Encyclopedia > Noun

  Article Content


A noun is perhaps the most fundamental of the parts of speech. Nouns occur in sentences in two different ways: as subjects (performers of action), or objects (recipients of action); in the sentence "John wrote me a letter", "John" is a subject, and "me" and "letter" are objects. Common wisdom has it that a noun is the name of a "person, place, or thing".

Nouns are classified into proper nouns (e.g. "Janet"), common nouns (e.g. "girl"), and pronouns (e.g. "she" and "which").

A proper noun (also called proper name) is a noun which denotes a unique entity. The meaning of a proper noun, outside of what it references, is frequently arbitary or irrelevant (for example, someone might be named Tiger Smith despite being neither a tiger nor a smith). Because of this, they are often not translated between languages, although they may be transliterated--for example, the German surname "Knödel" becomes "Knoedel" in English, as opposed to "Dumpling".

Proper nouns are capitalized in English and most or all other languages that use the Latin alphabet; this is one easy way to recognize them. Note however that in German all types of nouns are capitalized (with the exception of "ich"). Also, in English, trademarks (e.g. "Dumpster" and "Kleenex") and words derived from proper nouns (e.g. "Aristotelian") are also capitalized; this phenomenon is probably a vestige of English's Germanic roots, and does not occur in Romance languages. The word "I", although capitalized in English and apparently refering to a unique object, is actually a pronoun.

Sometimes the same word can appear as both a common noun and a proper noun, where one such entity is special; for example:

  • there can be many gods, but there is only one God.
  • there can be many internets (networks of TCP/IP networks), but the largest internet in the world is the Internet.

Some languages, such as Toki Pona, classify proper names as adjectives that modify a generic noun. Shades of this are found in the English language in phrases like "English language".

A mass noun is a type of common noun that represents a substance not easily quantified by a number. Mass nouns do not require limiting modifiers ("an", "two", "several", "many", etc.) and are not normally pluralized. Examples from English include "cheese", "laughter", and "precision".

Examples of nouns:

  • Janet is the name of a girl.
  • Whistling off-key is annoying to me, but not to everybody.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • The World Wide Web has become the least expensive way to publish information.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

...     Contents Autocracy Autocracy is a form of government which resides in the absolute power of a single individual. The term can b ...

This page was created in 29.7 ms