: 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.

Examples of noun in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web An open society sees truth as process and method—more verb than noun. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, 2 Feb. 2024 This new desk piece on The Tonight Show uses the New York Times game to list nouns, then link them with a silly pop culturally relevant connection. Vulture, 2 Feb. 2024 In my Oxford English Dictionary both words take up several pages each in all their iterations (etymology, evolution in use, noun, adjective, adverb, etc.). Lisa Z. Lindahl, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 Many of the Counting Crows’ most overrepresented nouns could be a wallpaper motif for a six-year-old boy’s bedroom. Leila Sales, SPIN, 8 Jan. 2024 The transformer figures out that wants and cash are both verbs (both words can also be nouns). Timothy B. Lee and Sean Trott, Ars Technica, 31 July 2023 The stylebook entry on fewer/less begins: Use fewer for specific numbers that can be counted, one by one, and less for uncountable nouns and usually for time, money, portions and percentages. WSJ, 27 Nov. 2023 The word, which can be used as a noun or a verb, is among Merriam-Webster's words that defined 2023, following a notable increase in searches for the term. Jo Yurcaba, NBC News, 27 Nov. 2023 Lewis’ novel turned its title character’s surname into a noun. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 5 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'noun.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

noun

noun
: 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
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