17

I've thought homophobe refers to the people and homophobic is just an adjective. However I recently heard that homophobic is also used as a noun describing the people who have homophobia, meaning homophobe.

Is homophobic ― not the homophobics; I know this can be a noun ― used as a noun as well as an adjective?

  • 3
    If you "know [plural homophobics] can be a noun", why would you think the singular form might not also be a noun? – FumbleFingers Oct 7 '14 at 13:49
  • 4
    In general, in English, you can nounify an adjective, verbify a noun, et al. It isn't always the best choice of words, but it is usually understood, and many such constructions eventually make it into the "official" language. (Consider, eg, that most people would hardly bat an eyelash hearing "John is a diabetic", rather than "John is diabetic".) – Hot Licks Oct 8 '14 at 2:47
29

In English, an adjective can act as a noun, where it stands for those described by the adjective.

The Quick and the Dead

The Fast and the Furious

etc.

  • 6
    Yes, good point. An epileptic is one who suffers epileptic fits, and a diabetic one who has diabetes. – WS2 Oct 7 '14 at 13:27
  • @WS2: I don't think those forms are in current usage by medical professionals. The correct forms would be "a person with epilepsy" or "a person with diabetes", etc. – R.. Oct 7 '14 at 15:42
  • 6
    @R I would agree that they are perhaps not the most fashionable forms but the questioner asked whether an adjective such as homophobic is ever used as a noun. The answer is 'yes', and so are epileptic, diabetic and schizophrenic. – WS2 Oct 7 '14 at 15:47
  • 4
    @R.. That's not because it's incorrect grammar. It's political correctness to remind the doctor that their patient is a full human being, is not just a disease vector. – ChrisW Oct 7 '14 at 19:10
  • 3
    @DanVerdolino There are dozens of examples besides the ones I mentioned. The adjective acts as the noun, but is not a noun. "The rich", "The poor", "The sick". This is common in cases where the adjective describes the category of nouns represented. The reason "rich", "poor", "sick", etc, are not considered nouns is because, as you mentioned, you can't say "a poor". Doesn't mean it's not acting as a noun in some cases though. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 7 '14 at 19:59
24

All of the online dictionaries at onelook.com list homophobic as an adjective and none list it as a noun.

As the poster notes, there is an accepted noun for a homophobic person, homophobe.

As Mr. Shiny and New notes, adjectives are often used as nouns. However, in most cases, this is limited to a collective or categorical usage as in his examples, such as the fast and the furious. You can say the race goes to the swift, but you cannot say the race goes to a swift (unless you are talking about the bird).

As @WS2 points out, adjectives are often used as nouns to refer to someone who has a condition, such as a diabetic. This type of usage can refer to individuals or a whole category, and can take a definite or indefinite article. These seem to be limited to cases where there is not a separate accepted noun for the thing that has the adjective's quality.

  • 1
    Regarding the last paragraph, it should be noted that this usage is going out of style, and is actively rejected by some people as dehumanizing. This is especially the case with words that name a person according to a disease or disability they have or where the adjective-as-noun form has been used to actively dehumanize ("illegals", "homosexuals", etc.). – R.. Oct 7 '14 at 15:40
  • Doesn't usage often become proper even if it didn't start quite that way? Here, I agree, two different words, one adj, one noun. But if common usage treat homophobic as noun, at some point, it's accepted as such. – JoeTaxpayer Oct 7 '14 at 15:57
  • @JoeTaxpayer Words and usage do evolve, but since there is an accepted term, I'm not sure what the adjectival form used as a noun adds. There is no difference in meaning or tone. – bib Oct 7 '14 at 16:44

protected by tchrist Oct 8 '15 at 1:01

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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