noun

noun
\ ˈnau̇n How to pronounce noun (audio) \

Definition of noun

: 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 (Betty Crocker), 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.

Examples of noun in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Airbnb’s years of investment in its name as both a noun and a verb are now paying dividends. Laura Forman, WSJ, 1 June 2021 Law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, one of CRT's progenitors, writes that the theory itself is a verb rather than a noun. Sam Dorman, Fox News, 14 May 2021 Their languages are entirely free of nouns, and the very concept of a noun—an object with a stable, temporally continuous identity—strikes Tlönians as a physical impossibility. Matthew Aucoin, The New York Review of Books, 27 Apr. 2021 Zoom turned into a noun, instead of a verb, with people using the online meeting-platform for work, school and other gatherings. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Dec. 2020 What's the collective noun for a bunch of poets laureate in one place together? Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2 Dec. 2020 Turns out that English possesses a fairly simple apparatus of grammar unencumbered by complex noun and adjective inflections and gender markers. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Feb. 2021 But none of humankind’s inquiries into the nature of life, including the spacecraft that searches for it elsewhere in the universe, have yielded a good working sense of what the noun really refers to. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 12 Mar. 2021 As Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky said Thursday, his company is already a noun and a verb in pop culture. Laura Forman, WSJ, 26 Feb. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of noun

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for noun

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

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Time Traveler for noun

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for noun

Last Updated

20 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Noun.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noun. Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for noun

noun

noun

English Language Learners Definition of noun

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

noun

noun
\ ˈnau̇n How to pronounce noun (audio) \

Kids Definition of noun

: a word or phrase that is the name of something (as a person, place, or thing) and that is used in a sentence especially as subject or object of a verb or as object of a preposition

More from Merriam-Webster on noun

Nglish: Translation of noun for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of noun for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about noun

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