The Grammarphobia Blog

Hate speech

Q: I notice that the noun “hatred” seems to be falling into disuse, replaced by “hate,” which I think of as a verb.

A: “Hate” is a noun as well as a verb, and both have been steadily in use for well over a thousand years. 

“Hatred,” which came along later, is exclusively a noun. Finally, “hate” is also used as an attributive noun (that is, adjectivally), a relatively recent development.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation for the noun “hate” (spelled hete in Old English) comes from Beowulf. The date of the epic poem isn’t precisely known, but it may have been written as far back as the 700s or even earlier.

The noun is defined by the OED as “an emotion of extreme dislike or aversion; detestation, abhorrence, hatred.”

The verb “hate” was first recorded about 897 in the writings of King Alfred. Its OED meaning: “to hold in very strong dislike; to detest; to bear malice to. The opposite of to love.”

The noun “hatred” first appeared sometime before 1175, when it was recorded in a collection of homilies.

It’s defined in the OED as “the condition or state of relations in which one person hates another; the emotion or feeling of hate; active dislike, detestation; enmity, ill-will, malevolence.” 

The newcomer here, the use of “hate” to modify another noun, first appeared in print in 1916, according to citations in the dictionary.

In this case, the OED says, the noun “hate” is being used attributively as a quasi-adjective meaning “designed to stir up hate.” (We’ve written before about attributive nouns.)

You can see the adjectival use of “hate” in phrases like “hate literature,” “hate campaign,” “hate mail,” and more recently “hate crime” and “hate speech,” acts resulting from racial, religious, or otherwise anti-social intolerance.

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