[ Etymonline: ] 1510s, from Latin gerundum "to be carried out," gerundive of gerere "to bear, carry" (see gest). In Latin, a verbal noun used for all cases of the infinitive but the nominative; applied in English to verbal nouns in -ing. "So called because according to the old grammarians, the gerund prop[erly] expressed the doing or the necessity of doing something" [Century Dictionary]. ...

Source: p 32, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (2005) by Huddleston and Pullum

Traditionally (for example, in the grammar of Latin), a gerund is a verb-form that is functionally similar to a noun

Despite the above, I don’t understand the choice of gerund, especially the greyed quote.
What does this mean: ' for the gerund to prop[erly] express ' ?

I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but how is "to bear, carry" unique to gerunds? I read this.

Footnote: I'm interested in the foregoing for French also, but this comment advised me to redirect.

  • In Latin, the gerundive gerundum literally means "must be carried out/must be done". There is no gerundive in English. The gerundive, which in form was an adjective, was frequently used to expressive necessity. Occasionally, it was used to also express the same ideas as the gerund which was a non-finite verbal noun form. I'm not sure what you're asking, though. Are you asking why a "gerund" is called a ""gerund"? It's just a name for a grammatical form so named because the name resembled some of its functions (though not all).
    – A.Ellett
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 4:49
  • The last link directs the visitor to 404, whatever used to be there has now been deleted.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 4:50
  • 1
    There should be a tag "grammar terms". The tags etymology and Latin are rather vague and do not characterize the problem of this post sufficiently. And I think the discussion of grammar terms - their sense and nonsense - should be a main topic.
    – rogermue
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 5:21
  • @rogermue +1. Agreed. Please inform me whether I can help.
    – user50720
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 5:24
  • @LawArea51Proposal-Commit -That would be fine. I don't know how to create a new tag. Thanks in advance.
    – rogermue
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 5:41

1 Answer 1


There is something mysterious about the term gerund, at least the term does not give a clear insight into this special verb form.

By the way, there were two similar terms: gerundium and gerundive.

It may be that the terms are not derived from gerere, which does not make much sense. I think it might be possible that the terms ultimately came from agere and the vowel a of agerere vanished somehow and the word was muddled up with gerere.

Thinking about the problem of terms, sometimes it is very difficult to invent a term for particular verb forms. With the term participle we have a term that gives some insight into the nature of these special verb forms.

The terms gerund and gerundive are mere labels, giving not much insight and we should invent a new systematic term for gerund such as noun-verb-form.

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