What Is an Abstract Noun? | Definition, Examples & Quiz

Nouns and Pronouns updated on  February 14, 2024 3 min read
Abstract nouns name mental constructs that are imperceptible to the five senses (e.g., “concern,” “existentialism,” “democracy,” “ancestry”).

In contrast, concrete nouns name people, places, or things that can be perceived physically.

Examples: Abstract nouns
Genealogy is fascinating.
The changing seasons usher in new fashion trends.
In today’s class we’ll discuss the final chapter.

Concrete and abstract nouns

Abstract and concrete nouns are contrasted in terms of what they describe.

  • Abstract nouns refer to anything conceptual that can’t be perceived sensorily, including philosophical movements, emotional states, and units of time.
  • Concrete nouns name any person, place, or thing that is (at least in theory) perceptible to the senses, such as subatomic particles, historical figures, and vehicles.

Examples: Abstract nouns and concrete nouns
The aroma of freshly baked bread filled the kitchen.
Drowsiness overtook Stephen while he studied, but, as soon as his head hit the pillow, his mind began to race with possibilities for the future.

Many words can function as either abstract or concrete nouns depending on the context. The distinction between concrete and abstract nouns is open to interpretation in many cases.

Example: Nouns that can be abstract or concrete
Art is an essential part of human cultures.
I’m shopping for art that will liven up my office.

Note
In terms of grammar, abstract and concrete nouns function in precisely the same ways. The distinction between the two types of nouns can be particularly useful in discussions of figurative language (e.g., metaphor and metonymy).

Abstract noun examples

Examples of concrete nouns can fall into several groups, including those in the table that follows. As the examples demonstrate, nouns are considered abstract if they don’t have a physical aspect.

Examples of abstract nouns

Emotional states and personality traits

weariness, exuberance, neuroticism, optimism, gregariousness, charm, rage, enthusiasm

Time periods and units of time

millisecond, Wednesday, weekend, semester, the Cold War era, eon, the space age

States of being

bankruptcy, solidity, abandonment, elevation, turmoil, ephemerality

Ideologies and artistic or social movements

Impressionism, pacifism, progressivism, Catholicism, individualism, fanaticism, capitalism

Philosophical and academic concepts

logos, justice, statistics, etymology, phrenology, simile, fallacy

Note
In addition to concrete vs. abstract, there are many other ways to categorize nouns, including many important grammatical distinctions. These include common nouns vs. proper nouns, plural nouns vs. singular nouns, and countable nouns vs. uncountable nouns, among others. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you make sure you’re using nouns correctly.

Formation of abstract nouns

Abstract nouns typically end in specific suffixes such as “-al” and “-ism” because they're formed from other parts of speech (e.g., the verb “refer” becomes the noun “referral”).

Many abstract nouns don’t include these suffixes, but words that include these suffixes are usually abstract nouns.

Suffixes that form abstract nouns

Suffix

Base words

Abstract nouns

-al arrive, appraise, betray, espouse arrival, appraisal, betrayal, espousal
-ance defy, attend, accept, guide defiance, attendance, acceptance, guidance
-ation fascinate, explore, colonize, adore fascination, exploration, colonization, adoration
-ence independent, negligent, adhere, cohere independence, negligence, adherence, coherence
-hood woman, state, adult, sister womanhood, statehood, adulthood, sisterhood
-ion opine, rebel, precise, fuse opinion, rebellion, precision, fusion
-ism vegetarian, imperial, alcohol, cannibal vegetarianism, imperialism, alcoholism, cannibalism
-ity personal, national, liquid, municipal personality, nationality, liquidity, municipality
-ment manage, encourage, align, consign management, encouragement, alignment, consignment
-ness aware, bright, open, random awareness, brightness, openness, randomness
-ship town, member, apprentice, champion township, membership, apprenticeship, championship

Abstract nouns quiz

Test your knowledge of abstract nouns using the quiz below. Select the correct answer for each question.

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Rhetoric

Verbs

Honor or honour

Onomatopoeia

Participles

Practise or practice

Palindrome

Intransitive verbs

Color or colour

Anachronism

Simple past tense

Toward or towards

Portmanteau

Regular verbs

Behaviour or behavior

Paradox

Past progressive


Frequently asked questions about abstract nouns

How is a concrete noun different from an abstract noun?

Concrete nouns refer to people, places, or things that are physically observable to the senses. Examples include “Mrs. Robins,” “snowstorm,” “San Juan,” “moonlight,” and “book.”

Abstract nouns, in contrast, name constructs that can’t be observed with the senses, such as ideas, moods, and values. Examples include “nostalgia,” “weekday,” “peace,” “era,” and “academia.”

Is freedom an abstract or concrete noun?

“Freedom” is an abstract noun. It denotes a conceptual state beyond the reach of the five senses. Although we can observe tangible expressions of freedom, such as unrestricted movement, the concept exists in the mind and not in the physical realm.

Is talent an abstract or concrete noun?

“Talent” is an abstract noun, signifying a conceptual quality, not a physical object. It encompasses innate abilities or skills individuals possess, making it impossible to touch or perceive directly.

What are the different types of nouns?

Nouns can be categorized in a wide variety of ways, including the following:

Tags

Magedah Shabo

Magedah is an author, editor, and educator who has empowered thousands of students to become better writers.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.