I was meditating this morning and this came to me. Hear me out:

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.

An adjective on the other hand is something which describes a noun.

My name is Jesse. If my name denotes me, am I the noun or is my name? If my name is the noun, then what happens when I change it? I can't call a building a car but I can call a building hot or cold. If my name is an adjective describing me, why can't I use it on anyone else?

I've read answers on how Shakespeare is a noun while Shakespearean is an adjective. This sort of touches on the issue but doesn't answer it completely.

I could separate me the object from me the idea but I can still describe me the idea with a new name, let's say Jordan, which would be a pen name. My idea stays the same.

  • Then the adjective would have to be Jessian. Or Jordanesque.
    – Ricky
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 3:30
  • 1
    You got on the wrong track with "A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea." Assuming you want to explore the linguistic concept of noun, rather than a philosophical one, and you want to specifically define what a noun is in English, rather than what a noun is in general, this just isn't true.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 4:22
  • It's like saying "a cat is a small furry animal with four legs and a tail." It sounds generally correct, but in fact this definition of a cat includes many things that are not cats (e.g. fossas) and excludes things that are cats (like Sphynx breed cats or cats with one or more amputated limbs). If I say "The fire glows," the word "glows" describes the noun "fire." But "glows" is not an adjective, even though it's used to describe a noun: it is a verb.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 4:24
  • Here are some more accurate tests for identifying the part of speech of English words: msu.edu/course/lin/434/PSets/syntactic-categories.pdf
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 4:25
  • I can turn a tree into firewood, but the words are nouns which represent the actual things.
    – Davo
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 11:38

2 Answers 2


Noun noun A word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun). - ODO

The point of interest here is that a noun is a word, not the concept or the object. Consider it a label if you wish. If you change your name, you simply switch labels. You then have a previous name (a noun) and your current name (also a noun).

In your sentence "A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea", the word is should be understood as the following:

be verb 3.3 Represent. ‘let A be a square matrix of order n’ - ODO

That is, a noun represents the person, place, etc, as opposed to being those things ontologically.


Seems to me that a noun is a type of adjective then. But there is confusion because a noun is defined as being a signifier. which indicates a flaw:

If an adjective is describing a noun which is representing something that actually is (being) then calling a noun green when the being which is being represented is green and not the actual noun is inaccurate unless the noun as a word is in fact printed, displayed or presented in green.

Upon doing a search it seems this issue must have been dealt with since I studied this in grammar. Merriam-Webster defines adjective:

A word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a 'quality of the thing named', to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else

  • I added quotations

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