What word describes/denotes the words that precede vision in the following two words: computer vision and machine vision?

4 Answers 4


The word I hear most is noun adjective, while attributive noun and noun adjunct sound equally appropriate and current. I have never heard noun premodifier, though it sounds technically correct. I might prefer adjectival noun myself despite Wikipedia's reservations. A noun adjective is always a modifier, but not the other way around: modifier is a correct but less specific term.

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While Ngrams are mere (defective) statistics and ultimately cannot support any such assertion, they may, when taken with a big lump of 'sea salt,' give readers some indication.

  • 1
    This certainly needs supporting evidence. I've never heard 'noun adjective', but I wouldn't post an answer giving the terms I am familiar with without supporting evidence. Sep 1, 2017 at 9:38
  • @EdwinAshworth: I don't agree with you at all that evidence should be required, but, very well. See above. Sep 1, 2017 at 14:17
  • But 'noun adjective' isn't defined as an 'attributive noun' in say ODO, but as a 'noun used in apposition.' Neither does Nordquist list it as a synonym. Sep 1, 2017 at 16:47

I know it as an attributive noun, but according to this Wikipedia article, it's also called a noun adjunct or noun premodifier.

  • Q1: What do you call it?

A noun preceding and describing other noun is called a noun adjunct or attributive noun or noun premodifier. Source 1 calls it premodifier.

  • Q2: Are they still nouns?

Yes, all the sources call them nouns.

  • Q3: Are they adjectives?

From source 3:

Nouns used in this way are sometimes said to be adjectives or to behave like adjectives. Attributive nouns may be marked in dictionaries with a label like often attrib placed after the part-of-speech label for noun. While any noun may be used attributively, the label is limited to those quite frequently used in this manner. An adjective is defined as a word standing for the name of an attribute which describes a noun more fully, e.g., "yellow flower."

Source 1 does not write that a noun can function as an adjective.

  • Q4: How can a noun function as an adjective (what is the meaning of function)? Is this a rigorous definition?

More research needed

-you can also have postmodifiers

-the premodifiers of nouns are usually adjectives, but they can also be nouns, genitive noun phrases, participles, adverbs, numerals, and others.

Sources I found and consulted:

  • The source 3 link takes to a completely different page, not the one from which the quote has been taken.
    – apaderno
    Sep 1, 2017 at 12:08

Grammatically, computer in computer vision is a modifier, which is:

A word, especially an adjective or noun used attributively, that restricts or adds to the sense of a head noun.

The same is true for machine in machine vision.

Examples of modifiers are:

  • Good and family in good family house

  • London in London fog


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