I'm looking for words similar to female, that can act as nouns and adjectives, but a) can so so only without changing form, and b) are unable to act as other parts of speech.

Is there a class or category for this sort of words?

P.S. I've used the Moby Part-Of-Speech database to filter a corpus of total 233,357 words to a list of just 5,423 words that are both nouns and adjectives (presumably, in the same form)...so (@Ricky) it's not quite "a hell of a list," but still one to reckon with. ;) For future reference, here's my list: https://pastebin.com/fG5gUeHP

  • That would be one hell of a list.
    – Ricky
    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:21
  • 2
    There are discourse constraints--for instance, adjectives must be contextually understandable as denoting a category rather than a simple quality--but by and large any adjective can serve in a pinch as a noun, and vice versa. And both of them can be pressed into service as verbs. Apr 12, 2017 at 1:22
  • @StoneyB Your point about discourse constraints is well taken, but I don't know if I agree with the notion that "any adjective can serve [ . . . ] as a noun." How do you mean? Let's take any old adjective—"happy". How in the world would it serve as a noun (except in a highly idiomatic context)? :) I really am just looking for a raw list of words that can occupy both domains.
    – mig81
    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:31
  • @mig81 - Which should I get- the happy meal or the sad meal? oh that’s easy, happy is better.
    – Jim
    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:44
  • @Jim here's another adjective: "alive." Can that be turned into a noun? Although an expert might have more perspective, it seems that, at least in English, adjectives which already have alternate noun forms like "living" cannot serve as nouns. The phrase "The alive are among us" would warrant editing to "The living are among us." Apr 12, 2017 at 2:00

2 Answers 2


Nominalized adjectives can be used as nouns. Two types of nominalization are found in English. One type requires the addition of a derivational suffix to create a noun. In the second case, English uses the same word as a noun without any additional morphology. This second process is referred to as zero-derivation1. An example of zero-derivation is the noun green in golf (referring to a putting-green) which is derived ultimately from the adjective green.

For examples, see this.

  • A-ha! Now I'm two steps closer to my goal. :) Thanks for explaining the zero-derivation bit. This has actually cleared up a lot of confusion for me!
    – mig81
    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:57

A subset of this type of word would be nominals.


In linguistics, the term "nominalize" means "to convert into a noun." A common example uses the adjectives "good," "bad," and "ugly," which can become nouns in the phrase, "The good, the bad, and the ugly."

Lest I get called out, I'll add the caveat that this doesn't cover all of your conditions. I think it would be hard to find a term that explicitly denotes that the words can't be any other part of speech.

  • Nice! This brings me one step closer to locating the type of words I need. Thanks for this.
    – mig81
    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:43
  • 1
    @mig81 that's a good question. In this case, "female" is functioning as an adjective, but in the phrase, "The woman boxer landed a punch," I would say that "woman" is a modifying noun. Here's a strategy for distinguishing -- try adding an adverb. "The very female boxer landed a punch," appears grammatically sound. "The very woman boxer," not so much. Apr 12, 2017 at 2:15
  • This is excellent. Thanks! (Now I feel bad for voting for MikeJRamsey56's answer. :P)
    – mig81
    Apr 12, 2017 at 2:21

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