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Have you ever gone "batmobiling"? The phenomenon of denomenalization.

Denomenalization aka "verbing" a noun

Let’s join the nearest imaginary business meeting where a group of people is dialoguing:

“We’re all set, but we need to table that topic for next time.” “You want me to calendar that meeting?” “Yes. Prioritize this topic and action the other two. We can fast-track this project for completion.” “But not without workshopping it. We’ve got to beef it up.” “There’s no way to task anyone with this without approval.”

Are you lost or does this conversation seem familiar to you? If it’s the latter, blame your colleagues or your friends, because you’ve been desensitized to verbing. You may be a verbing perpetrator as well. Verbing, or what grammarians refer to as denominalization, is the act of converting a noun into a verb. If you can’t find an existing verb to describe what you’re doing, just verbify the nearest noun!

The purpose of verbing is to make what we say immediate and to-the-point. During situations in which a word is used repeatedly, as in a business meeting, verbing seems more common. In English, it’s easy to do because the base forms of verbs don’t need special endings. For example, English can use the noun action as a verb simply by using it in a verb position within a sentence. But verbing the word action in French requires you to add a special ending to the word, which would leave you with actionner. To some, verbing makes what you say sound fresher and less traditional. To others, it’s akin to workplace-appropriate slang. Benjamin Franklin said in a letter to Noah Webster that denominalization is “awkward and abominable.”

Throughout history, verbs have entered the English language through nouns; in fact, the first instance of the word verbification dates to 1871. The process follows a reliable pattern: a verbification is introduced, people use it, the media picks it up, and it becomes part of our lexicon. Today, the following verbs-born-from-nouns are commonplace:

Chair, cup, divorce, drink, dress, fool, host, intern, lure, mail, medal, merge, model, mutter, pepper, salt, ship, sleep, strike, style, train, voice

It might be difficult to imagine these words only as nouns now, but there was a time when that was the case. For example, the earliest known usage of “to medal” appeared in a newspaper in 1966, but “medal” was first recorded as a noun in 1578. It can be argued that the time it takes to verbify a noun is becoming shorter, which causes some people to protest. For example, to Google was named “the most useful word of 2002” and entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, although Google had been around since 1997. Compared to the 388 years it took for medal to be verbified, Google’s five years are meager.

If nouns become verbs so quickly, how can we adapt to sudden changes in the language?

The same way we always have, by googling it encountering people using it in context and adapting. ^_^


Click here to read the full article.

So, how many denominalizations did you find in the first section between "Let’s join" and "without approval"? Did any of them really stand out for you? And, did anyone of them escape you until you specifically went hunting for them?

PS check out HalJam's comment below, that challenge's the article's claims on certain verbs having started out as nouns. Very enlightening!

January 20, 2018



Yeah, I do that all the time. I mean, who can actually be bothered to say "I'm going to call you on Skype" when you can just say "I'm gonna Skype you"?


Or I’m going to search that on Google rather than “I’m going to Google it”.

[deactivated user]

    That's the more institutionalized one for sure.


    In college, we used to drive our professors nuts when we would turn the adjective "lethargic" into a verb. For example, we would say "After class, I think I am going to letharge in the Student Union." Or - "We will be letharging after class".

    Good times. Good times.



    A common one for me to use with friends is verbing/denominalizing the noun "bed" in place of "go to bed/sleep".

    "I am so sleepy. I need to bed." "It is time for me to bed." "I must bed now."

    I also tend to do this to "food."

    "I am starving! I need to food." "Want to go food?"

    PS We should get some folks together to do an ASL Zoom again soon! I wonder what this month's Event theme is? :thinking-face:


    I'd expect "food" as a verb to meet resistance because it already has a verb counterpart from the same stem: "feed".


    Hi HalJam,

    That's some pretty awesome insight into the history of these words. I encourage you to leave a comment on their website if its an option and ask them where they got their info.

