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 Yet the logic of this prohibition taints any noun that refers to a person. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Lefty Lingo," 25 Nov. 2019 Blizzard clearly learned apologies from from someone who didn't know a lot about nouns. Wired, "The Witcher Trailer Is Here—and It's Shockingly Good," 1 Nov. 2019 The election the nation needs in 400 days would remove the nation’s most recent mistake and inflict instructive carnage — the incumbent mistake likes this noun — on his abjectly obedient party. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: The best antidote for a bad election is a better election," 29 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, a two-year-old child tested alongside Kanzi quickly intuits that two nouns can make up a noun phrase, tucked as a direct object into a verb phrase, which in turn is part of a sentence. The Economist, "A new book spells out the magic of language," 22 Aug. 2019 The word echoes its rhyming noun daddy, however, there is no indication that zaddy must refer exclusively to a parent. Puja Prakash, Vogue, "The Zaddies, Living and Dead, of Game of Thrones," 3 May 2019 For a picture-perfect shot of a flamboyance of flamingos (the birds have a few collective nouns, including: stand, colony, flock, and flurry), head to the shallow salt lake of Laguna Colorada. National Geographic, "December hot list: 5 essential experiences," 25 Nov. 2019 It can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, a conjunction or an interjection. Elly Van Gelderen, Quartz, "How “OK” became the most spoken word on the planet," 3 Sep. 2019 There are simply too many hyperbolic adjectives and too few nouns. NBC News, "Meet the Press - December 8, 2019," 8 Dec. 2019

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

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Noun.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noun. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for noun

noun

noun
How to pronounce noun (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on noun

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with noun

Spanish Central: Translation of 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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