Words in the English language never seem to stay in their lane. They bleed over into different parts of speech as people create new meanings for them, and it’s been happening longer than you might think.
Nouns turn into verbs all the time. You see it on the internet when words like “adult” become “adulting” and soon it’s used in regular conversation. The words adapt to their new meanings and sometimes the new parts of speech get added to the dictionary. Here are five nouns that adopted their new verb status before the days of viral social media posts.
The moon isn’t just nature’s spotlight. Moon has multiple meanings and functions in language, both as a verb and noun.
To moon means to dream and be idle. It can also imply odd behavior along with daydreaming, like if you’re mooning over someone you find attractive. You focus on them, but that also means you probably aren’t thinking about practical tasks and responsibilities.
On the other hand, mooning can have a much less flattering meaning. If you moon someone physically, you may have pulled your pants down and shown your bare behind to someone.
Magistrate comes from the Latin word magister, which means to rule. As a noun in modern contexts it refers to a judge or other court officer. Its definition as a verb is less specific.
Magistrate isn’t used so much as a verb now, but in 17th-century English to magistrate meant you were domineering. It could be having a domineering attitude toward others, or someone dominating a conversation. Either way, it doesn’t sound like something you want to do.
You probably thought of the creepy crawly sort of spider you find around the house. But spiders are more than just unwelcome guests. In fact, it’s the spider’s traits that led to the word becoming a verb.
If you’re spidering, you’re scurrying around quickly and quietly, the same way a spider does when you’re chasing it with a shoe. To spider can also mean to trap something, just like a fly getting caught in a web.
The origins of buttonhole as a verb have been debated. It may be based literally, as in a button being pushed through a small hole. It may also be a misuse of the word button-hold, which means to grasp the front of someone’s shirt.
As for what buttonhole means, no matter where it started, it’s something every one of us has experienced. To buttonhole someone is to pin them down in a conversation they don’t want to have. Think long and boring talks you can’t escape, and you’ve been buttonholed.
Yes, even names can turn into verbs. After all, we didn’t say proper nouns weren’t included. Rebecca as a verb comes from the Rebecca Riots in 1840s Wales, when people protested against the poor conditions of farming areas. Rebecca became a verb that refers to destroying gates, like the ones at tolls in the riots.