do you mean hind leg" response...

    I am willing to take "just cuz" as an answer but for me it is still a bit of a head scratcher.

    Thanks for the insight...

  5. mplsray Senior Member

    For what it's worth, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology for foreleg as "fore- prefix + leg n." while it gives the etymology of hindmost as "apparently < hind adj. + -most suffix."

    Hindquarter(s)/hind-quarter(s)/hind quarter(s) are not listed as entries, although they all appear elsewhere in the dictionary. I expect that if an etymology was given, it also would identify this hind as the adjective.
  6. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I suspect this is due to fore- being very established as a prefix in words like foretell, forebear, forecast, forestall and so on. I don't think hind is anywhere close to this kind of productivity. The general rule of the spelling of compounds is that less established ones are spelt as separate words or are hyphenated; established ones are fused.

    Welcome to the Forum, d_christo4! :)

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