• Silence is a noun.

  • Silent is an adjective.

  • Silently is an adverb.

  • Silence! is an interjection.

Not sure how these words actually evolved, but they were likely all derived from the noun silence. What is the name of this noun-derived relationship?

  • You silence people with interjections? – tchrist Jul 16 '14 at 13:40
  • @tchrist I'm not known for it, but if the need arose I would :) grammar-monster.com/lessons/interjections.htm huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/… – Starkers Jul 16 '14 at 13:48
  • I think the last item is mis-labelled. An interjection is generally a kind of emotional outburst like 'ouch' or 'yikes'. You might mean 'Silence!' as a command (say, by a teacher). In which case, that's a noun. – Peter Jul 16 '14 at 14:25
  • @Peter It looks like a noun, but it's being used as an exclamation / interjection here. See the Wikipedia article. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 14:59
  • It also exists as a verb, as in 'he silenced the court with his evidence'. – WS2 Jul 16 '14 at 15:38

They are simply derived versions of the noun. This is quite common:

"The strength of steel is without equal."

"The bond between them is strong."

"I strongly urge you to consider this answer."


It's called nominalisation (more popularly, nounification). From Wikipedia...

nominalization or nominalisation is the use of a verb, an adjective, or an adverb as the head of a noun phrase, with or without morphological transformation.

OP's isn't a very good example - most of us have no idea which of silent, silence came first in English, so we can't easily identify the original and the derivative forms.

A better example might be the recent usage "That's a big ask". Although in reality the word ask has been used as a noun for centuries, most of us will interpret the usage of the last few decades as an example of anthimeria (non-standard use of a word, in this case using a verb as a noun).

  • 1
    So why not verbification? (I'll leave the other parallelifications.) – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 15:07
  • @Edwin: Why not indeed? It just so happens OP didn't include any verbs in his examples so I didn't bother to explicitly mention the term. But it's covered in my link to anthimeria. – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '14 at 15:11
  • Nounification is conversion to a noun. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 '14 at 15:14
  • @Edwin: I know that. What I don't know, as implied by my answer, is whether there was some original verb to silence or adjective silent which led to the derivative noun form silence. But I don't particularly want to know that - the interrelationship almost certainly predates "English", so it's a bad example for talking about how we currently derive new words (or "part-of-speech" usages) from existing ones. Although my ask usage involves "conversion/zero-derivation", I still think it's a more useful example. – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '14 at 15:20

“How these words evolved” is a question about etymology.

The noun “silence” comes from Old French, which inherited it from Latin silentium. It is used in English since the Middle English period (the oldest references in the OED are from the early 13th century).

The adjective “silent” is a Renaissance borrowing directly from the Latin adjective silens (accusative form: silentem). It is attested in English since 1565. Silentem and silentium have a common root in Latin, but from an English standpoint they are two different words, borrowed at two different periods.

The verb “to silence” is a de-nominal derivation from the noun “ silence”. It is attested from 1616 onwards.

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