Abstract Nouns: Definition, Types, and Useful Examples

What is an abstract noun? If you are looking for words to describe conceptual ideas, you might want to use abstract nouns. You may have known that bbstract nouns are a type of noun that illustrate metaphysical concepts — notions that someone can not identify with their physical senses. But what else is there to abstract nouns and how do you use them? This article will explore what abstract nouns are, show some examples of abstract nouns, and compare them to their grammatical opposite – concrete nouns.

Abstract Noun

A List of 160+ Common Abstract Nouns in EnglishPin

What is an Abstract Noun?

What is an abstract noun? In English, Abstract nouns refer to abstract objects which you cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste (ideas or concepts).

An abstract noun is a type of noun that refers to a concept or idea. Abstract nouns illustrate things that can not be touched, tasted, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise felt through the physical senses. They do not refer to physical objects, but rather notions, emotions, or states of being.

Abstract Noun vs. Concrete Noun

Abstract nouns can be used to refer to feelings and ideas, and also events that are conceptual and unspecific in nature (like a “holiday” or a “birthday“). Since abstract nouns reference things that can not be perceived with the five senses, they are contrasted with concrete nouns.

Concrete nouns are nouns that denote things that can be touched or sensed. They refer to objects in the physical world; and do not refer to ideas or emotions. Concrete nouns also have a plural form, whereas most (but not all) abstract nouns do not have a plural form.

Abstract nouns, as conceptual words, often have suffixes such as -ism, -acy, -ance, -ence, -age, -ability, -ness, -ment, -ship, -ity, or -ion. Thus words like “capitalism” or “democracy” are considered to be abstract nouns.

Finally, abstract nouns can be sometimes be used as concrete nouns — but this depends on context. The word “atmosphere” can be an abstract noun referring to the mood of a place. for example, but “atmosphere” can also be a concrete noun referring to the physical gases surrounding a planet.

For this reason, context is important, but a better understanding of abstract nouns will make these types of distinctions easier.

Abstract Nouns vs. Concrete Nouns Examples

Abstract nouns refer to things that cannot be sensed in physical terms — whereas concrete nouns reference things only in the physical world. Here are some examples of abstract nouns, with some concrete nouns with which they might be associated.

  • Sorrow vs. Tears – Whereas “sorrow” is an abstract noun referring to a state of sadness, “tears” is a concrete noun that references something that can be sensed (tears are salty, watery, moist, etc.).
  • Love vs. Kiss – “Love” is an abstract noun that refers to a feeling of affection, whereas a “kiss” is a concrete noun that refers to a physical thing that can be felt through touch. Note that both words can also be used as verbs.
  • Strength vs. Muscle – “Strength” is an abstract noun that references power, physical or mental — or an unwillingness to relent or submit, whereas “muscle” is a concrete noun that refers to sinew or tissues that have physical properties (can be touched, seen, or felt).
  • Success vs. Money – “Success” is an abstract noun defining a state of achievement, whereas “money” is a concrete noun that generally (but not always) refers to physical objects that can be exchanged for goods (dollar bills, coins, etc.)
  • Happiness vs. Smile – “Happiness” is an abstract noun that refers to a state of high well-being or contentedness, whereas a “smile” denotes a concrete noun that refers to a facial expression that can be seen.
  • Birthday vs. Birthday Cake – A “birthday” is an abstract noun that refers to a day of the year when someone was born. A “cake” is a concrete noun referring to a thing that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, etc.

Types of Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are intangible concepts or ideas that cannot be experienced with the five senses. They represent things like emotions, ideas, qualities, and states of being. Here are several types of abstract nouns:

Qualities

Abstract nouns that represent qualities refer to characteristics or attributes of a person, place, or thing. These qualities are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent qualities include bravery, honesty, intelligence, and kindness.

States

Abstract nouns that represent states refer to conditions or situations that a person, place, or thing can be in. These states are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent states include chaos, peace, freedom, and tranquility.

Emotions and Feelings

Abstract nouns that represent emotions and feelings refer to the internal experiences of a person. These emotions and feelings are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent emotions and feelings include love, happiness, anger, and sadness.

Experiences

Abstract nouns that represent experiences refer to events or circumstances that a person has gone through. These experiences are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent experiences include adventure, success, failure, and memory.

Personality Attributes

Abstract nouns that represent personality attributes refer to the characteristics that define a person’s personality. These attributes are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent personality attributes include charisma, humor, optimism, and pessimism.

Ideas and Concepts

Abstract nouns that represent ideas and concepts refer to thoughts or notions that a person has. These ideas and concepts are not physical and cannot be perceived by the senses. Examples of abstract nouns that represent ideas and concepts include democracy, justice, beauty, and truth.

