Merriam gives me "withholder", which is indeed a noun, but not for the act.

Sample use in a sentence:

"Even private schools have some contact with the outside world, preventing the withholdment (sic) of certain facts."

Naturally, an alternative could be to substitute the double negative with "encouraging the acquisition of certain facts", but this changes the meaning completely and is untrue, and is therefore not what I want to write.

  • 1
    One problem is that withholding is being used in an odd way here. Contact doesn't prevent anyone from withholding those facts. The withholding is done by the doer, not the receiver. Whereas the word withheld applies to the receiver, but only with respect to the one potential giver, not all givers. I would use innocence here. [...] ensuring the students do not remain innocent of certain facts.
    – Phil Sweet
    Sep 22, 2018 at 12:18
  • Yes, I might have to rephrase it in the end. However, if there is a synonym to "the withholding of", I'm curious to find it. :) How about redaction? merriam-webster.com/dictionary/redaction Sep 22, 2018 at 13:02
  • Blockade, embargo? Mar 30, 2020 at 23:26

3 Answers 3


Withholding is the word you want. It acts as a noun in this context. See this Wikipedia article.

  • That article doesn't even mention the word specifically. However, Oxford does indeed define it as a mass noun and adjective. Sep 22, 2018 at 4:55
  • @JasonBassford - The link was meant to address the general idea of using verbs as nouns. The broader concept then can show that this specific case conforms.
    – Jim Mack
    Sep 23, 2018 at 2:51

"Withholdment" is the noun you're looking for. This is found on Wiktionary, Collins Dictionary, The Free Dictionary, and many more.

The reason you may be unsure about this word is because it is a nominalization, or zombie noun. This is when you take a word that is not a noun (an adjective, adverb, or verb) and make it into a noun by adding a word ending like -ment, -tion, -zion, etc. These words can look weird because they seem to be "made up on the spot" but are actually correct.

A common piece of writing advice is to avoid zombie nouns, which make the writing feel overly formal and stiff, but because you only have one here, you're good to go.

  • The Oxford Living Dictionaries redirects withholdment to withholding. Dictionary.com says no results found for withholdment and asks if I meant withholding. Merriam-Webster says "The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary." Sep 22, 2018 at 5:03
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    @RogerSinasohn I see. Given that the dictionaries disagree, I think it's safe to say that both are fine to use. The only reason why I'd pause at using "preventing the withholding of certain facts" is because having two -ing words so close to each other like that (and functioning as two different parts of speech) makes me feel icky.
    – Tommy Tran
    Sep 22, 2018 at 5:56
  • Google's ngrams viewer indicates that withholdment is virtually unheard of compared to withholding. I'll note that the Wiktionary entry comes from an obsolete (100+ years old) version of Webster's Dictionary; the current M-W doesn't list it. Sep 22, 2018 at 6:19
  • I don't see an issue with using preventing the withholding of certain facts; it flows easily and is clear. Note that there are actually three -ing words in a row there. Sep 22, 2018 at 6:20
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    You've convinced me. I wouldn't take any issue with "withholdment" if I read it, but it's certainly outdated. I just personally don't like using too many -ing words in a row, however irrational my fear may be. I'd prefer to avoid using them in a row if I could, which would be my sole reason for using "withholdment" -- any other situation, I'd use "withholding".
    – Tommy Tran
    Sep 22, 2018 at 6:28

I have used 'withhold' as a substantive in a novel, as in, e.g.,'concerned about the consequences of his withhold'. It works for me. It may not be quote correct unquote, but prescriptivism is dead. Defensible objectively as an extension of 'hold' (n.) Also, the legal phrase "Withhold of Adjudication" is already current in some jurisdictions.

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