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I was going to quarter my daughter's grapes but decided to cut them into six pieces instead. Did I sixth her grapes? I looked all over the net and couldn't find the answer. What's the proper word? Is there a word for that?

To clarify for those confused by the jump from 4 to 6 instead of 4 to 8, I didn't actually quarter them like I normally would a small grape because these were huge! My goal was to create less of a choking hazard for my kiddo who has DS so I cut them into 6 pieces each. Of all the answers, I'm thinking hexed makes the most sense! Thanks everyone!!

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  • 21
    Does it make me a nerd that, after reading the title, I guessed the next verbs would be ‘eighthed’ and ‘sixteenthed’…?
    – gidds
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:32
  • 3
    You hexed them. Poor grapes. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 18:45
  • 9
    I was startled to see that you thought six would be next after four in this sequence. If you cut something in half, and then cut the halves in half, you've quartered it. But then if you cut the quarters in half, you've got eighths, not sixths. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 16:25
  • 5
    That's the origin of "pieces of eight"; Spanish coinage was scored to be cut into 8 pieces along these lines. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 16:47
  • 1
    . . . . and if successively cutting the most recent halves in half is not what you meant, then three would be after two, and you also skipped five. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 16:53

4 Answers 4

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Wiktionary does list "sixth" as a verb meaning "to divide by six." This usage is so rare that I doubt it really qualifies; professionally written dictionaries don't list it.

But you can find very occasional attestations. Here's one usage from The New York Times:

Cold boiled potatoes can be quartered, sixthed or eighthed and deep fried in oil.

One from a blog post on the BBC's website:

Thankfully there are six of us, and a problem sixthed is a much less of a problem.

A rather uncertain attestation from The Martha's Vineyard Times:

I made a small batch, half a container of cherry tomatoes quartered, or sixthed (if that’s a word) [...]

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  • 3
    Agree that beyond "quarter", using fractions as verbs gets a bit murky. It seems rather arbitrary that quarter, sixth, and eighth can be verbs, but fifth, seventh, and ninth can't be - I imagine it just comes down to practical usage. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 14:06
  • 3
    @NuclearHoagie The difference probably reflects how hard it is to cut something into those odd numbers of pieces. Consider how hard it would be to fifth or seventh a pizza.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 14:22
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    English has a tendency to tolerate turning any noun into a verb, so it's not surprising that "sixth" can be used as a verb even if it is not listed as such in most dictionaries.
    – Stef
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 14:37
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    I think part of the problem is confusion with ordinals - we say "quartered", not "fourthed", for instance, despite "fourth" being a valid name for a division into four parts. And while "second" is not a synonym for "half", "to second" is also a verb, meaning "to agree with a suggestion", as in "I second the proposal to foozle the widgets" - and this meaning can also be extended, to "third", "fourth" and so on. To be clear, both senses of verbed ordinals are rare, and get rarer the higher you go, but they are both "valid"
    – No Name
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 20:50
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    Those three examples also all give enough context (whether saying "quartered" first or talking about "there are six of us") and I think that's why they work - if I just said cold "I eighthed the pizza" then I could imagine confused faces, while "I quartered the potatoes and eighthed the pizza" gives enough context that the word can be understood.
    – Edd
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 19:43
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Sometimes there just ain't no such word, whether you're in a new situation (for a new number) or there actually is a word but it is so rare or obsolete that the speaker is creating the word as though it were new.

So 'sixth' or 'eighth' may well be single word verbs for dividing into six (or eight) parts. But the way one would most commonly phrase this situation is as:

I was going to divide my daughter's grapes into sixths.

The noun 'sixths' is constructed very naturally by pluralizing the ordinal, that is, adding 'th' to the number (or 'st' or 'nd' or 'half'/'quarter' as appropriate) for the ordinal, and then 's' for the plural.

The particular verb 'divide' isn't necessary - it could be any similar verb that implies separation but with no indication of the number: eg 'split', 'cut up', 'partition'.

