Agent noun

In linguistics, an agent noun (in Latin, nomen agentis) is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action.[1] For example, "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb "drive".[2]

Usually, derived in the above definition has the strict sense attached to it in morphology, that is the derivation takes as an input a lexeme (an abstract unit of morphological analysis) and produces a new lexeme. However, the classification of morphemes into derivational morphemes (see word formation) and inflectional ones is not generally a straightforward theoretical question, and different authors can make different decisions as to the general theoretical principles of the classification as well as to the actual classification of morphemes presented in a grammar of some language (for example, of the agent noun-forming morpheme).

Polish agental affixes
-cz bieg-ać 'to run' bieg-acz 'runner'
-rz pis-ać 'to write' pis-arz 'writer'
-c †kraw-ać 'to cut' kraw-iec 'tailor'
-ca daw-ać 'to give' daw-ca 'giver'
-k pis-ać 'to write' pis-ak 'marker' (pen)
skak-ać 'to jump' skocz-ek 'jumper'
chodz-ić 'to walk' chodz-ik 'walker' (walking aid)
-l nos-ić 'to carry' nos-ic-iel 'carrier'
-nik pracow-ać 'to work' pracow-nik 'worker'
rob-ić 'to do' 'to work'
rob-ot-a 'work'
rob-ot-nik 'worker'
praw-ić 'to orate' 'to moralize'
praw-o 'law'
praw-y 'right' 'righteous'
praw-nik 'lawyer'
-y las 'forest'
leś-nik 'forester'
leś-nicz-y 'forester'

An agentive affix is commonly used to form an agent noun from a verb. Examples:

  • English: "-er", "-or", "-ist".
  • German: -er, -ler, -ner, -or, -ör, -ist, -it, -ite, -ant, -ent (may be compounded with the feminine ending "-in")
  • French: -(t)eur(m.)/-(t)euse(f.), -trice, -iste
  • Greek: -ήρ, τήρ
  • Hungarian: no specific agentive suffix, the nominalization of present participle (suffix: -ó/-ő, according to vowel harmony) is used instead; examples: dolgozó (worker), szerelő (repairman), vezető (leader, driver, electrical conductor)
  • Latin: -tor (m.) / -trix (f.) / -trum (n.) / -torius, -a, -um (adj.) as in arator / aratrix / aratrum / aratorius; -sor (m.) / -strix (f.) / -strum (n.) / -sorius, -a, -um (adj.) as in assessor / assestrix / *assestrum / assessorius; see also: -ens
  • Maori: kai-
  • Polish: see table
  • Spanish: -dor(a)
  • Finnish: -ja/-jä (puhua 'speak', puhuja 'speaker'; lyödä 'hit', lyöjä 'hitter'); -uri (borrowed from '-or'/'er', probably via German)
  • Russian: -чик or -ник (m.) / -чица or -ница (f.) as in ученик 'student'; -тель (m.) / -тельница (f.) as in учитель 'teacher'[3]
  • Dutch: -er, -ende, -or, -iet, -ant

See also


  1. "agent noun". Oxford Learner's Dictionaries. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  2. Panther, Klaus-Uwe; Thornburg, Linda L.; Barcelona, Antonio (2009). Metonymy and metaphor in grammar. 25. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 101. ISBN 90-272-2379-3.
  3. "Suffixes of Russian Nouns - Examples and Translation of Russian Suffixes". Retrieved 2017-02-15.

Further reading

  • Maria Wojtyła-Świerzowska, Prasłowiańskie nomen agentis ("Protoslavic Nomen Agentis"), Wroclaw, 1975

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