Verb, Verbing, Verbification: Turning Nouns into Verbs

The dictionary defines “bicycle” as both a noun and a verb. (Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection)

The dictionary defines bicycle as both a noun and a verb. (Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection)

It’s easy to blame Google for our tendency to turn nouns into verbs. We all say, “Just Google it,” instead of “Search it on Google.” This inclination, however, goes back a long way.

The word “rain” was verbified before the 12th century, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Long before Google became a verb, someone had coined “gerrymander” back in 1812, also according to the dictionary. The word came from Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who made famous the process of drawing electoral districts in a way that gives a political party an advantage.

Whether we like it or not, verbing or verbification is here to stay. Let’s take a look at some of the common words.

Technology-Related:

  • Blog (write for a blog)
  • Bookmark (create a shortcut to a Web site)
  • Email (send an email message)
  • Friend or Unfriend (from Facebook)
  • Google (search on Google)
  • Message (send an instant message)
  • Skype (send a message on Skype)
  • Text (send a text over the phone)
  • Tweet (post a message on Twitter)

Work-Related:

  • Conference (to confer or talk in a conference, especially over the phone or the Internet)
  • Gift (to give a gift)
  • Greenlight (to approve)
  • Impact (to have an impact on)
  • Incentivize (to give incentives like bonuses or gifts)
  • Spotlight, Highlight (to call attention to)
  • Transition (to change into a new role)
  • Workshop (to bring an idea for discussion in a workshop)

Sports-Related:

When used as verbs, these words refer to playing the game or performing an activity:

  • Bicycle
  • Golf
  • Rollerblade
  • Skateboard
  • Snowboard

Related to Things:

  • Film (to make a movie)
  • Lased (to emit light, from the word laser)
  • Microwave (to cook or heat food using a microwave oven)
  • Radio (to send a message by radio)
  • Tased (to shoot with a Taser gun)
  • Videotape (to make a videotape)

Image above: “Bicycling,” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.

Read this related article:

Do You Salad or Sandwich? The Verbing of English

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. I really like how language changes ,and as a writer, it’s fun to stretch words in new ways. Grammar check doesn’t like it, but I do 🙂

    Reply
  2. I agree about grammar check–LOL! Change is what keeps a language alive and also makes it a lot of fun for writers.

    Reply
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