What is a Noun?

A noun is a name...and any name is a word (sometimes, two words or more).

Let's look at some names...

  • girl - name of a human being
  • Ann - name of a human being
  • city - of a place
  • Delhi - of a place
  • soap - of a thing
  • Lux - of a thing
  • anger - of an emotion
  • mentorship - of a power or ability someone has
  • difficulty - of a situation

Various Answers to the Question: "What is a Noun?"

  1. "A noun is a name of a person, place, thing, emotion, power, ability, situation, etc."
    Many people would define noun like this.

  2. "A noun is a name of a person, place, thing, or idea."
    For those who like this definition, the word idea includes emotion, power, ability, situation, etc.

  3. "A noun is a name of a person, place or thing."
    This is a very traditional definition. Just because something is traditional, we should not reject it. It is not intellectually honest, to be a slave either to tradition or to modernity. I think the definition here is very good and does not leave out anything.

I can hear you say: "So, you like this definition number 3!"

You are right! Yes, I do.


We often say...

  • "I don't want to get mixed up in such things."
    By such things we mean, such unwanted situations

  • "What a thing to say!"
    Here, by thing, we mean some spoken comment either undesirable or surprising.

In these two instances, thing clearly does not refer to material things.
So we do use the word to refer also to immaterial realities.

The word thing can include everything, except...

  1. a person

    Does the word thing, include person?
    Very rarely. Sometimes, we hear someone sympathetically exclaim, "Poor thing!" when speaking of some damsel in distress (i.e. some girl in trouble). Otherwise, we don't commonly apply the word thing to human beings.

  2. a place

    Are places included in things?
    I don't think so. I have never heard anyone using the word for a place.

So, definition number 3 is a good one, in my humble opinion (or "IMHO" if you are stylish or busy!)

But, you must choose your own definition...

  • If you have an analytical mind...

    You'd tend to break up things into parts and go into the details of everything, in order to understand it, then definition 1 is for you.

  • If you have a comprehensive mind...

    You have the tendency to see the "big picture" and you see the parts as making sense only as related to the whole. You will surely be comfortable with definition number 3.

  • If you are an in-between person...

    ...as regards the comprehensive and analytical mind, then definition 2, will likely be your preference.

My Personal Preference

Although I like definition 3, I have a personal improvement upon it, and I feel extremely comfortable with the change. For me a noun is a name of anything that can be named. To my mind, this definition is ideal for understanding.

But don't try it in an examination. Examinations don't encourage creative understanding! I am a teacher; I should know!

Suppose, you asked me very privately, "Denzil, you have said many things about the noun. But...according to your most heartfelt belief, 'What is a noun?'"

My answer would be: "A noun is a name."

Very comprehensive indeed!

I think, you must have already started analyzing whether I have an analytical or comprehensive mind! You are most welcome. But meanwhile, you'd sure like to do something more profitable...at least, as profitable as exploring the question: "What is a noun?"

For Further Reading and Study...

Related Pages

What is a Noun?

Kinds of Nouns

Common Nouns

Proper Nouns

Collective Nouns

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Countable Nouns

Forms and Functions