Je me moque de l’héroïne que je trouve mièvre et geignarde

It looks like French speakers are able to employ geignard (which has the form of a noun) as an adjective. (The WordReference.com dictionary lists it as serving as both noun and adjective.)

To what extent is French open to the practice of employing nouns as adjectives? What limits apply?

2 Answers 2


The use of nouns as attibutive adjectives ("épithètes") is a trend that is growing in importance in a small area of vocabulary building. There seems to be to a certain extent enough freedom in coining terms along the lines accepted in this area; certain relations have to be respected between the two words.

This site, Pluriel des noms adjectivés, provides a few instances, as wwell as the rule of formation of the plurals.

However, personally, I'd rather consider such constructions as constituting compound words: the concept of gradability and comparison are irrelevant.

relation for "X Y": an X that is also a Y ("un X qui est aussi un Y")

  • ballon sonde, ville dortoir, prêtre ouvrier, maison mère, carte mère, Dupont père, homme-serpent, poisson-chat, oiseau mouche, professeur femme, médecin femme,

there are other relations

  • liaison satellite (link by means of satellites), train grande vitesse (train à grande vitesse),

beginning of a truly adjectival use

  • clochard (rare, p. métaph.) — des cités plus clochardes les unes que les autres,

In the domain of both attributive and predicative adjectives, only certain nouns, rather rare, can be used as adjectives; they are shown in dictionaries.

some -ard ending nouns

  • (primarily a noun) veinard

  • (adj and noun) geignard, bâtard, béquillard, binoclard, cabochard, poissard, etc.

some -eur ending nouns (either primarily adj or primarily noun)

  • voleur, menteur, travailleur, flâneur, railleur, moqueur, rieur, raseur, (change of meaning), hâbleur, rateur (noun), râleur, tueur, directeur, penseur,

There are all sorts of nouns of impredictable nature that can be used as true adjectives, although not fully.

  • chien (change of meaning), chat, cochon (change of meaning), mouton (change of meaning), chameau (change of meaning), vache (change of meaning), oie (restricted use), fille (rare, Colette), croyant, mutant, sadique, émérite (primarily adj.), glouton (primarily adj.), traitre,

For instance "chien" is not used attributively, but can be used in comparisons ("il est encore plus chien"). On the contrary "cochon" (dirty) is used attributively ("un filme cochon", "un roman cochon"), but also predicatively (ref.). Usage must be learned one way or another; checking in dictionaries is not sufficient, at least for the time being, but will help: for instance, you can check "chien" in the TLFi, and you will find only examples of predicative use, but not the grammatical label "only in predicative use"; it is clearly not sufficient for acquiring effective knowledge.

  • Thank you for your thorough response. I’m going to look out for the examples that you’ve cited. It seems to me that the use of nouns as adjectives can usefully enhance the expressive possibilities of a language.
    – justerman
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 17:38
  • @CrissyFroth-Seapickle « Attributively » en anglais devient « en tant qu'épithète » en français.
    – LPH
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 19:41
  • D'accord. Seulement le régionalisme alors : un coup vraiment chien... Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 20:48
  • @CrissyFroth-Seapickle Eh bien, on peut peut-être prendre soin de ça dans une stipulation telle que « seulement attributif sauf régionalisme », ou plus précis, telle que « seulement attributif sauf Québec », ou même autrement, comme par exemple à la section où le régionalisme est mentionné, avec une stipulation telle que « attributif et en épithète ». Ça ne devrait pas être un problème.
    – LPH
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:04
  • ...not generally suffirait. C'est pas trop important, la précision peut rester en commentaire. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 22:06

The suffix -ard can be found in substantives (e.g. clochard) or words that can be both substantives and adjectives (e.g. savoyard.) See -ard. Geignarde belongs to the second group. Geignard was even only listed as an adjective in its first appearance in a dictionary.

Generally, any adjective can be used as a noun but it is more rare for nouns to be used as adjectives. You certainly cannot take a substantive at random and assume that it can easily be used as an adjective.

  • Thank you for your response. I'm surprised that geignard's use as adjective predated its use as noun.
    – justerman
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 17:41
  • Before being attested in a dictionary, Geignard was already known as a patronym. Many patronyms started as niknames based on a characteristic and were often expressed by an adjective. Geignard likely comes from geigner, a regional variant of geindre found in several Langue d'oïl dialects.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 20:46
  • 2
    @justerman French is very comfortable using adjectives as nouns in cases where we wouldn't in English. We say 'the poor', 'the elderly', but French can also say 'a poor', 'an elderly', 'some poors', 'some elderlies', etc.!
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 21:19
  • @ Luke Sawczak: Thanks. I'll look out for them
    – justerman
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 9:38
  • 1
    @Luke Sawczak: Hardly a day has passed and I've spotted one in the wild: Le jeune m’a logé chez lui le temps que ma blessure guérisse
    – justerman
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 9:42

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