1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
noun

Definition:

Traditionally defined as the part of speech (or word class) that names or identifies a person, place, thing, quality, or activity. Adjective: nominal.

Most nouns have both a singular and plural form, can be preceded by an article and/or one or more adjectives, and can serve as the head of a noun phrase.

A noun or noun phrase can function as a subject, direct object, indirect object, complement, appositive, or object of a preposition. In addition, nouns sometimes modify other nouns to form compound nouns. See Examples and Observations, below.

Types of Noun Forms and Functions:

 

See also:

 

Etymology:

From the Greek, "name, noun"
 

Examples:

  • "Houston, we have a problem."
    (Apollo 13)

  • "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."
    (Wall Street)



  •  
  •  
  • "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."
    (John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, 1945)
     
  • "I type 101 words a minute. But it's in my own language."
    (Mitch Hedberg)

  • "I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away."
    (George Carlin)

  • "You must hear the bird's song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs."
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 

 

  • "One of the glories of English simplicity is the possibility of using the same word as noun and verb. We speak, for instance, of 'having cut the meat' and of 'a cut of meat.' We not only 'kick a person,' but 'give him a kick.'"
    (Edward Sapir, "The Function of an International Auxiliary Language," 1931. Rpt. in Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality, ed. by David G. Mandelbaum. University of California Press, 1985)
  •  

Observations:

  • "[D]efining the term noun is such a problem that many grammar books do not even try to do it. Accepting the idea that the concept of noun is fairly abstract, however, can point us in the right direction, toward a reasonably acceptable definition. From this perspective, nouns are the labels we use to classify the world and our experiences in it."
    (James D. Williams, The Teacher's Grammar Book. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1999)


  •  
  • "In parsing nouns, traditional grammar insisted on noting gender as well as number and case. Modern grammars disregard this criterion, recognizing that gender has no grammatical role in English. They do however find good grammatical reasons for respecting the importance of several other traditional contrasts, especially proper vs common, and abstract vs concrete, and have developed the contrast between mass and count nouns into a major dimension of subclassification."
    (David Crystal, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, 2003)


  •  
  • Nouns are not restricted to a particular category; that is, a single noun can occupy several of these categories. For example,
    three dogs can be [common, concrete & countable]
    American government can be [proper, concrete & collective]
    Christian faith can be [proper, abstract & countable]
    (Bernard O'Dwyer, Modern English Structures: Form, Function, and Position. Broadview, 2000)


  •  
  • As for meaning, nouns are traditionally known to be names of persons, places, things, and ideas. But this meaning aspect of nouns remains rather vague--verbs, for example, may also be considered names of ideas--and the formal characteristics are often more reliable. Among the formal characteristics of English nouns are that they typically:
    a. may be definite in meaning by use of preceding the (the definite article), as in the book, the guy, the answer;
    b. may be made possessive by suffixing -'s, as in people's, Jane's, a politicians's;
    c. may be made negative by prefixing non-, as in nonbeliever, nonsense, nonunion.
    (Grover Hudson, Essential Introductory Linguistics. Blackwell, 2000)


  •  
  • "Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place."
    (William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style)


  •  
  • The Lighter Side of Nouns
    Dr. Gregory House: Dr. House. I don't think we've met.
    Dr. Jaime Conway: Dr. Jamie Conway. I've heard your name.
    Dr. Gregory House: Most people have. It's also a noun.
    (Hugh Laurie and Rob Benedict, "Living the Dream." House M.D., 2008)

 

Pronunciation: nown

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.