    I wonder if there is such a thing as a de-denominalization. Like, if these words were verbs then adopted into English as nouns, and then denominalized back into verbs? I don't have any attachment to grammarly being right or wrong. However, de-denominalization is certainly not a phenomenon I've ever pondered before. Thanks for sharing what you did and thus inspiring it!


    HalJam, this is what I hope we see more of in the forums, not just the pre-chewed fun stuff that I like to post, but people expanding on them and at times pointing out errors in ways that still help us learn more about contemporary and historical language usage and evolution.


    PS I've left them a comment and invited them over for the discussion. Working for a grammar-based company, I would imagine they would want to know if they have made an error of claims. And, if they haven't, we'll get to unravel more about English. Either way, this discussion has exceeded my expectations when I made this post and I'm delighted. :D

    Edit: Well, I've left a comment but I don't know if it will get approved by the company. So, we'll have to wait and see if the author of the article actually gets to see it.


    Well there are interesting ones that do include endings, like V administer -> N administration -> V administrate, and reverse cases without, like N date (time) -> V date (to meet with) -> N date (companion for meet), and cases where a marker is disappearing, like V/N invite/invitation -> V/N invite (with stress on 1st syllable for N)... language change is fascinating!

    The "invite" one is interesting because it follows the pattern of address, record, etc. where there is a marker (stress shift) in speech but not in writing. It is an old pattern but apparently still productive, It would be possible for e.g. "a revision" to become "a RE-vise", but I have not seen that used. Have you seen any new examples of this pattern emerging?


    This is something that I have seen in people, but haven't truly noticed until encountering this post. Some of my art acquaintances in the past used to say things like, "I wish I could art like you", as if "arting" was an actual thing. Of course, they only meant the act of creating art, but it is pretty ridiculous how they used "art" as a verb, now that I have read this post.

    Thank you for sharing this!


    I looked at the first paragraph…. Can confirm it happens in business. However, yeah talk like that is a blueprint on how to speak if you want to never be taken seriously or get promotions.

    Speak clear proper English maintaining a relaxed confident conversational tone, bonus because more people are willing to talk like idiots you will sail right past the competition. Especially important for younger people starting their career speak proper you will be perceived as more mature… don’t try to ‘fit’ in with retards in your age group you’re going to be their boss soon anyway.


    The thing about "clear and proper English" is that the line is always moving. We would all be speaking "like idiots" if we were suddenly transported back in time. It's why many English speakers have a hard time understanding Shakespeare. It's not the same version of English. Language has changed since then. People broke language norms, were likely ridiculed for it (as is the norm), but enough other people adopted their changes until those changes became the norm.

    Like the article says, all of these verbs started as nouns:

    to chair, to cup, to divorce, to drink, to dress, to fool, to host, to intern, to lure, to mail, to medal, to merge, to model, to mutter, to pepper, to salt, to ship,to sleep, to strike, to style, to train, ans to voice.

    Language innovators (who are most often women and/or members of other minority groups article 1, article 2), have a huge impact on not only language but on society.


    Yeah I’m not disputing anything, language evolves for sure. I'm simply telling young professionals do not be the person pushing it, speak like upper management not coworkers or mid-management.

    That’s advice I was given, I believe it was a key part of why I was chosen for the fast track to project management. When you are competing with others from better schools with more experience, all of them just as talented perhaps a few more talented, being perceived as mature and well-spoken is key. Dress the part act the part.

    I was 23 first year out of school, everyone thought I was late 20s, some thought I was early 30s and just youthful looking, fast tracked almost 6 month assignment in Japan that everyone wanted. When I came back, promotion to project manager and told to get my MBA they paid for it and all my undergrad degrees loans…. Yeah.

    Don’t think this is anecdotal, adopt the speech patterns of high level people if you want to become one. Companies are filled with mid-level very intelligent competent folks that never advance, listen too how they speak compare it to the high level management. Now when you get older, you probably want to back off a little don’t want to be perceived as old fashioned, not with the times and get put out to pasture early.

