The Grammarphobia Blog

Author! Author!

Q: On a railroad mailing list, someone used the verb “authored.” I think you’ve discussed this on NYC and as I remember you said it was a fairly old practice. Is there a website that has a list of such words? Googling (I use and like that noun-to-verb), I found a few words but mainly links that decry the practice. One of the decriers said: “This constant verbing of nouns has got to stop!!!”

A: Yes, “author” has been used as a verb since 1596, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED‘s first citation is from Chapman’s translation of The Iliad: “The last foul thing Thou ever author’dst.”

We’ve been using “author” as a verb ever since (though seldom in the form of “author’dst”). Here, “author” meant to be responsible for an action. In 1602 the word was first used to mean to be responsible for a statement.

I don’t know of a definitive list of nouns-turned-verbs, but this a very common transition in English. I, too, like the “verbing” of the noun “Google.”

Buy Pat’s books at a local store or Amazon.com.