When you conjugate (verb, conjuGATE) things you get a conjugate (noun, conjuGIT).

When you precipitate (verb, ...TATE) a solution you get a precipitate (noun, ...TIT).

When you concentrate (verb, ...TRATE) something you get a concentrate (noun, often ...TRATE occasionally ...TRIT).

Is there a name for this category of words, where a verb ending with "ate" pronounced with a long A produces a noun ending with "ate" pronounced with [sometimes] a short I (or a short a/e/u in some dialects or for some specific words)?

And, as a followup, why can I find no reference or examples online of "hyphenate" being used as a noun to describe two words that have been hyphenated? There's an uncommon definition where it refers to the subject described by the hyphenated words, but that isn't the same as it referring to the words themselves. I’ve heard this term used many times in my life, often in the context of amateur fiction writers or college writing courses.

  • I, for one, have never heard "hyphenate" as a noun used to describe a compound. Aug 7, 2018 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


If you had used phonetic notation, the answer would have been completely apparent.

The first pronunciation in each pair below is the verb; the second is the noun or adjective, or both:

  • conjugate /ˈkɒndʒʊˌɡeɪt/ vs /ˈkɒndʒʊɡət/
  • ruminate /ˈruməˌneɪt/ vs /ˈrumənət/

    John Lawler notes in comments that the noun ruminant means something else. However, there is a rare adjective ruminate used in botany.

  • hyphenate /ˈhɑɪfəˌneɪt/ vs /ˈhɑɪfənət/
  • concentrate /ˈkɒnsənˌtreɪt/ vs /ˈkɒnsənˌtreɪt/

    (The alternate /kənˈsɛntrət/ pronunciation of concentrate given for the noun and adjective by the first edition of the OED is now uncommon at best, and is mentioned only in passing in the third edition.)

In other words, this is the familiar pattern in English of stressed vowels not reducing but unstressed vowels indeed reducing. The verb has a stressed (or at least unreduced) /e/ phoneme in the final syllable, whereas the noun or adjective in losing its stress, reduces to the standard reduced /ə/.

As for why you can’t find hyphenate as a noun, you may be looking at abridged dictionaries. The OED mentions this early citation:

  • 1922 Contemp. Rev. Dec. 693
    The ‘hyphenates’—Irish and Germans, Poles and Russians and Italians—..joined in the condemnation of Wilsonism.

As far as I can see, the verb enters the language first, and then some years later a corresponding noun (or occasionally adjective) appears via zero derivation (conversion to another part-of-speech without a change in spelling), and it is this substantive which suffers a reduction in its final syllable, since because it’s no longer a verb, we don’t much feel like retaining its stress. Compare reˈcord verb with ˈrecord noun.

There’s no special word for these pairs. You can think of them as verbs plus their (zero-)derived nouns if you’d like, respectively unreduced and reduced due entirely to contrasting stress patterns between the two.

  • Note that ruminate does not have an -ate nominalization. Rather, it has one that ends in -ant and doesn't refer to a product but to an animal: a ruminant is an animal that chews a cud (rumen). Aug 7, 2018 at 19:44
  • 1
    @JohnLawler There does exist an uncommon adjective ruminate in botanical use from the late 1700s (1800 in English) up through today: “Of the endosperm of a seed: having an irregular pattern of ridges and furrows, so as to appear chewed, as in nutmeg (genus Myristica) and soursop (Annona muricata).” A 2007 citation from Plant Anatomy reads: “The ruminate endosperm is easily seen in hand sections of whole nutmeg seeds.” (Notice you can see the 3rd-decl stem peaking through: L. rumen, ruminis to n.pl. rumina and verb ruminate.)
    – tchrist
    Aug 7, 2018 at 19:59

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