Meaning of “common noun” in the English Dictionary

british dictionary

"common noun" in British English

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common nounnoun [ C ]

uk /ˌkɒm.ən ˈnaʊn/ us /ˌkɑː.mən ˈnaʊn/ specialized

a noun that is the name of a group of similar things, such as "table" or "book", and not of a single person, place, or thing



  • Can you tell the difference between a common noun and a proper noun?
  • In the sentence 'Mary had a little lamb', there is one common noun.
  • Names of places are proper nouns, not common nouns.
  • A common noun doesn't usually begin with a capital letter unless it is at the beginning of the sentence.
  • The phrase "a jug of water" contains two common nouns - one countable and one uncountable.

Examples from literature

  • Boy is applied in common to all young males of the human species, and as such is a common noun or name. 
  • Common nouns are names applied to a whole kind or species. 
  • From your reading bring up sentences containing ten common nouns, five proper, five abstract. 
  • It is easy to see that when we have named these class ideas we have our list of common nouns. 
  • It will be observed that in many places I have capitalized the common noun Lake. 

(Definition of “common noun” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"common noun" in American English

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common nounnoun [ C/U ]

us /ˈkɑm·ən ˈnɑʊn/

(in grammar) a name for any group of people, places, or things that are of the same type:

The words "teacher," "river," and "table" are common nouns.

(Definition of “common noun” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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