I've just used 'candidate' attributively to mean '[worth considering as] a real possibility [for the purpose stated, or implied by context] (eg a candidate term or construction).

I've not been able to find a licensing of any attributive usage in AHDEL, Collins, M-W, RHK Webster's or Google Dictionary.

YourDictionary merely lists variously sourced examples of the usage meaning 'relating to / worthy of a candidate':

As soon as Jake Weller left, Cynthia questioned her husband about the candidate filing papers Weller handed him.

Dean pulled down the top on his Jeep and slowly drove uptown, giving off what he hoped were candidate smiles and waves to the locals, all of whom seemed to be walking the sun drenched street.

I have found one incidental example of the 'obviously should be at least considered as a possibility' sense within Wiktionary Talk:


WT:CFI does not define "attributive". If you have your own candidate definition of "attributive" ...

But is such a usage acceptable?

  • I've certainly used it that way. But that doesn't mean much, coming from an uppity Yank ;) BTW, your second example (of the sun drenched streets) is using candidate a different way: as or like a political candidate: a big, bright, toothy smile. – Dan Bron Nov 4 '14 at 11:58
  • Ngram suggests little usage of those expressions: books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Nov 4 '14 at 12:13
  • @Dan Bron '/ worthy of' was how I put it. Most adjective definitions traditionally began 'of, like or pertaining to ...' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '14 at 12:21
  • @Josh61 I'm against do-it-yourself in general, but this is one usage I hope becomes general. (At the moment, it seems to be a candidate usage.) – Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '14 at 12:23
  • @Edwin, point taken, but it seems to me there's a qualitative and categorical difference between the candidate smile and candidate definition: the latter can be chosen (from among other competitors in the field), whereas the former cannot be chosen and introduces to a third-party. – Dan Bron Nov 4 '14 at 12:25

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the noun can be used "in apposition" and gives the following two historical examples:

1735 Swift Author upon Himself in Wks. II. 347 Caress't by Candidate Divines.
1844 J. H. Stocqueler Hand-bk. India 297 A numerous supplementary class of candidate pupils.

I'm not completely sure, but I think these match the usage you are talking about.

  • Yes indeed. The OED terminology is perhaps unusual, but that's the usage. Thank you. – Edwin Ashworth May 16 '16 at 20:47

In my work I must frequently choose between competing candidate solutions. This appears to be an increasingly common (according to Google Ngrams) example of candidate used attributively.

  • 1
    Thank you, mike. If you link to the relevant Ngram/s, you may well get upvoted. I've obviated the rather perplexing downvote. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '14 at 18:58

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