Noun + Verb = Nerb?

Tyler (@tdhurst) wondered whether there is a special name for words that can be both a noun and a verb, such as “paint” and “run.” I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure, so I put the question out to my Twitter friends. The Twitter favorite seems to be to make up a new word for it: “nerb.”

I don’t think “gerund” is right because it’s the name of a verb turned into a noun. For example, “acting” is a gerund that comes from the verb “to act.”

“Homograph” is close. defines “homograph” as “a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear1 β€œto carry; support” and bear2 ‘animal’ or lead1 ‘to conduct’ and lead2 ‘metal.'” Although technically it fits, this doesn’t strike me as what Tyler was asking about.

Here are all the answers (compiled using Twickle):

GrammarGirl: I don’t know if there is a name for words that are both a verb and noun (e.g., “paint”). @tdhurst wants to know; can you help him?

keithmcdonald:I don’t think there is a word but I’d vote for “nerb”

GoodGrrl: .nerb?

lpchiasson: nerbs? πŸ™‚

hidingangel82: Re the Verb/Noun question: I am not sure, but am really curious to know!!! please share when you get it figured out!

BJMuntain: “anthimeria” RT @writingislife Verbing Nouns #writing

fanihiman95376: Many MANY words can be a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb–depending on HOW they are used in a sentence. Parts of Speech.

mpanighetti: @tdhurst Can I suggest a portmanteau? “Nerb”!

hmg85eek: Voun? Nerb?

fanihiman95376: The word “duck” for instance.Can be verb, noun, adjective.If word is NOT in sentence, no way to know what part of speech it is.

CrazyOnYou: I’d call’em fractal words. Sometimes they’re a little noun and sometimes they’re a little verb. Like “compress”…

AKA_jody: Maybe a gerund?

miklos: Nerb sounds better than Voun. Nerb it is. πŸ˜‰

adobbs: @tdhurst That’s easy. A word that’s a noun and a verb is a nerb.

johngoldsby: @tdhurst Homonym, right? Two words w/ same spelling & sound, but diff meaning. Compare 2 homophone-sound same/spell diff

tony_hicks: There is now: nerb.

soul4real: @tdhurst Noun/Verb words really are not all that uncommon and I don’t recall there being a name for them.

phantomphan114: Wouldn’t that be homonyms? I guess it doesn’t specifically say that they are just verbs and nouns though.

lindyatoms: There is–but memory fails me (too long since grad school); google “rhetorical devices.”

tante_ingwer: From my quick search, the “ing” form of the verb would be a gerund. noun

marycandlelady: I believe they would be called NERB’s πŸ˜‰

Mainframe: Why don’t we make up one if there isn’t any – my vote is for “nerb” πŸ˜‰

justinsullivan: oh come on. Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of expert? πŸ˜‰

JeffreyKingSr: Do you know what it’s called when two dissimilar things are compared – “I heard Pierce was mean, but I think he’s cute.”

shefalish: @tdhurst: I wonder if the word you are looking for is homograph.

lindyatoms: Anthimeria: Substituting one part of speech for another, how’s that?

espato: i suggest “nerb”

rooneyplanet: verbals?

MWood919: Noun + Verb = “Nourb”?

DanAtAmazon: Don’t know, but another example is “platform.” Used by the train conductors: This first car of this train will not platform…”

VictoriaMixon: Can’t find the word. Turning a verb into a noun is “nominalization.”

Note: Twickle only appears to include posts that are a direct reply to the original tweet that began the conversation, so if you responded but didn’t directly reply to my original message, your answer may not show up here.

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10 Responses to Noun + Verb = Nerb?

  1. Mignon says:

    Here’s one that I noticed didn’t get picked up by Twickle:

    @alwayscoffee: Hmm, @GrammarGirl I think that they’re referred to as class-ambiguous words. I can’t recall another term for it. I hope this helps

  2. nycteris says:

    Ah ok. Clear as mud.

  3. Mignon says:

    True! It’s not very clear. I’m pretty sure it’s not clear what the right word is because there is no name for such a word. As @soul4real and @fanihiman95376 said, its very common for the same word to be used as more than one part of speech.

  4. Mignon says:

    I do think “class-ambiguous words” is the most accurate choice, but I’m not sure whether it’s a commonly used word in formal linguistics or something brain researchers made up. Here’s a brain science article that uses it in the way we’re talking about it here:

  5. Eric Matas says:

    Why “nerb” instead of “voun” … as far as grammar terms go, the less easy to pronounce, the better.

    Anywho, I don’t think we need a word for this concept…”part of speech challenged” terms. How about a word that means “two pair” for use in playing cards and double dates?

  6. You missed the one I tried to send last night from Twitterberry:

    @GrammarGirl I’d say it’s “nerb”, actually a distant relative to “nerd.” Maybe?
    Although, on second thought, we haven’t actually verbified (see earlier GG podcast…) “nerd” yet that I know of, therefore it may not even qualify as a distant cousin. Though anyone, like me, who has been thinking about nerb for very long today may, indeed, be a nerd.

  7. Mrs. Grobe says:

    I teach a unit (in second grade) on multiple meaning words. Most multiple meaning words are a verb and a noun, although many are noun/adjective words.

  8. May I buck the trend and suggest an alternative? Osmonds. Little bit noun and a little bit verb (and roll)

  9. Mignon says:

    “Osmonds. Little bit noun and a little bit verb (and roll).”

    I love it!

  10. Mignon says:

    Excellent delayed response from @cynhatch on Twitter. I think she’s got it (or more precisely the name for the making the process by which a word takes on a new meaning):

    “@GrammarGirl Sorry for the delay – great resp. from Prof. Robin Barr on words that are nouns + verbs: ZERO DERIVATION.” [emphasis added]

    At Wikipedia, the “zero derivation” entry goes to “conversion,” which also says the distinction between “conversion” and “functional shift” is not well-defined.

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