I'm going through some code with classes named like:

  • clean_Cache
  • purge_Stage
  • do_Keywords

The particular file do_Keywords is a complete mess and maybe if I knew what it was supposed to do then I could make sense of it. The dev who wrote it and used the verb "do" is absent, probably from someone beating him for his practices.

What is the term in English for verbs that don't provide any information, such as "do"? I'm looking to fill in the following sentence:

When naming classes, do not use ________ verbs. Use descriptive verbs.

If the term applies to all words, and not just to verbs, all the better. Thanks.

  • 3
    Do is sometimes called a proverb, but that won’t help anyone.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 13:32
  • Thank you, I had never heard of a pro-verb. According to wikipedia: This term is always hyphenated, to distinguish it from the unrelated term proverb.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 13:36
  • 1
    Anybody who takes a mix of pronouns and proverbs as anything even vaguely proverbial needs to repeat Context 101 back at university, or maybe grammar school.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 13:38
  • 2
    The names in your examples do not sound like the names of classes. Classes generally represent things, so good names for them are nouns or noun phrases. The names in your examples are verb phrases, which are better used for the names of functions or methods. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 13:51
  • 4
    I want to note that discussion of variable naming conventions is not on topic here. The pertinent part of OP's question is regarding the classification of the verb do. I appreciate programming foibles as much as the next girl, but please take it to chat (or maybe Programmers.SE) if you want to discuss it. Thanks.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


I think you're going about this the wrong way. Your goal is to help programmers choose more informative names for their classes, right? Let's suppose you discover that the term ambisignificant means "lacking a precise or informative meaning". That would be just the kind of term you were looking for. So you write your advice:

When naming classes, do not use ambisignificant words.

I hope you can see the problem with this approach. If you had to ask here for a word, what makes you think that your readers will understand that word?

It's better to describe what you want in your own words, and to use examples to make your meaning clear. For example,

When choosing names, use the most concrete and specific words you can. Avoid vague and ambiguous words.

Specific and clear: empty_cache, sort_contacts, resize_image

Vague and unclear: do_results, process_data, execute_work

  • This is a sensible answer. As it happens, JeffSahol's auxiliary verb seems "correct" to me, but OP is addressing programmers, not linguists or grammarians. There's no point in using specialist terms if your audience aren't likely to know what you're talking about. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 14:11
  • I was going to suggest simply, "Do not use meaningless verbs." and then go on to explain the kind of meaningful verbs you're looking for.
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 6:37

According to Wikipedia, do in your example can be properly described as a light verb.

A light verb is a verb that has little semantic content of its own and it therefore forms a predicate with some additional expression, which is usually a noun.


I do the house cleaning. (light verb construction)

I clean the house. (full verb construction)

Contrast do as a light verb with do as an auxiliary verb (a verb modifier):

I do hate house cleaning.

Consequently, you can complete your sentence as:

When naming classes, do not use light verbs. Use descriptive verbs.

Whether or not this will ultimately be helpful is left to you as an exercise.


The word you are looking for is auxiliary verb. Good luck on your Quest.

  • 2
    Do is not an auxiliary verb when followed by a noun (such as keywords). In the OP's example it looks like a light verb.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 14:25
  • Thanks, was not aware of that...and like you said in your reply, I'm not sure the technically correct light will actually help the OP here...unless he spells it "lite".
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 15:24

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