What is the term for using an adjective in the place of a noun?

It seems to come up a lot in fantasy fiction, generally used as a proper noun to describe a group ("the Twisted", "the Hunted"), but it also comes up in everyday use ("the mentally ill").

  • 1
    The term substantive adjective may be what you are looking for.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


Grammatically, Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik (1985) describe this as adjectives functioning as heads of noun phrases' (7.23—7.26, pp 421—424).

Rhetorically, this is a combination of ellipsis (the omission of a word or phrase which is easily understood in context) and metonymy (referring to something or someone by one of its/their attributes).

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