Movements and Events

Abstract nouns can also refer to movements and events that are intangible and cannot be directly perceived. These nouns represent concepts that are essential in understanding and describing the world around us. Examples of abstract nouns related to movements include revolution, migration, evolution, progress, and development. 

These nouns describe changes that occur over time and are often used to describe historical events or social movements. Abstract nouns related to events include celebration, ceremony, conflict, tragedy, and victory. 

Abstract Nouns Suffixes and Examples

Abstract nouns are words that refer to intangible concepts, ideas, or emotions. They are often identified by their lack of physicality, and they are not able to be seen, touched, or heard. Abstract nouns can be formed by adding certain suffixes to a base word. Here are some common suffixes used to form abstract nouns:

  • -ness: This suffix refers to a state or quality of being. Examples include happiness, kindness, darkness, greatness, and stillness.
  • -ity: This suffix refers to a state or quality of being, similar to -ness. Examples include creativity, curiosity, prosperity, sincerity, and tranquility.
  • -ism: This suffix refers to a belief or ideology. Examples include capitalism, socialism, communism, realism, and idealism.
  • -tion: This suffix refers to an action or process. Examples include communication, education, organization, determination, and recognition.
  • -ment: This suffix refers to an action or process, similar to -tion. Examples include development, achievement, improvement, fulfillment, and contentment.
  • -hood: This suffix refers to a state or condition of being. Examples include childhood, adulthood, brotherhood, neighborhood, and motherhood.
  • -ship: This suffix refers to a state or quality of being, often related to relationships or associations. Examples include friendship, leadership, citizenship, partnership, and ownership.
  • -dom: This suffix refers to a state or condition of being, often related to a domain or territory. Examples include freedom, kingdom, wisdom, boredom, and martyrdom.
  • -ance/-ence: These suffixes refer to a state or quality of being, often related to an action or process. Examples include assistance, confidence, patience, intelligence, and tolerance.
  • -ity/-ty: These suffixes refer to a state or quality of being, similar to -ness and -ity. Examples include activity, community, diversity, responsibility, and security.

Abstract Nouns List

When you are talking about something which cannot be perceived by one of the human senses, you will require the use of the abstract noun. In other words, if something is not tangible, its name is an abstract noun, for example, bravery, education, or intelligence. These are all nouns which refer to something that cannot be physically sensed.

Abstract Nouns Examples

Here are some examples of abstract nouns referring to emotions, states, ideas, concepts, events, and qualities.

Emotions

  • Joy
  • Sorrow
  • Anger
  • Angst
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Hate
  • Love

States

  • Freedom
  • Misery
  • Happiness
  • Fulfillment
  • Denial
  • Modernity
  • Chaos
  • Being
  • Luxury
  • Anxiety
  • Peacefulness

Ideas

  • Democracy
  • Friendship
  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Thought
  • Sacrifice
  • Truth
  • Success

Concepts

  • Decency
  • Chivalry
  • Charity
  • Faith
  • Perseverance
  • Motivation
  • Energy
  • Opportunity
  • Unity
  • Culture

Events

  • Birthday
  • Holiday
  • Childhood
  • Adulthood
  • Past
  • Future
  • Present
  • Marriage
  • Career
  • Life
  • Death

Qualities

  • Beauty
  • Ugliness
  • Patience
  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Boldness
  • Fearfulness
  • Fearlessness

Abstract Nouns List from A-Z

  • Ability
  • Adoration
  • Advantage
  • Adventure
  • Amazement
  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite
  • Apprehension
  • Artisty
  • Awareness
  • Awe
  • Beauty
  • Belief
  • Bravery
  • Brilliance
  • Brutality
  • Calm
  • Care
  • Chaos
  • Charity
  • Childhood
  • Clarity
  • Cleverness
  • Coldness
  • Comfort
  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Confusion
  • Contentment
  • Courage
  • Crime
  • Curiosity
  • Customer service
  • Death
  • Deceit
  • Dedication
  • Defeat
  • Delay
  • Delight
  • Despair
  • Determination
  • Dexterity
  • Dictatorship
  • Disappointment
  • Disbelief
  • Dishonesty
  • Disquiet
  • Disregard
  • Disturbance
  • Divorce
  • Dream
  • Education
  • Ego
  • Elegance
  • Envy
  • Evil
  • Failure
  • Faith
  • Fascination
  • Fear
  • Fiction
  • Fragility
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Gain
  • Generation
  • Generosity
  • Goal
  • Goodness
  • Gossip
  • Growth
  • Happiness
  • Hate
  • Hatred
  • Hope
  • Horror
  • Hurt
  • Idea
  • Infancy
  • Infatuation
  • Inflation
  • Insanity
  • Intelligence
  • Irritation
  • Joy
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Laughter
  • Law
  • Liberty
  • Lie
  • Life
  • Loneliness
  • Loss
  • Love
  • Luck
  • Luxury
  • Maturity
  • Mercy
  • Movement
  • Music
  • Nap
  • Need
  • Opinion
  • Opportunity
  • Pain
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Peculiarity
  • Perseverance
  • Pleasure
  • Poverty
  • Power
  • Pride
  • Principle
  • Reality
  • Relaxation
  • Relief
  • Religion
  • Restoration
  • Riches
  • Right
  • Rumour
  • Sacrifice
  • Sanity
  • Satisfaction
  • Self-control
  • Sensitivity
  • Service
  • Shock
  • Silliness
  • Skill
  • Sleep
  • Sorrow
  • Speed
  • Strenght
  • Strictness
  • Success
  • Surprise
  • Talent
  • Thrill
  • Timing
  • Tiredness
  • Tolerance
  • Trend
  • Trust
  • Uncertainty
  • Unemployment
  • Union
  • Unreality
  • Victory
  • Wariness
  • Warmth
  • Weakness
  • Wealth
  • Weariness
  • Wisdom
  • Wit
  • Worry

