Can you help settle a debate for me and my friends? Last night we were playing a rather silly word game where you have a card with a word or phrase on it, and you have to try to get your teammates to guess what is on your card without saying what is on it.

There are some other rules and restrictions in this game, but the relevant rule in question is this:

You can't say any word, part of any word, or any form of a word that is on the card.

At some point during our game someone got a card with the word 'dead' on it and in their clue they used the word 'dies.' Someone on the other team called for them to be penalized, but the clue-giver argued that 'dies' and 'dead' are different words rather than forms of the same word.

The side arguing for the penalty said that 'dead' is the adjective form of the verb 'die'. The analogy given was that if 'paint' had been the disallowed word, then 'painted' would also be disallowed since 'painted' is both the past tense of 'paint' and is also the adjective form of 'paint'. They argued that 'die' is just irregular in that the adjective form of 'die' is 'dead' rather than the past-tense 'died'. A related question, suppose the disallowed word was 'hungry', could you use the word 'hunger'?

The side arguing against the penalty said that if you lemmatize the word 'dead' you get 'dead' and if you lemmatize the word 'dies' you get 'die', so they are not forms of the same word, even if they are semantically related.

The debate mostly went in circles, with folks throwing out concepts like stemming, lemmatization, root words, morphosemantics, and a whole bunch of other stuff I don't think any of us fully understand.

So what do English language experts think? Should the clue-giver have been penalized, were they robbed of a point?

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    The Online Etymology Dictionary entry for dead might interest you. But as a possibly opinion seeking question I would say that using the verb die to clue dead is not in the spirit of the game, so 'fair cop'. I offer "like Monty Python's parrot!" Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 17:26
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    I think you need to decide on your rules more carefully. As the Online Etymology Dictionary shows, dead and die seem to come from Proto-Germanic forms that are ultimately connected. So how far back are you going? Would you allow "paternal" with "father", considering they have a common PIE origin?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 17:29
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    Re the edit: A related question, suppose the disallowed word was 'hungry', could you use the word 'hunger'? Of course not. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 17:40
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    Dead is the stative predicate of which die is the inchoative predicate and kill is the causative predicate. It's a standard set in English semantics because the three predicates have different forms, instead of being identical like most such sets. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 20:28
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    The instructions are vague; considering etymology is certainly useful but hardly sufficient. Is "went" a form of "go"? Is "lake" a form of "lagoon"? Is "isle" a form of "island"? Without a better definition of "form of a word", all we can do is opine. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 3:00

2 Answers 2


Dead (adj.) is not 'exactly' a form of die (v.), it is etymologically a bit more complicated . Dead was not formed within English like built (adj.) from build (v.) or made (adj.) from make (v.); hence, we don't have the adjective died from the verb die. The adjective dead (as a basic universal concept) has a long history. The usage of the word dead in English Language goes back to Old English, and it has been used till today with little to no change in spelling (and possibly pronunciation to an extent) where the oldest form in English is same as today, dead, used in Beowulf written in Old English, in the earliest citation in OED. Dead was inherited into Old English from Germanic and it can be traced back to Pre-Germanic and possibly Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The verb die was attested later than the adjective dead, in c1135 per OED. Dead and die have separate etymologies with some overlapping parts, where they share the same stem dau- in Pre-Germanic. We could say that the Scandinavian verb die complemented the Old English adjective dead and the noun death to complete the word family.

OED explains what happened to the verb die in the history of English language and how it was re-adopted in Old English, and mentions the related words with the stem -dau as below:

No instance of the word is known in Old English literature (its sense being expressed by steorfan , sweltan , or the periphrastic wesan déad , past tense wæs déad : see dead adj. 1d) hence it is generally held to have been early lost in Old English (as in Gothic, and as subsequently in all the continental West Germanic languages), and re-adopted in late Old English or early Middle English from Norse; but some think that the facts point rather to the preservation of an Old English díegan, dégan, in some dialect; the word appears to have been in general use from the 12th cent., even in the s.w. dialects (see Napier in Hist. Holy Rood, E.E.T.S., 1894).

The stem dau- appears also in Gothic in the participial adjective dauþs , Old English déad ( < daud-oz ) dead adj., and the noun dauþus , Old English déaþ , death n.; also in afdôjan ( < afdôwjan), past participle afdauid- ( < afdôwid-) vexed, worried. (The relationship of Gothic diwanô, undiwanei, etc. is uncertain.) The simple verb has shown a notable tendency to die out, and leave its place to be taken by derivatives: thus in Gothic dauþnan to die.

OED provides the ultimate origin below in the etymology of dead:

Germanic *dau-do-z, pre-Germanic dhau-ˈtos , past participle from verb stem dau- (pre-Germanic dhau- ), preserved in Old Norse deyja ( < dau-jan ) and in Old Saxon dôian , Old High Saxon touwen , to die v.1 The suffix is = Latin -tus, Greek -τός, Sanskrit -tas.


Is 'dead' a form of the word 'die' or 'dies'?

Yes. The verb “to dead” existed.


† dead, v.

Etymology: Old English déadian (also adéadian ) to become dead (corresponding to a Gothic *daudôn ), < déad , dead adj. Branch II corresponds in sense to Old English díędan, dýdan to kill (Gothic *daudjan, German tödten); but is apparently only a transitive use of the original intransitive verb.

Obsolete except in local or nonce-use.

I. intransitive. 1. To become dead. a. literal. To die.

c950 Lindisf. Gosp. John viii. 21 And in synno iuero deadageð.

c975 Rushw. Gosp. In synnum iowrum ge deodigað.

c1425 Seven Sag. 623 (P.) The holde tre bygan to dede.

II. transitive.

  1. To make dead (literal and figurative); to cause to die; to put to death, kill, slay, destroy.

c1374 G. Chaucer tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. iv. iv. 127 Aftir þat þe body is dedid by þe deþe.

a1400 (▸a1325) Cursor Mundi (Fairf. 14) l. 13070 Herodias couet Iohn to dede.

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