    Anyway not part of that rat race anymore, I went independent years ago so just observe it. I’m 39 and established now perceived as a maverick with a proven track record. I wear t-shirts and jeans to high level meetings, also part of cultivating perceptions… the goals have changed from when in my 20s, now as a consultant if I come in with a suit and tie I will be perceived as a real threat to peoples jobs, have to play it cooler, disarm folks let them be the better dressed. I’ll even adopt a ‘lower’ class direct way of speaking. Probably getting a bit too far into psychology … lol.

    Yeah that’s a much longer post then intended, just some advice for folks take it or not. /shrug


    Words of wisdom FreeHelicopters. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Also, I think my tone must come off harsh when I am engaged in topics I'm passionate about. Ideas connect in my brain to a million different thoughts and I get wrapped up in them and just write.

    I had a lot of friends at the university I attended and we would state our ideas and then we would pick each others ideas apart over coffee or lunch or walks in the park. I took a class on argumentation and debate, and even that the professor was framed as team work. The person whose debate the professor assigned me to challenge was a "teammate". By taking their ideas apart for any weaknesses, I was helping them strengthen their reasoning or to move on from a stance they realized they no longer held.

    I was in university for 9 years. I think I am still adjusting to communicating in an environment that such a style is interpreted differently than it was in school. Behind the scenes, I challenge my own thoughts after reading what people's replies like I did in university. I am a very different person than who I started out to be in uni. In general, I am unsatisfied with the present, including my present knowledge. I went through various majors (including psychology) and specializations within their fields, loving them and challenging the things I appreciated about them until I put them down, unsatisfied and entered fields with opposing positions. :P

    Even in moderating, behind the scenes moderators submit certain things for group consideration and we put our ideas in the open for exploration and challenge. The mod I argue with most often is also one of the mods I admire most. I've had a boost of energy lately, so, I've been engaging in more controversial topics (or, not more controversial, but ones people tend to engage with more energy) in the forums while I have the opportunity to focus. I'll recede back into quieter things once it passes. It's just nice to engage more critically when health permits. I really thought this one would be a quieter affair. But, I'm glad it turned out not to be. :)


    “Also, I think my tone must come off harsh when I am engaged in topics I'm passionate about. Ideas connect in my brain to a million different thoughts and I get wrapped up in them and just write.”

    Naw your tone is fine, I just devils advocate at times or come in at another angle. Was in the mood for typing last night is all.

    Honest debating exposing yourself to challenging ideas is key for growth besides it’s a great mental exercise. I certainly have evolved different viewpoints over the years, some 180 degree turns from my old less informed ones.

    Echo chambers are very dangerous for society, companies and oneself. If it fears conversations from outside viewpoints…. It’s deeply flawed and no good will come of it.


    The facts that English does not need special markers to distinguish noun from verbs may be a big factor, the sense in which it is felt as "the thing to do" may be a big part too. Diving into Mandarin now, and there are so many words that can play both roles, it seems like a natural thing to do, and there are no lexical markers either. On the other hard, in Esperanto there are lexical markers, but switching between the noun, verb and adjective forms or a root is a founding principle of the grammar (for vocab generation). I have not seen the same level of switching in most Germanic and Romance languages.


    Thanks for sharing this!


    Woof, yeah no prob! You know me, always curious about how people are interacting with language. :)


    I think google makes more sense as a verb because it makes me think of googly eyes and to ogle. I don’t know how they came up with the word google, but somehow the word itself has a verb like quality (or maybe I am just so used to it).


    SilviaSpells, The "feel" of language often pairs with the presence of familiarity. So, either of those situations could be accurate. I would be interested in the history of the word "google" if you have the energy to google it.


    But really though everyone, how many denominalizations did you find in the first section between "Let’s join" and "without approval"? Did any of them really stand out for you? And, did anyone of them escape you until you specifically went hunting for them?


    “We’ve got to beef it up” is one that I didn’t notice at first.


    Did you find the other 7? :D

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