Making the World More Understandable

Why Not Adnoun?

So, I’ve been wondering why a word that describes a verb is an adverb, but a word that describes a noun is an adjective – instead of an adnoun. Finally, I went to the all-knowing Google and came up with some interesting things.

There Is an Adnoun!

I was surprised to find that Google did not give me a “did you mean” when I searched for adnoun. Instead I got links! One to what should be the favorite site of all horrid spellers –, and a second to Wikipedia. In this case, Wikipedia did more for me than the dictionary. Apparently, an adnoun is an adjective without a noun.

Let’s take a uniformly known example: Blessed are the meek. You don’t have to agree, but you have probably heard the phrase and know the meaning.

As the subject of the sentence, “meek” would be the noun. But, going back to my friend, meek is not a noun, it is an adjective. So, in this case, “meek” becomes an adnoun.

How cool is that? Not, actually.

Origin of Words

Now my problem was that, as a word, adnoun has not been around as long as the others.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (something I discovered during this research), the word “noun” came about in the late 14th century and ultimately comes from the Latin nomen for “name.” Similarly, “verb” also entered the English language some time in the late 14th century and comes from the Latin verbum. “Adverb” came around about the same time as “noun” and “verb” and is from the Latin adverbium witch literally translates as “that which is added to the verb.”

So, shouldn’t “that which is added to the noun” in Latin be something like an adnomen? But no, we get adjectivum instead! I tried several Latin to English on-line dictionaries; none of them could tell me what jectivum means.

So, where the heck did “adjective” come from?

What is a Jective?

Someone asked this question to Yahoo, the only response was that it was from the Latin (big surprise there) jacere meaning “to throw.”

Well, that doesn’t work for me either. Especially since my on-line translators don’t particularly care for jacere either. However, instead of no response, I was able to find jaceo and jacio. The first relating to being horizontal or situated and the second to throw or hurl.

And the Point Would Be?

Simple Instructions
Don’t you wish English was always this simple?
Photo by L. Nicoles, 2008

Well, there isn’t one really. Except that this is my blog, and I get to write about whatever I want.

I do like that modern English does include an adnoun, but it is not what it should be. And, if I tried to use it in conversation, I’d probably shoot any credibility I have all to pieces.

Not like we needed another example, but I think that I have proven that the English language is as clear as mud when it comes to the rules.

– Lorrie Nicoles

8 Responses to Why Not Adnoun?

  1. Hi! Lorrie, I have just asked Google the “jective” question and was offered your post as an answer.
    Thanks for your thoughts on the question.
    I will pass it on.

  2. I wish we could change that.
    It would make it much easier for those learning English as a 2nd language, as well as our own kids!

    (I’m not sure how that “Your comment is awaiting moderation” got in there)

  3. dear, lorrie. i was doing a little digging online and found something interesting. english is a composite language made up of words and grammar from dozens of other older languages originating in northern europe and the british isles. i am sure you know this already, but i prefixed with this comment to explain how i arrived at the following enlightening bit of trivia. in ancient welsh there is a word “jectae” (i do not have a cyrillic or gaelic keyboard, so the word is a bit mutilated by my english spelling translation). the word is defined as “to tell a story, or describe”. i could not find much more about it, but i have a pretty good theory. during the 14th century, in an attempt to better define the english language, scholars began creating an entirely knew set of words to put to the task of doing so. verb, adverb and noun, of course, are all rooted in latin. adnoun was already in place to describe the rare case when a verb became a noun. my theory is that someone, a monk or possibly just and incredibly boring old fart with nothing better to do, took the welsh word and modified it as if it were latin. just a theory, but it’s the best i have found so far. i hope it helps, although, based on the date of your blog post, i am assuming this comes along about five years later than you first hoped.

    • Replying after 3 years, in your comment you said,
      “adnoun was already in place to describe the rare case when a verb became a noun”
      Well, adnoun is for adjective without a noun, like Lorrie Nicoles said.

  4. Adnoun, I was curious as you were. Asked Google and there you go, I found you! Thanks for all the work you have done, I would go and find other mysteries of English language. Thank you 🙂

  5. I came here because I was wondering about the root of ‘jective’, but not just in the word adjective; also in subjective, objective and various others. This led me to think about the root ‘ject’, and to the other words which use it, such as abject and reject and so on. I did some of my own research too and found the ‘jacere’ that you mentioned, meaning ‘throw/put near’. There seems to be a clear link to that meaning in so many of these words containing ‘ject’ (eject (throw out), project (throw/put forward), subject (put down)) and so on, that it makes sense to me that it is the root. One of the reasons that ‘adjective’ doesn’t seem to follow the pattern of ‘adverb’, is because the full name used to be ‘noun adjective’ (to put/throw near the noun) and we have simply dropped the word ‘noun’ from the phrase over time.

    However, the ‘ad’ part doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it means either. It seems that we get our modern word ‘add’ from it, but it originally meant to move towards or go near, so that also links with the ‘throw towards’ meaning. The word ‘adjacent’ is from the same root – to be next to something.

    I even found some fascinating information about the language that Latin came from (Proto-Indo-European or PIE). Apparently ‘Latin ‘jacere’ is a later form of Latin ‘iacere’ which came from PIE ‘ye’ meaning to throw or impel.

    I agree that it’s not the most satisfying answer when wondering what ‘jective’ means, but taking into account how language evolves and how the meanings of words change over time, I think this makes a lot of sense. Anyway, I just wanted to add to the conversation. I love this stuff 🙂

    Here’s a good link, if anyone is interested.

  6. I come here because I was wondering the same thing you did.
    In my native language, we simply call “adjective” as “the trait’s word,” and adverb as “the annotation.”

    I think it would be nicer if the adverb version for noun is called adnoun.

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