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Is “I medalled in volleyball” a grammatically correct sentence? According to OED, medal is a verb and a noun. I haven't seen any usage of the word as a verb, but I am assuming the above sentence is correct.

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Is there a term for "gramatically correct, but really annoying"? – Andrew Grimm Jun 5 '13 at 12:40
@Andrew Grimm English – Edwin Ashworth Apr 2 at 8:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You hear that usage every time you watch the Olympics. "Medalled" is very much a verb in that community, and the announcers have picked it up wholesale.

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"Verbing weirds language". – Chris B. Behrens Jan 18 '11 at 23:45

Yes, it is grammatically correct.

It is also the most natural and concise way to state, simply, that you have been awarded a medal for an accomplishment.

I medaled at the qualifying event.
I medalled at the qualifying event.

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It's also considered ugly or unnatural use of English. The trait is becoming more prevalent in America, but is frowned upon in the UK as ugly use of language. 'Gifting' is another example you hear often, and I guess it saves you having to say 'give a gift', for which there's no commonly used single verb. – Pete855217 Nov 16 '12 at 6:23
@ Pete855217 'I guess it saves ...' is more grating on my ears than 'I medalled at the qualifying event.' And as for the article usage in 'It's also considered ugly or unnatural use of English.' ... I'd add that the entries for the verb incarnation of medal label the usage as 'especially British'! And as Gaston Ümlaut points out, 'It's worth noting that 'medal' as a verb is not a new coining as it was used by Thackeray ('Nil Nisi Bonum', 1860) and Byron'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 2 at 9:06

An important means of creating new words in English is zero-derivation (aka conversion). This is the process of converting a word from one part of speech to another without any overt morphological process. The use of the noun 'medal' as a verb is an example of this. There are many other examples—new forms are often created in this way, some coined once and never used again, others becoming familiar parts of the language.

It's worth noting that 'medal' as a verb is not a new coining as it was used by Thackeray ('Nil Nisi Bonum', 1860) and Byron (in a letter in 1822); however, both of these uses were transitive whereas the current usage is as an intransitive verb, making it a zero-dervation of a zero-derivation! It seems to come to the public's attention every Olympics and raises the same complaints from people who have only just noticed it (this is the 'recency illusion'). The process of zero-derivation dates back to Old English so this sort of thing has been going on a long time.

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+1, though I find your last sentence difficult to believe. Zero-derivation requires a language which, like modern English, is quite poor in overt morphological marking, and Old English was not such a language. I can't see how zero-derivation would even be possible in Old English, where for example verbal marking was mandatory. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 2 at 10:08
@JanusBahsJacquet do a search for 'old english zero derivation' and you'll find papers with examples. In highly inflecting languages such as OE, stripping off the inflectional suffixes from a verb and then using that base as a noun, without any overt derivational process, is normally counted as 'zero derivation', and there are many examples of this. – Gaston Ümlaut Apr 3 at 7:18

Over twenty years ago, I asked the then head of the English Department at the secondary school where we both taught about the acceptability of various noun-to-verb conversions or claimed conversions. He said that a visiting professor at a lecture he had recently attended had declared, "Oh yes - you can verb any noun nowadays."

'She silvered in the 200' and 'She podiumed at the Nationals' were two examples claimed to have been used in an Australian newspaper a few years back. I'm waiting for 'He jugged in the Open.'

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Yes, it's grammatically correct, though perhaps not very natural.

The verb medal is a relatively new introduction to the English language though, and is certainly not commonly used where I live (Britain).

See this analysis at, which gives two accepted uses of medal as a verb:

–verb (used with object)
3. to decorate or honor with a medal.
–verb (used without object)
4. to receive a medal, esp. in a sporting event: He medaled in three of four races.

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I agree it certainly doesn't sound natural. Since I have always been taught that medal is a noun. – abhi Jan 18 '11 at 17:54
Yeah. That was certainly the only traditional usage. To me personally, it sounds lazy (if not strange) to use the verb - even as a native speaker. – Noldorin Jan 18 '11 at 18:01
I've never heard it before, but it's pretty readily comprehensible. – Colin Fine Jan 18 '11 at 18:13
Agree with much of what has been said - it is commonly heard, especially from athletes and sports announcers, but should probably be considered jargon, in the sense of being appropriate in sporting contests, but sounding sloppy/lazy in others. Note that the spelling of "medalled" follows British spelling conventions; I believe US usage would prefer "medaled"? – psmears Jan 18 '11 at 19:07
@psmears: Yeah, I agree - I too would classify it as jargon. (Also, you're probably right about US spelling... though I'm happy for Americans to use British English still, hah!) – Noldorin Jan 18 '11 at 19:41

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