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Is bolded a word?

I just bolded the important text in this sentence.

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You might use emboldened :) – Joseph Weissman Nov 6 '11 at 22:08
I am reminded of a comment made by Mike Lesk in a lecture he gave back in my college days. He said "The thing about English is that it is so easy to verb a noun." – Fraser Orr Nov 7 '11 at 3:02
Just thought I would add that I have seen this word used "Lies My Teacher Told Me" (2007 Simon and Schuster) on page 201 The first real paragraph after the quotes. And I had a professor who used to say "Once it's published, it's English." – Jimmy G. Jul 30 '15 at 5:06

10 Answers 10

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I'd say in the context of computer editing, bold is certainly used as a verb (e.g. bold that paragraph, I bolded the important points), beyond that it depends on your criteria for what makes a word.

Wikitionary certainly cites this use as a word, and I trust them more than the OED for defintions of "new" words or meanings of words.

bold (third-person singular simple present bolds, present participle bolding, simple past and past participle bolded)
To make a selected portion of text have a typeface with thicker and heavier strokes.

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Bold is not strictly a verb (but it is sometimes used as one). Made bold is a way to express correctly what you are trying to say.

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It's a way to express that meaning for sure, but that's not the actual question at hand. – Ben Brocka Nov 6 '11 at 19:23
You're correct. I fixed the response. – Anicul Nov 6 '11 at 19:32
If it's used as a verb, then it is a verb. – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 19:50
I could use children as verb but that doesn't make it one. – Anicul Nov 6 '11 at 20:05
Fabricated sentences don't count. – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 20:38

In conversation, copy editors have long used this as a verb, even as they would never allow it in the most formal of published copy. Context is everything. If you care, then it is important to know why you care if someone thinks you should not use it.

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Bold is available as a verb and bolded would be its past tense, but it's more usual to use embolden.

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I didn't see any evidence of "bold" being used as a verb, could you show where you did? – Kevin Nov 6 '11 at 18:55
Doesn't "embolden" mean "encourage"? How can it be used with the sense given in the question? – Irene Nov 6 '11 at 18:56
@Irene: It does, and the OED records it only in that and similar senses. I may be mistaken, but I’d assumed it was also widely used to describe the act of applying bold-faced type and it's what I would use myself. – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 19:37
@Kevin: See my comment on Irene’s answer above. – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 19:38
@BarrieEngland: I just looked at both OED and Merriam-Webster online and I didn't find "bold" listed as a verb, only "boldface". I guess you're referring to printed versions. Thanks anyway. – Irene Nov 7 '11 at 13:08

I couldn't find "bolded" in any of several dictionaries, but I did find "boldfaced" used as a verb.

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And note the lack of a hyphen; "bold-faced" is strictly an adjective. – Kevin Nov 6 '11 at 18:58
Just saw it, too. It can be used in the sense asked in the question, so it's the accepted verb to describe what the OP is looking for. – Irene Nov 6 '11 at 19:01
@Irene I don't think verbed boldface is any more or less accepted than verbed bold. – z7sg Ѫ Nov 7 '11 at 11:26
@z7sgѪ: Actually, OED has an entry of "boldface" as a verb, that's why I believe it's a verb already in use to describe what is being talked about here. "bold" with this sense isn't listed. – Irene Nov 7 '11 at 13:05
@Irene Is that right? Yes, unfortunately I only have access to the free online edition where neither are listed. – z7sg Ѫ Nov 7 '11 at 14:49

There is no entry in a dictionary for the verb "bold".

However, since there are new terms introduced to the language that have to do with actions involving latest technology, everyone will understand what the word bold means in this context (at least everyone who's computer literate). I was surprised when I first heard "I will sms you" or "Text me your decision", but such sentences have become part of everyday speech, especially among younger people. It would be natural to assume that the word bold can belong to this category of new uses of a word (since it has other meanings as an adjective).

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It all depends on your dictionary! – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 18:52
Did you find anything in a dictionary? I'd be interested to know – Irene Nov 6 '11 at 18:53
The OED has definitions and citations for ‘bold’ both as a transitive and an intransitive verb. Neither is in the sense we’re discussing here, but the point is that the use of ‘bold’ as a verb has grammatical legitimacy. I have not myself seen or heard it used as such in a typographical sense, but there’s no linguistic reason why it shouldn’t be. – Barrie England Nov 6 '11 at 19:36
@Theta30: You're quite right! Apparently, I got carried away while using words like "sms" and "text"! I was surprised to see it myself, I hadn't noticed until you pointed it out to me... – Irene Jan 13 '12 at 16:28
OED does mark the verb bold as obsolete... "It touches vs, as France inuades our land Not bolds the King." (Shakespeare) – GEdgar Mar 30 '13 at 16:46

In an effort to be deliberately prententious, I use the verb "embolden." I don't think it is quite right, but I've never been misunderstold.

But no, "bold" should never be used as a verb this way!

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In the grand tradition of English, we can take words and make them verbs. Is it proper? No! But you will still be understood.

With that said, I would avoid "bolded" in favor of "made it bold".

Also, when you make words into verbs, it's best not to conjugate them or else it sounds odd.

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You sure about that, Richard? ‘Bottle’, ‘catalogue’, ‘oil’, ‘brake’, referee’ and ‘bicycle’ are all verbs that came from nouns. Your advice would disallow ‘I oiled the wheels’, ‘He refereed the match’ and ‘She bottles fruit’. – Barrie England Nov 7 '11 at 10:55
When coining words, I personally try to avoid conjugating them, or else it sounds odd. Using words that are already part of the language is something else... – Richard Nov 7 '11 at 12:19

It is emboldened, as in "a noble spirit emboldens the smallest man."

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Bolded certainly registers on Ngram when you run a Google Books search for it. Here's the resulting Ngram chart for the years 1900–2008:

I imagine that if you could see the results for 2009–2015, they would show continued growth, though perhaps not at the rate depicted here.

The earliest Google Books match for bolded in the sense of "set in boldface type" is from Tony Webster & Richard Champion, Microcomputer Software Buyer's Guide (1984) [combined snippets]:

  • Displaying different Control Characters on the display screen. This feature allows the operator to check, for example, on what tabs are set, where hard carriage returns have been given (as opposed to automatic carrier returns), what text has been bolded, underlined and centered, and any special modes in which the system may be.


  • Specifying by commands during text entry that text, when printed out, should be Underscored or Bolded. The bolded feature actually causes text to be struck more than once to create a dark, bold effect. Such an effect is used for emphasis in titles, headings etc.

By 1990, numerous instances show up in the search results. Here is a typical one from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Health Status of Vietnam Vets (January 1989) [combined snippets]:

The most popular alternative is bolded to indicate it should be used in the review of symptoms or PFC probes if the respondent simply says, "Yes" to the question without choosing one of the alternatives.

That same publication repeatedly uses bolded as an adjective, as here:

SX: Abbreviation for "Symptom" or "Symptoms." This is a signal to the interviewer to insert the bolded words from a symptom question into this question to refer to the symptom of interest.

Merriam-Webster Online still doesn't acknowledge that bold/bolded as a verb and bolded as an adjective have been in common use (especially in publishing) since the 1990s—or indeed that they exist at all. But eventually it will have to concede the obvious because this usage shows no signs of going away. Google Books search results for 2006 alone, for example, report 75 unique matches in published works.

So the answer to the question posed at the top of this question—'Is “bolded” a word?'—is unequivocally yes, bolded is definitely a word.

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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 30 '13 at 17:07

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