What is the adjectival form of the word 'noun'?

Every result I get is for the adjectival form of a noun, not the word 'noun' itself.

  • 2
    Hello OP?? What exactly was it that you were looking for? Do any of the answers here serve your purpose? If so, you could 'accept' whichever you found useful, and up vote what you found good as well. Look, you also earned five up votes!
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 10:39

5 Answers 5


You already had the answer in your search term - noun will normally do fine as an adjective.

Consider, for example, a noun phrase, aka nominal phrase. So far as I'm concerned, noun there is an example of adjectivalisation (it's effectively being used as an adjective, the same as nominal).

In certain contexts you might use noun-like, but I'd avoid nouny, nounish, etc.

  • No love for nounly? Ok, I admit it's a bit comely, but she's got a heart of gold! ;-)
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 8:04
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    @Andrew Heath: Nah - a "heart of gold" would be nAUny or nORny! Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 19:49

Dictionary.com and theFreeDictionary.com lists the adjectival form as nounal, however, FumbleFinger's nominal works very well, too.


  1. Of or pertaining to a noun.

    Verbs which in whole or in part have shed their old nounal coat.
    — Earle.

source: theFreeDictionary.com

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    I can't deny it has been used - witness 8 hits in Google Books for nounal complement. But it does rather pale by comparison with 8040 hits for noun complement. I imagine almost every instance in both sets refers to exactly the same thing. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 2:48

The adjective you are searching for is nominal.

As per Dictionary.com:



a. of, pertaining to, or producing a noun or nouns: a nominal suffix.

b. functioning as or like a noun.

This is the word I have most seen used for this purpose in grammar books and language guides.


Although it is tempting to just blurt out "nouny", that isn't right. Athough "nouny" is an adjective, it's not the right one. Something which is "nouny" has some attributes in common with a noun, but in fact isn't one.

The answer is that we don't need a special form of a noun in English. Nouns form compounds with other nouns, and modify them, thereby acting as de facto adjectives (though not exactly that way from a pure syntax point of view).

For instance a "banana shake" is a kind of shake, composed of banana material. The word banana in "banana shake" does not name a fruit object, but to properties of the shake: its taste and composition. (Syntactically, it's not quite an adjective but almost. For instance, we cannot put a true adjective between "banana" and "shake"; we can say "smooth banana shake", whereas "banana smooth shake" is awkward. Be that as it may, the word "banana" in a noun phrase does the job of applying the attributes of a banana to a noun.)

Suppose we were discussing some notation which is made up of symbols. The symbols are not words, but some of them function as verbs and nouns.

We might say that this one is a "verb symbol" and that one is a "noun symbol".

If we call it a "nouny symbol", it feels like we are waffling in uncertainty. The symbol seems to have the trappings of a noun, but we lack the confidence to assert that it is one.


The word you are looking for is "nouny", meaning like or resembling a noun.

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    That is very informal, and a recent innovation. It would not be accepted in any but the most informal speech.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 1:39
  • Depends on the context. There is such a thing as Nouniness. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 2:38
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    @John: That's probably because if you need a word for the quality itself, noun-ness would be a bit of a mouthful - quite apart from the fact that nounness looks even weirder than nouniness. Besides, if you're going to commit unspeakable crimes on our dear mother tongue, I guess you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Anyone can choose their own terms, obviously, so long as they're comprehensible. But Google Books claims 575 instances of "noun-like word", against none at all for "nouny word". Imho, nouny sounds a bit like it's trying to capture some "ineffable" quality. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 3:00
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    The paper I linked to talks about the well-known cline of, well, nouniness: That-clauses are less nouny than (>) for-to-clauses > embedded question clauses > Acc-ing gerund clauses > Poss-ing gerund clauses > Action Nominals > Derived Nominals > Nouns. There are syntactic tests and a lot of features that need to be pinned down. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 3:07
  • @John: As it happens, I was just reading an article in New Scientist about Project Habakkuk (a plan to build warships made of ice). Apparently the workers (mainly conscientious objectors, I think) were never told what they were actually building. The article author said "but they must have detected some kind of boatiness, because they called it 'Noah's Ark'". That's not a completely unique usage, as I now discover. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 21:32

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