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Sheep is a noun, and the plural of sheep is "sheep".

However I recently came across the Merriam-Webster definition of SHEEPS which states it is "present tense third person singular of SHEEP" "Present tense" would lead me to think "SHEEP" would be a verb, but I have not heard it used that way and the definitions of "SHEEP" within M-W that the page links to are all nouns.

A little Googling shows me cases of "Sheeps" which are possessive but missing or misplacing the apostrophe, or occasionally used as a plural (in cases that seem just to be mistakes on the part of a non-English speaker/writer) but no case I can see where it is a verb.

Is M-W just wrong in this entry, or is there a source or explanation for this?

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  • 1
    It seems odd that they say sheeps is a form of a verb, but link to a noun only (sheep)
    – Chris H
    Feb 25 at 19:32
  • 2
    Their website says: "you are looking for [a word] that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary." Apparently you need the paid version to see the verb.
    – alphabet
    Feb 25 at 19:34
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    @alphabet none of the dictionaries I have access to at home or online have a verb definition, so it's rather odd that they claim one
    – Chris H
    Feb 25 at 19:39
  • 2
    Related: Can Sheep be a verb? ell.stackexchange.com/questions/61436/can-sheep-be-a-verb
    – Gio
    Feb 26 at 8:15

1 Answer 1

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OED has sheep as a verb. It's marked "local" and hasn't been revised since the last quotation was included in 1922:

  1. transitive. To weed or to dung (land) by pasturing sheep upon it.

    1898 The best chance of turning it into a really sound pasture is to sheep it heavily.
    H. R. Haggard, Farmer's Year (1899) 101

  2. To eat off with sheep.

    1922 But what if you throwed your sheep round my range an' sheeped off the grass so my cattle would hev to move or starve?
    Z. Grey, To Last Man iv


Eat off is now unusual, too. This entry hasn't been revised since 1891:

  1. To clear off (a crop) by feeding it to cattle: said also of the cattle. Also intransitive (for passive) of a crop.
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  • So I (or Google) didn't find "sheeps" either by not going far enough back, or just because only other versions of the verb were used.
    – Dragonel
    Feb 29 at 9:23
  • Possibly. If you're using ngrams then it's also possible that Google misidentified the verb as a noun. It's really uncommon, so it's not altogether surprising that even Google results show very few examples (that is, you need to trawl through loads of pages to find one). I didn't use Google.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 29 at 18:59

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