I understand that any term, grammatical or not, becomes valid if there is common usage. I'm not concerned about that.

Google and Photoshop are both commonly used as verbs. Given that the terms map fairly well to verbs (web searching and image editing), I can follow the logic of their use.

Does this work for Facebook, though? What verb is it replacing?

  • 1
    I'm not sure I know what you mean. What can I "facebook"? I know that nowadays, I can friend you on Facebook. Is that the same as Facebooking you? – Umang Aug 28 '10 at 14:29
  • I can’t resist noting a church sign I saw in West Virginia a few years ago: “God is Facebooking you to be his friend!” At that point, Facebook was not yet commonly used as a verb, so it was a failed attempt at imitating a group’s slang from outside — but in hindsight it was prescient! – PLL Dec 18 '10 at 19:23
  • Interestingly, I think "to photoshop", at least "originally" meant more "faking something", instead of generalized image editing ("that was photoshopped") – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 22 '10 at 2:55
  • Haven't yet heard "to facebook". Any references? What I did read is a strange re-use of "to click"... well, sort-of, since it's in German. Which German.SE was live so I could post it somewhere... :D – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 22 '10 at 2:56
  • Photoshopped xkcd.com/331 – o0'. Feb 3 '11 at 18:41

Merriam-Webster has a whole list of suggestions:

  • to book engagements via facebook
  • to put something up on facebook
  • to look up someone's personal information using Facebook
  • to look someone up on a social website, to find one's information on a social website
  • To upload a photograph to Facebook so that it may be viewed by others.
  • To create an event entry on facebook
  • To get on a facebook website.
  • 1.to search for another person through the online directory know as facebook 2. to send a message through the online directory know as facebook
  • To add someone to your list of friends on the "facebook.com" website.
  • ...

Judging by the list, you can't predict which verb "to facebook" might or might not end up replacing. Right now, it's just a shorthand for many different things to different people.

  • So is book as a verb: five primary senses in MW. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 6 '12 at 1:45

common verb => official translation

google => “search the internet (using the Google brand search engine)”
photoshop => “edit digital images (using the Adobe Photoshop brand image editing software)”
facebook => “communicate (using the Facebook brand social networking website)”

EDIT: to note that the parenthesized items can in some cases be replaced with something more generic, i.e. “using any search engine”, “using any image editing software”, “using any social networking website”. This is the usage that the owners of the trademarks fear (and object to) because substantial usage of that type constitutes a generic use of their trademarks, which could be grounds for being forced to forfeit the trademark.

  • 1
    And in the case of the first two, google is in danger (danger to the brand name) of meaning "search using any search engine" and photoshop is in danger of becoming "edit/modify a photo using any software". – Kosmonaut Aug 26 '10 at 0:02
  • 2
    @Kosmonaut: some geeks insist on saying "gimp" instead of photoshop, but I think it's safe to say that they are too late to the party. However, from all I can tell, "binging" is on the rise right now. Of course, many use it tongue-in-cheek, but that's how it often starts. – RegDwigнt Aug 26 '10 at 0:19
  • 2
    GIMP may be the most unfortunately named piece of software ever. – nohat Aug 26 '10 at 0:55
  • 2
    Do you have any evidence (real examples) of people using "facebook" to mean "communicate using the facebook brand social networking website"? – delete Aug 26 '10 at 1:39
  • 2
    "Communicate" sounds very broad, and doesn't match up well with these examples: I facebooked a photo of my friend (uploaded?) I facebooked an event for next week (confirmed?) I can't facebook at work (social network?) I facebooked you, but I can't find you (facebook search) etc... – crowleywilson Aug 26 '10 at 6:50

I have never heard "Facebook" used as a verb ("to facebook").

Photoshop means "edit a photograph", and Google means "search the web".

Facebook provides too many diverse functions to be easily verbed. Would the verb be transitive or intransitive (e.g. "I facebooked all day" vs "I'll facebook you")? In the former case, does it mean "update my profile", "look at friends pictures" or "search for new friends"...? In the latter case, does it mean "add as friend", "send a message", "write on the wall", "ping"...? It is unclear. There is no single defining activity that Facebook is used for or a clear result it produces.

Similarly, spreadsheet or database program names ("1-2-3", "Excel", "Oracle", "MySql") are rarely used as verbs. These programs, like Facebook can be used for diverse tasks.

  • I've heard it (e.g. a person's website with a link saying "Facebook me!"), but personally I don't like it. – Andy Feb 18 '11 at 15:47

It doesn't really replace any other verb.

Think of it like "skiing," which means the act of using skis.

I would say that (for the present day, at least) all of these terms still pertain to the act of using the specific item to which they refer.

Some people do say "Google that with Bing," but this is just to satirize the usage of "Google" as a verb.

  • "Facebook" as a verb did not, and might not, catch on. – dbkk Sep 5 '10 at 19:16

I've heard my students say, "I'll facebook you" many times. Of course, what they mean is, "I'll send you a message on Facebook."


Using trademarks as verbs is almost always discouraged by the trademark holder, as it risks genericizing the trademark. This is why, for example, Microsoft never describes a PowerPoint presentation as "a PowerPoint", but uses the generic term "slideshow".

  • Of course, neither did Adobe create the verb "to photoshop" nor did Google create "to google". It just, well, happened, and the trademark holder can do nothing against it, since its done by the people (for the people?). Trademarks are one a "weapon" between business entities. – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 22 '10 at 2:50
  • 1
    And Adobe likewise condemns the use of "photoshop" as a verb or common noun (see adobe.com/misc/trade.html). – Andy Feb 18 '11 at 15:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.