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What is it called when a non-verb is used as a verb?

The phenomenon of turning a noun into a verb is very common. Some are more well known, like "shouldering the blame" or "tabling a discussion," while others are newer and less known. I just came across "when it storms." Is there a real name for this or is it just called "verbing?" If not, what was it called before the word "verbing" was coined?

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    @MattЭллен The questions are certainly related but I think this is asking something slightly different - are there alternatives to "verbing" / what was it called before "verbing"? – Waggers Oct 5 '11 at 10:47

The phenomenon of verbing spans several other, slightly broader phenomena - some of which intersect or are subsets of one another.

  • Anthimeria is the rhetorical use of a word as if it were a member of a different word class. I would expect that most examples of verbing begin as rhetorical devices.
  • Conversion, also called zero derivation, is the creation of a word from an existing word without any change in form. ("I will table this")
  • If a new word is formed "(I am tabling this") this is an example of derivation, the process of forming a new word on the basis of an existing word
  • Because changing the class of a word changes the syntax of the word, all of these are examples of a functional shift, which occurs when an existing word takes on a new syntactic function.

So it would appear that there isn't a term synonymous with "verbing" that was used before that term was coined, but I would expect one or more of the above would have been used to describe the phenomenon.

Of course the word "verbing" is itself an example of verbing!

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The OED cites "verbify" from 1878 and "verb" as a verb from 1936.

Linguists have the adjective (and sometimes noun) "deverbal" to mean a word that has been formed from a verb.

Note that in many languages verbing requires some morphological change to the word because verbs have a different shape from other words. In English, content words do not show their role by their shape, so you can often verb a noun without any change to it (as there).

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  • What do you mean by "verbs have a different shape" and showing a role by shape? – Mark Oct 5 '11 at 10:37
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    In many languages words take a variety of endings (or other morphological processes) that depend on their part of speech. This is true to a limited extend in English (if you add "-ing", it must be a verb), but the bare form of a word is often used, both for nouns and for verbs. In French, for example, most forms of a verb have distinctive endings. There are forms of verbs which could function as nouns (often the first or third person singular present), but most forms would look wrong as a noun. – Colin Fine Oct 6 '11 at 13:06
  • Ah yes. Didn't know it was called 'shape.' Nice insight. – Mark Oct 6 '11 at 13:08
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    It isn't. I was using that as a non-technical term. – Colin Fine Oct 6 '11 at 13:09

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