Examples of Abstract Nouns in Sentences

  • An employer should appraise the ability of his employees.
  • He felt he would burst with anger and shame.
  • I opened the packet just to satisfy my curiosity.
  • Her dedication to her work was admirable.
  • He listened in disbelief to this extraordinary story.
  • He is admired for the elegance of his writing.
  • Our friendship has steadily strengthened over the years.
  • The economic growth dipped to a low point last year.
  • May Christmas and the New Year be filled with happiness for you.
  • He has no hope of passing the examination.
  • Inflation is considered to be undesirable because of its adverse effects on income distribution.
  • We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with determination, joy, and bravery.
  • Without respect, love cannot go far.
  • In my humble opinion, he will win the election.
  • I take it as a pleasure to attend your lecture.
  • He smiled in satisfaction when he won the race.
  • The onrush of tears took me by surprise.
  • The trend at the moment is towards a more natural and less made-up look.
  • Unemployment is likely to rise this year.
  • Wisdom in the mind is better than money in the hand.
  • He has exhibited symptoms of anxiety and overwhelming worry.

Challenges in Identifying Abstract Nouns

Identifying abstract nouns can pose a challenge for both native and non-native speakers of English. This is because abstract nouns are intangible and cannot be perceived with the five senses. Here are some of the common challenges in identifying abstract nouns:

Lack of Clear Definition

One of the main challenges in identifying abstract nouns is the lack of a clear definition. There are numerous and diverse approaches to distinguishing between abstract and concrete nouns, ranging from selected formal grammar criteria to semantic and extra-linguistic parameters. This can make it difficult for learners to identify abstract nouns accurately.

Ambiguity

Abstract nouns can be ambiguous and have multiple meanings. For instance, the word “love” can refer to a feeling of deep affection, but it can also refer to a person or thing that one loves. Similarly, the word “freedom” can refer to the state of being free, but it can also refer to a specific right or privilege that grants freedom. This ambiguity can make it challenging for learners to identify abstract nouns accurately.

Formation

Abstract nouns can be formed from adjectives, verbs, and common nouns. For example, the adjective “happy” can be transformed into the abstract noun “happiness,” the verb “analyze” can be transformed into the abstract noun “analysis,” and the common noun “child” can be transformed into the abstract noun “childhood.” This can make it challenging for learners to identify abstract nouns accurately, as they may not recognize the relationship between the base word and the abstract noun.

Contextual Dependence

The identification of abstract nouns can also be contextually dependent. For instance, the word “peace” can be an abstract noun when used in the context of international relations, but it can also be a concrete noun when used to refer to a physical state of calmness or quiet. This contextual dependence can make it challenging for learners to identify abstract nouns accurately, as they may not be familiar with the specific context in which the word is being used.

Abstract Nouns | Video

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of abstract nouns?

Some examples of abstract nouns include love, happiness, freedom, justice, and beauty. Abstract nouns refer to intangible ideas, feelings, qualities, or concepts that cannot be perceived with the five senses.

What are some common negative abstract nouns?

Some common negative abstract nouns include anger, hatred, jealousy, and sadness. These abstract nouns represent negative emotions that people may experience.

What are some abstract nouns that are formed from adjectives?

Some abstract nouns that are formed from adjectives include happiness (from happy), sadness (from sad), and kindness (from kind). These abstract nouns represent qualities or states of being.

What are some common suffixes for abstract nouns?

Some common suffixes for abstract nouns include -ness (e.g., happiness, kindness), -ity (e.g., creativity, curiosity), and -ism (e.g., capitalism, socialism). These suffixes are often added to adjectives or nouns to form abstract nouns that represent concepts or ideas.

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