Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Ralph Wiggum in the episode "MoneyBART" (The Simpsons, 2010).

Verbing is a type of conversion (or functional shift) in which a noun is used as a verb or a verbal. Contrast with nominalization.

As Steven Pinker notes in The Language Instinct (1994), "[E]asy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English." 

Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "I like your verbs that are things. I think I'm gonna sandwich after I sofa here for a bit."
    (My Boys, 2007)
  • "It was, indeed, practically with a merry tra-la-la on my lips that I latchkeyed my way in and made for the sitting room."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters, 1938)
  • "If people choose to believe that I'm sitting here in my ivory tower, Howard Hughesing myself with long fingernails and loads of drugs, then I can't do anything about that."
    (George Michael, quoted by S. Hattenstone in The Guardian, Dec. 5, 2009)
  • "Carol Burnett, no doubt about it, is a verb—transitive, active, reciprocal, irregular. To burnett is to affirm, to make funny, to dance, sing, cry, mug and gambol about in extravagant motion."
    (Cyclops, "Ode to a Very Active Verb." Life, April 2, 1971)
  • "She was marmalading a scone with Chivers Rough Cut."
    (Martha Grimes, The Lamorna Wink. Viking, 1999)
  • "[Fredi] Gonzalez was so happy he sounded like he was ready to make a big prediction but he backed off while noting he didn't want to sound like a famous former quarterback who guaranteed a Super Bowl win.
    "'We have a young club that's going to . . . I'm not going to Joe Namath anything, but we're going to be competitive,' Gonzalez said."
    (Charles Odum, "Youthful Braves Full of Optimism." Savannah Morning News, February 14, 2014)
  • "[Gordon] Brown's idea of thoroughly dialoguing British constitutional reforms before they are enacted is a communitarian idea at its best."
    (A. Etzioni, "Two Cheers for Gordon." The Guardian, Oct. 5, 2007)
  • In Defense of Verbing
    - "Through the ages, language mavens have deplored the way English speakers convert nouns into verbs. The following verbs have all been denounced in this century: to caveat, to nuance, to dialogue, to parent, to input, to access, to showcase, to intrigue, to impact, to host, to chair, to progress, to contact In fact, easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English. I have estimated that about a fifth of all English verbs were originally nouns. . . .
    "If you make up a new verb based on a noun, like someone's name, it is always regular, even if the new verb sounds the same as an existing verb that is irregular. (For example, Mae Jemison, the beautiful Black female astronaut, out Sally-Rided Sally Ride, not out Sally-Rode Sally Ride)."
    (Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct. Morrow, 1994)
    - "I like the density of nouns fresh-minted into verbs. In his poem 'Maud,' Tennyson describes a snotty boy's stare 'Gorgonizing me from head to foot.' Or, a friend to his wife when she gets in a panic, 'Quit hamster-wheeling.'"
    (Fernanda Eberstadt, quoted by Lewis Burke Frumkes in Favorite Words of Famous People. Marion Street Press, 2011)
  • The Use of Impact as a Verb
    "A considerable body of work is devoted to restraining us from using impact as a verb. . . .
    "The verb form of impact has been in use since at least 1601, where it is found in surgical literature . . ..
    "What about the noun? The noun, I am sorry to say, is a johnny-come-lately, although by lately I mean 'the end of the eighteenth century.' The use of impact to designate either 'an effect had upon something' or 'a collision' begins almost two hundred years after the verb had entered our language.
    "Putting aside for a moment the word's lineage, the complaint against 'to impact' is largely with the way it is used. The non-verb crowd feels that using impact in a figurative sense (which would appear to be for anything not related to bowels or teeth) is incorrect. This is all well and good, but to claim that it is not a verb, is, to put it mildly, sheer nonsense."
    (Ammon Shea, Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation. Perigee, 2014)
  • The Lighter Side of Verbing
    Calvin: I like to verb words.
    Hobbes: What?
    Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when "access" was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed. . . . Verbing weirds language.
    Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.
    (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)
    Hurley: That dude creeps me out.
    Kate: He’s still in the rec room, right?
    Hurley: I moved him to the boathouse. . . . You just totally Scooby-Doo’d me, didn’t you?
    (“Eggtown.” Lost, 2008)

Pronunciation: VERB-ing

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Verbing." ThoughtCo, Dec. 31, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, December 31). Verbing. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Verbing." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).