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Compound adjectives

Word-formation in the Russian language allows to form new words from several, that's why among other compound parts of speech there are adjectives formed from nouns or other adjectives - so-called "compound adjectives" (сложные прилагательные) which have a range of distinctive features in writing. Some of them are written in one word, other - with hyphen.

Spelling of compound adjectives usually depends on the spelling of those words from which they were derived. It means that if a compound adjective is derived from a compound noun, which is written in one word, then this adjective will be written in one word, too. For example,

Водопровод – водопроводная вода - water pipe.

Also if at first a word-combination includes two words, one of which depends on another one, then adjective will also be written in one word.

Вечно зеленый – вечнозеленый лес - evergreen - evergreen forest.
Железная дорога – железнодорожный проезд - railroad - railway train.

We should write adjectives derived from terms in one word, too.

Древнеанглийский язык - Old English.
Индоевропейская семья - Indo-European family.

We use the second option (with a hyphen) for compound adjectives which are formed from nouns written with hyphen.

Юго-запад (direction) – юго-западный ветер - south-west - south-wester.

We also use with hyphen adjectives formed from words with equal meanings.

Англо-русский словарь - English-Russian dictionary.
Светло-голубой цвет - light-blue color.
Мясо-рыбный цех - meat and fish shop.

Compound qualitative adjectives are written in the same way (when one quantity adds the notional meaning to another).
Кисло-сладкий соус - Sweet n' Sour Sauce.

Geographical names, which include the names of parts of the world (south, north, west, east), are also written with a hyphen.
Южно-Китайское море - South China Sea.
Северо-западный регион - The north-west region.

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