A traditional grammatical term for a word or group of words that functions as a noun: a nominal.
From the Latin, "substance"
Examples and Observations:
- "A grammatical term that in the Middle Ages included both noun and adjective, but later meant noun exclusively. It is not usually found in later 20c English grammars. . . . However, the term has been used to refer to nouns and any other parts of speech serving as nouns ('the substantive' in English). The adjective local is used substantively in the sentence He had a drink at the local before going home (that is, the local public house)."
(Sylvia Chalker and Tom McArthur, "Substantive." The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford Univ. Press, 1992)
- "A substantive noun or a substantive is . . . a name which can stand by itself, in distinction from an adjective noun or an adjective. It is the name of an object of thought, whether perceived by the senses or the understanding. . . . Substantive and noun are, in common use, convertible terms."
(William Chauncey Fowler, English Grammar. Harper & Brothers, 1855)
- "The objects of our thoughts are either things, like the earth, the sun, water, wood, what is ordinarily called substance, or else are the manner or modification of things, like being round, being red, being hard, being learned, what is called accident. . . .
"It is this which has engendered the principal difference among the words which signify the objects of thought. For those words which signify substances have been called substantive nouns, and those which signify accidents, . . . have been called adjectival nouns."
(Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot, 1660, quoted by Roy Harris and Talbot J. Taylor, Landmarks In Linguistic Thought. Routledge, 1997)