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I have always argued adamantly, as long as the issue has been around, that gift should never be used as a verb. However, someone whose English knowledge I quite respect disagrees.

I’ve done some searching and I haven’t found a consensus; should gifting be shunned?

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And why do you think that other people should never use it as a verb? – Alex B. Jun 14 '12 at 18:16
I agree in theory. In practice, well, we're bound by habit. Conceptually, there should be a clearer distinction between what describes an action, and what describes a thing. Realistically, it makes too much sense to just use a noun to describe an action that is largely considered the default one with regards to said noun. One can only hope that this pattern be made less prominent in future generations of the growth of the English language. Although I find that hope is quite futile. – shinyspoongod Jun 17 '12 at 4:00
It's not up to us. – Greg Lee Dec 11 '15 at 17:48
One person's "acceptable" in another person's "unacceptable". (There is no Academie Anglaise.) – Drew Dec 11 '15 at 18:23
That horse has long since left the barn. – Sven Yargs Dec 13 '15 at 6:30
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I don't know where you got the idea that gift should never be used as a verb.




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It may be accepted, even by Oxford, but it frankly seems far from eloquent. You can also friend. The previous sentence is an example of where strict grammar fails to correct true semantic issues in English. I think the underlying issue is that these days people tend to think any damned noun they want to turn into a verb is totally okay as a verb. Gifting has been around for some time, but I've never liked how it flows off of the tongue. In the end, it is still quite valid, and perhaps should be relegated to the plethora of style issues for now. – shinyspoongod Jun 17 '12 at 3:56
@shinyspoongod: I wouldn't complain about "friend" as a verb. "And I will friend you, if I may, // In the dark and cloudy day" A. E. Housman. "When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended, // That for the fault's love is the offender friended." William Shakespeare. – Peter Shor Sep 27 '13 at 18:28

Certainly. It's been used as such for some 500 years.

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Well, it definitely has vintage, then! However, I get the impression it's being used much more now (than 10-20 years ago), and in cases where give would sound more natural and be more appropriate. What do you think, and does the OED have anything to offer on this? – Hugo Jun 14 '12 at 22:19
@Hugo: The OED’s most recent citations are from the second half of the 19th century, so that doesn’t help much. Not everything that is given is a gift. ‘Gift’ seems a suitable verb to use where it is. – Barrie England Jun 15 '12 at 6:32

Gift can indeed be used as a verb to mean give someone a gift. However it is not so commonly used this way as can be seen from the fact that this is not listed in smaller dictionaries.

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But anything you give is automatically a gift – Atario Nov 17 '14 at 23:27
@Atario Depends on your definition of what a gift is. If I give someone hell or the creeps, I doubt they would see either as any kind of gift. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 18 '14 at 0:06
@JanusBahsJacquet Plenty of gifts are unwanted; just ask my wife. <rimshot> – Atario Nov 19 '14 at 10:38

I think the question to be asked with all backformed verbs — fragmentate, benefact, gift, etc. — is how does a new verb formed from a noun differ from the original root verb? What does gift connote that give does not?

One argument is that gift has a limited legitimate use when it refers to a large donation left by a benefactor. For example:

The new wing was gifted to the hospital by the estate of John Q. Smith.

For the most part, though, gift, as a verb, is just a meme — a mind-virus that has infected the language through unreasoned repetition.

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"The new wing was given to the hospital by the estate of John Q. Smith." seems exactly the same in every sense, though. – Atario Nov 17 '14 at 23:29
@Atario Certainly not. It means exactly the same as donated would, but using given in the example sentence here would sound very strange. If the object given is an actual, physical thing, the recipient should be something that ranks fairly high on the animacy scale when using give. Otherwise you end up sounding quite odd. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 18 '14 at 0:13
@JanusBahsJacquet I don't know what criteria you're using to call it "very strange". It sounds perfectly ordinary to me. – Atario Nov 19 '14 at 10:37

Gift is often used as a verb in commentaries on various sports. It is used in the sense of 'present [some party] with an easy opportunity to take an advantage', for instance 'Warne gifted Petersen a four-ball.' It is often used in football in the completive sense: 'England gifted Sweden two goals.' The word gave if used in these examples would not carry the same connotation of incompetence, and in the first example would be arguably delexical.

I agree that in other usages it sounds pretentious.

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Yes, it was used in the 16th century. So what? It has NOT been used continuously for 500 years, however. It's not a question of correctness. "Gifting" and "to gift" sound both pretentious and uneducated at the same time. If it does not offend your ear, there is no persuading you that less is more, that give and gift are the more straightforward usages. Go ahead and use gift as a verb and gerund, but you will never be mistaken for a good writer or speaker

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You are completely wrong about: "It has not been used continuously for 500 years". You should never disagree about things like this with people (like Barrie England) who have access to the OED. The OED has quotes from 15??, 1621, 1677, 1749, 1826, 1844, and 1884. And Google Ngrams gives lots of uses since then. This usage seems to be slowly dying, but it does indeed have a long pedigree. – Peter Shor Sep 26 '13 at 15:08

Yes, it should be shunned. Give replaces it perfectly in every instance, without sounding contrived, ignorant, effete, or commercialistic, and that's not an accident. You wouldn't cleft* a diamond, you'd cleave it. You wouldn't receipt* a shipment, you'd receive it. And so on.

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Although it bothers me a bit too "to gift" has a more specific meaning than "to give" so although the latter can replace it, there is a loss of information in doing so. – smithkm Nov 18 '14 at 8:37
@smithkm What information? – Atario Nov 19 '14 at 10:39

"Gift" is more specific—"give" could refer to part of trade, a payment, settlement of a debt, a response to a request. "Gift" excludes those cases. Almost makes sense to see it as a shortening of "give as a gift."

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I have been hearing "gift" used as a verb more and more often. Since "to gift" used as a verb is legitimate and according to the Oxford English Dictionary has been around since the 17th century, I wonder if it is a usage from parts of the world where English may not be the first language and where the English spoken is a version from an earlier time period.

Personal opinion, the use of "to gift" as a verb seems pretentious to me. I realize English is a language which changes over time and I accept it. I will still cringe over the use of "to gift" as a verb.

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