I am reading a book The Business of the 21st Century and came across the word "built" used as a noun.

Building genuine wealth is as much about the builder as it is about the built.

It is written exactly in that format -- "builder" and "built" are italic.

I cannot find a noun form of the word "built". Can anyone explain this?

  • Yes, it's okay but you are only apt to find it in academic-type texts. See the book: The Raw and the Cooked by Claude Lévi-Strauss. It is indirectly traceable to usages in literary criticism influenced by the French. – Lambie May 4 '20 at 14:28
  • 1
    Using a past participle (probably via the adjective) is not ultra-common, but by no means unknown. 'Into the unknown.' 'The dammed.' 'The injured and dead.' 'The disabled and unemployed.' Note that there is no verb 'unemploy'. 'The accused.' //// The sense here is 'that which is / has been built'; the sense of 'built' meaning 'form of a structure (eg the built/build of a ship)' is obsolete. – Edwin Ashworth May 4 '20 at 14:41
  • @EdwinAshworth The damned. Yes, but the ones you cite are usual. They are in the dictionary. "The built" is not. – – Lambie May 4 '20 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Lambie 'Not in the dictionary' (I've re-ordered). Have you checked? Or have you checked in **a"" dictionary? Or two ...? // But yes, this particular usage is very rare. – Edwin Ashworth May 4 '20 at 16:10
  • @EdwinAshworth My point is completely different than yours. There is a "thing" where PPs are used where they are often not in dictionaries: The Raw and The Cooked. And it is usually in academic texts, often patterned on French structuralism et al. – Lambie May 4 '20 at 17:48

In your example, built is a nominalised adjective: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalized_adjective

The most common appearance of the nominalized adjective in English is when an adjective is used to indicate a collective group. This happens in the case where a phrase such as the poor people becomes the poor. The adjective poor is nominalized, and the noun people disappears. ...

Thus we have

"The odd" = The numbers that are not even (or the people or things that are abnormal, etc.)

"The lame" = the lame people or lame animals.

"The built" = the built structures.

Another case is when an adjective is used to denote a single object with the property, as in "you take the long route, and I'll take the short". Here the short stands for "the short route".

  • The thing is that popular nominalized adjectives like the poor become so popular that they are put in the dictionaries. E.g. if I paste "poor" in Google Translate, it shows me translations categorized by parts of speech: Noun: ..., Verb: ... and so on. But, unfortunately, the word "built" has a single category Adjective. Neither other online dictionaries have a noun definition. – Sagid May 4 '20 at 20:45
  • Thanks for the wiki page, it is really useful. – Sagid May 4 '20 at 20:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.