What do you call a verb that by saying it you actually perform the action?

Common example: Apologize -- "I apologize for hurting you." (You just apologized by saying that)

I vaguely remember hearing a specific term for this sort of verb once...

1 Answer 1


I believe you are thinking of performative.

  • 1
    Yes. That's the term Austin used in How to Do Things With Words. See also the SIL linguistic glossary definition and Wikipedia on "Performativity". Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:29
  • @JohnLawler: Freddie Ayer (over-) used the adjective in his theories of language, and the OED has a 1922 citation. But Austin was probably the first to use it as a noun. Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:33
  • 2
    And the one that stuck, professionally. It had a profound effect on (then-nascent) transformational syntax. Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:47

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