The 'way to say it' then is to convert the 'halve' verb into a verb and prepositional phrase indicating the number:

'(split) (the object being split) into (fractional parts).

It is a separate question entirely on how to pronounce such a word.

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    "Cut" would be the most natural verb, I think. "Divide" sounds like you're dividing a group of grapes into six equal parts instead of each grape.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 0:26
  • English allows for neologisms like "sixthed".
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 0:51
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Picking up on Alphabet's answer, I found the following additional example for eighth (v.), but nothing higher in count:

Script Breakdown

In order to get to this point, you have to analyse the elements of the film to work out how much each scene will cost.

The script has to be broken down into its parts. ... The first step is to eighth the script out. ... Eighthing a script is subjective ...

Once you have eighthed the script, you then transfer the information about each scene onto a strip of card in preparation for creating the production scheduling board ...

There are fourteen parameters which you need to take into account when scheduling. Each eighthed section of script needs to be analysed to see which of these fourteen elements it contains.
Elliot Grove; Raindance Producers' Lab Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking (2013)


eighth (v.)

To divide by eight
Wiktionary

By coincidence, the example Wiktionary cites is the one above that I found with Google Books. Then again, not much of a coincidence, given the rarity.


To third (meaning divide into thirds or reduce to one-third) is rare. The OED's most recent citation is from 1874:

Such a course would have halved or thirded the number of our subscribers.
Furnivall in 10th Rep. Committee E.E.T.S. 16

See also Double is to triple as halve is to ...?

To find trisect (v.) outside the field of geometry is uncommon:

To divide into three usually equal parts
M-W

Transitive. To divide into three equal parts (esp. in Geometry); sometimes gen. to divide into three parts.

1882 Could not I have reduced it a drop a day, or by adding water, have bisected or trisected a drop?
T. De Quincey, Confessions of English Opium-eater 146

1876 We found the dwelling-houses trisected into a sleeping-room, a kitchen, and a store-room.
A. J. Evans, Through Bosnia ii. 48
[OED]

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For me to write "I sixthed it" seemed entirely natural, right up until I tried to to proof read it, aloud.

I'm guessing this is probably where many authors do a double-take and wonder if it is or isn't a real word.

To be fair, "fifthed", "sixthed" and "twelfthed" are particularly hard, each with a cluster of two unvoiced sibilants leaving no vocal resonance for a final unvoiced stop consonant. Others like "seventhed" or "ninthed" are a little easier to say out loud. Whether the following word begins with a vowel also matters.

I suspect we have it backwards when we think these look "archaic": prior to universal literacy, I suspect unpronounceable words would have been, at best, an in-joke for the literate, to be avoided in normal writing. But now when much of our personal communication is written, maybe "sixthed" could become popular before people even notice they can't read it aloud. (And to be fair, it's no harder to pronounce than "???" or "🙼" or "🟔" or "🟠🟡🟢🟣🟤🟥🟦🟧🟨🟩🟪🟫".)

As a practical matter, it's really quite easy to eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second, or even five-hundred-and-twelfth something, even by hand, by the simple process of repeated halving, so that's clearly not the main reason for low adoption for those terms.

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  • I agree it's easy in principle to divide something into sixteenths, thirty-seconds, or even fivehundredandtwelfths, but I would imagine in practice it gets pretty hard at some point before 1/512, as the pieces get smaller and the number of cuts required goes up.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 17:46
  • "???" is pronounced, as close as I could render in IPA, as /hã/. The rest of those symbols I leave as an exercise for the reader.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 19:54
  • Just FYI, without further editing, many readers will not be able to see much of what you wrote after And to be fair.... The Unicode characters you used are not standard on many devices. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 9:07
  • @ilkkachu oh I agree it would be tedious, but not necessarily hard, as long as you start with something that's large enough but not too large. For example, cutting an A0 sheet of paper into 512 A9 sheets would be two hours of mind-numbing tedium, but the resulting 52mm×37mm sheets would still be quite easy to handle. And if you only want one of the five-hundred-and-twelfths, then you only need to make nine cuts. Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 5:22

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