: any member of a class of words that typically can be combined with determiners (see determiner sense b) to serve as the subject of a verb, can be interpreted as singular or plural, can be replaced with a pronoun, and refer to an entity, quality, state, action, or concept
There are two nouns in this sentence.

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What is a noun?

Nouns make up the largest class of words in most languages, including English. A noun is a word that refers to a thing (book), a person (Noah Webster), an animal (cat), a place (Omaha), a quality (softness), an idea (justice), or an action (yodeling). It's usually a single word, but not always: cake, shoes, school bus, and time and a half are all nouns.

There are a number of different categories of nouns.

There are common nouns and proper nouns. A common noun refers to a person, place, or thing but is not the name of a particular person, place, or thing. Examples are animal, sunlight, and happiness. A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, or thing; it usually begins with a capital letter: Abraham Lincoln, Argentina, and World War I are all proper nouns.

A collective noun is a noun that names a group of people or things, such as flock or squad. It's sometimes unclear whether the verb for a collective noun should be singular or plural. In the United States, such nouns as company, team, herd, public, and class, as well as the names of companies, teams, etc., are treated as singular, but in the United Kingdom they are often treated as plural: (US) "The team has been doing well this season." vs. (British) "The team have been doing well this season."

Gerunds are nouns that are identical to the present participle (-ing form) of a verb, as in "I enjoy swimming more than running."

An attributive noun is a noun that modifies another noun that immediately follows it, such as business in business meeting. These nouns look like adjectives but they're not.

For learners of English, the most important feature of a noun is whether it can be counted. A count noun is a noun that can be used after a or an or after a number (or another word that means "more than one"). Count nouns have both singular and plural forms and can be used with both singular and plural verb forms, as with the word letter in "A letter for you is on the table. Letters for you arrive regularly." Sometimes the plural form of a count noun is the same as its singular form, as in "I saw a deer in my yard yesterday. There are a lot of deer in the woods near my house."

A mass noun (or noncount noun) refers to something that cannot be counted. Mass nouns are normally not used after the words a or an or after a number. They have only one form and are used with singular verb forms, as in "Portuguese is one of the languages they speak," and "The information was unclear."

Some nouns are not count or mass nouns. Nouns which only ever refer to one thing are called singular nouns: "Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun," "We heard a terrible din in the alley." And a plural noun refers to more than one person or thing, or sometimes to something that has two main parts. Plural nouns have only one form and are used with plural verb forms: "Townspeople are invited to a forum on the project," "These scissors are dull."

A particular noun can have any or all of these kinds of uses.

(count) I've read that book several times.

(mass) Time seemed to stop when I saw him for the first time.

(singular) The time is 3:22.

(plural) Fuel costs three times as much as it did five years ago.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web And Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate secretary who helped forge the 2015 Paris agreement and then started a non-profit called Climate Optimism, sees hope not as a noun but an action verb. Seth Borenstein, ajc, 19 Nov. 2022 Visitors can look up how to translate a word, see the plural form of the word, change the tense of a verb or add an adjective to a noun. Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Aug. 2022 The problem is that the phrase itself is now being used as a modifier to a noun. Jakub Lamik, Forbes, 8 June 2022 Siegfried & Roy’s streak—one collective noun for a group of tigers; another is ambush—began in 1983 with the acquisition of three white cubs, imported from India via the Cincinnati Zoo. Chris Jones, The Atlantic, 13 Oct. 2022 The word later came to be used as a noun with a variety of meanings, such as vital information or juicy gossip. Ben Zimmer, WSJ, 28 July 2022 Failure is a noun that limits people to false ideas of final outcomes. Forbes Partner Releases, Forbes, 5 July 2022 In short, the noun has traditionally borne little relation to the sibling adjective enormous. Bryan A. Garner, National Review, 9 June 2022 There is even a funny but mean collective noun for them: a consternation of mothers-in-law. Beth Thames | Bethmthames@gmail.com, al, 4 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'noun.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English nowne, from Anglo-French nom, noun name, noun, from Latin nomen — more at name

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of noun was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near noun

Cite this Entry

“Noun.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noun. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

: a word that is the name of something (as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action) and that is typically used in a sentence as subject or object of a verb or as object of a preposition

More from Merriam-Webster on noun

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