Reader Friday – Denominal Verbs

Did you ever look around at all the “things” which surrounded us and try to find one where the name (a noun) has not been turned into a verb?

The English language is blessed with a multitude of verbs. Constance Hale, in her book VEX, HEX, SMASH, SMOOCH, Let Verbs Power Your Writing (p.11), says:

“The verb in English enjoys a special primacy. Linguists tell us that verbs make up one of our four major word classes, along with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. What’s cool about these ‘content’ words…is that their ranks keep growing, making the language ever richer. We get more and more verbs every year!”

She estimates (book published in 2012) that we have 45,000 to 85,000 verbs in the English language.

In her 1/24/23 TKZ post, Kris discussed finding the right “laser beam words.” She mentioned “anthimeria” – subbing one word for another. Another name for a noun turned into a verb is a “denominal verb.”

So, our assignment for today:

  1. Find a noun that has not been turned into a verb. What is it?
  2. Create a denominal verb (not necessarily from #1) and nominate it to be inducted into the English language.
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About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

30 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Denominal Verbs

  1. I can’t think of any fruit or vegetable that’s been turned into a verb, so I propose we add -ing to the ends of veggie and fruit words — apple –> appling — and make each of them mean the act of harvesting that particular food.

    • Good one, Michelle. The only fruit that I can think of where that may not work is with the lime. Lime is also a mineral that is used to treat farmland. It is also used in woodworking to add white to a surface (liming wax).

      I can hear the young boys who are out running around at night, eyeing Farmer Jones melon patch. “Let’s go water meloning.”

      Thanks for the addition to our list.

  2. Good morning, Steve. Thanks for the word play assignment. What fun!

    For some reason, my mind turned to Greek mythology. Remember Achilles, the arrogant and spoiled Greek warrior? Here’s my word:

    Achillesize – verb – to act like a heel. 🙂 (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

    • Good one, Kay. I like it. One could even add a parenthesis after the verb for the shoe size and the degree to which said person acts like a heel. I believe we are needing that verb more and more each year.

      Thanks for a great suggestion.

  3. Good morning, Steve. One word that hasn’t been turned into a verb, at least to my knowledge, would be “lawn.” Turning it into a denominal verb would cover a multitude of sins, including mowing, raking, weeding, and seeding. Or not!

    Thanks for getting my brain cylinders firing this morning, Steve. Have a great weekend!

    • This is a great idea, Joe, and one worthy of suggesting to the Oxford English Dictionary. We have “gardening,” and yet we certainly have a lot more “lawning” being performed. We could save time by just saying “lawning,” and get to work.

      Thanks for a great addition to the list. I’m going to use the concept for cleaning up my woods, and just tell my wife that I’m going out to “woods.”

      Have a great weekend!

  4. Good morning, Steve. This is a fun exercise. I’m still caffeinating but one candidate for denominal verb that popped into my head when I read your post is “smugging.”

    Smugging, to surprise with smugness. To demonstrate an unexpected smug attitude.

    Thanks for getting me to think this morning! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Good morning, Dale. Great addition. I don’t think you need any caffeine. At least not to come up with a great denominal verb.

      I like “smugging.” It fits our current culture. And there’s a hidden connotation that it’s about as appropriate as “mugging.”

      Have a wonderful weekend, and I hope you don’t run into any “smuggers.”

  5. Great exercise, Steve!

    My word is desking.

    That’s when I sit myself down at my desk and slide my fingertips to the keyboard.

    Are any of you desking this morning? 🙂

  6. I gotta add a little story to today’s thread, Steve. When I was a youngster, we had an old Dane living next door who had a language of his own. One noun he had was “snoose”. Roughly translated, it meant to “look” or “check out” or “explore”. He’d often turn it into a verb as in “snoosing” or go “looking”, “checking out”, or “exploring”. But with his Danish accent, he’d drop the “g” and it became “snoosin around”.

    Ever since, I’ve used the term “snoosin around” and I get the most puzzled looks from people. My wife and I like the saying so much that we named our boat’s tender “Snoosin Around”. You know, when we anchor the big girl, we drop the little guy and go snoosin around.

  7. How about a grammar rule that allows writers (or anyone) to create a denominal verb from proper nouns? I have a feeling that it’ll be groundbreaking freedom for writers to describe a character or their actions in a way that’s unique to that character.

    Here’s an example:

    Fearfully, he stephened his steps through the dark tunnel the best way he knew how to, reminding himself that no one had ever come out of the place alive. By all means, he had to find a way to the end of it, retrieve the treasure and return in less than five minutes before the giant insects start trooping out.

    • Excellent, Stephen. That’s a whole level above the game we played today, and a great idea. Now, I suppose you’ll want to name that new grammar rule. “The Stephen rule.” Close enough to “Steve” to satisfy me.

    • “Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.”

      J, that is absolutely true!!!

      Steve, my brain wasn’t up to this challenge today but I enjoyed reading the results.

      • I think I asked too much of readers today, Debbie. Thanks for checking in and enjoying the craziness. Next time we’ll just ask people to enjoy the picture and tell us if that draws them into a blog. We all need a day of rest.

        Have an uneventful and restful weekend!

  8. I just was talking about how my WWII vet friend Dave recently didn’t get his prescription medicine, and the retirement home staff told him: “The driver went home.” That was apparently intended as both an excuse and an explanation–an expluse, if you will.

    • Good one, JG. I’m going to remember that one, and use it. I wish I would have known that one when I was growing up. I definitely could have used it then.

      Thanks for your many ideas and creativity!

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