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Gift (as a verb)

The use of gift as a verb is not new, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which lists examples of gift used to mean to make a present of from as early as the 17th century. Yet Google uncovers numerous web pages devoted to griping about this use of the word, suggesting that it is a fairly common usage peeve. The main gripes are that gift is inferior to give in the sense to make a present of, and that using gift this way unnecessarily contorts a perfectly good word for use in place of another perfectly good word.

Using gift as a verb is perhaps justifiable when it conveys shades of meaning that the more general give might not get across. For example, if I were to say, “I gave my daughter a kitten,” you might think I decided out of the blue one day to bring home a kitten. But if I were to say, “I gifted my daughter a kitten,” you would know the kitten was probably a gift for her birthday or some other gift-giving occasion. It’s a meaningful distinction—though, of course, I could always just say, “I gave my daughter a kitten for her birthday.”

In any case, many people who pay attention to these things have an odd aversion to the use of words outside their conventional part-of-speech roles—adjectives used as nouns, nouns used as verbs, and so on. But this sort of thing has gone on throughout the history of English—and no doubt it has always peeved some small percentage of the people living through any given change—and it’s one of the qualities that gives English its color and versatility. Resistance to new uses of words is understandable, but any insistence that new uses of words are simply wrong is based on an unrealistic view of how English is supposed to work. Of course, personal taste is another matter, and no one is ever forced to adopt a word he or she doesn’t like.

Incidentally, there is a second, less controversial verb sense of gift: namely, to bestow with gifts, the gifts here being talents, skills, powers, and other positive qualities. The word in this sense usually appears in the participial form—e.g., “She is gifted with great musical ability.”

Examples

This year’s Monday Night Football schedule has not seen fit to gift viewers with watchable games between relevant teams. [Wall Street Journal]

If Abraham loves his son, he must not gift him to God, but if he loves God, he must give up his son Isaac. [Modernism and Mourning, Patricia Ray]

Gifting of Kindle books rose 175 per cent from a year earlier in the period from November 25th to Christmas Day. [Irish Times]

Her famous father has done more than gift her with an amazing wardrobe. [Women’s Health]

In 1919, he gifted one-third of his Kodak stock — worth roughly $10 million at the time — to employees. [Stuff.co.nz]

Other resources

Grammar Girl discusses the history of gift as a verb.

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Comments

  1. Sorry, but “gifted” irks me. I might give you a gift, I might even give you a kitten as a (birthday) gift. But I didn’t gift you a kitten. I can envision a further disturbing devolution of nouns into verbs — ie: “Mom hamburgered us,” instead of “Mom cooked hamburgers for dinner.”

    • It’s definitely odd. A gift is the result of giving. A receipt, the result of receiving. Generic nouns describing the result of an action.

      There are a few that do follow your example. A bite is the result of biting, the noun is the same word as the verb: a bite, to bite. You may receive a slap when someone slaps you. You are having a meeting (noun) when you are meeting (verb).

    • There just happens to not be a verb: to hamburger.

      “The gardener seeded the flower bed.”

      “The gardener planted seeds in the flower bed.”

    • William Burke says:

      And you can bet they’ll kiosk up the shopping malls during the Christmas season.

    • Dryasabone55 says:

      At $3.99 a pound David, I think you should just be thankful to get hamburger at all!

  2. I agree with David Root. This irksome formation is frequently used by “development” types (i.e., fundraisers) in the museum world to elevate the act of benefactors giving gifts. Perhaps in the 17th century it sounded natural; today, however, it sounds effete.

  3. pumpkinpie says:

    Are gifted children talented at the piano or left in a basket on someone’s doorstep?

  4. Mokou Fujiwara says:

    Unicode Character ‘IDEOGRAPHIC GLYPH SIGNIFYING CONCURRENCE WITH THE ATTACHED STATEMENT’ (U+30D4)

    hax

  5. I also can’t stand idiots that say packaged.

  6. I personally do not like the word “gifted” as it reeks of commercialism. I don’t come across it in daily conversations, but see that media is increasingly saturated with it’s use in the last few years. Yes language changes, as it should, but I question the motivations behind the push to make this a regular part of our vocabulary.

  7. Years ago I worked at IBM in what would now be called an internship with a technical writing department. When I questioned one of the writer’s usage, he admonished me “Remember Jim, here at IBM, any noun can be verbed.”

  8. Adrià Rico Blanes says:

    In spanish there’s a word that means “to give a gift”: regalar.
    So, for me, it’s very natural to use “to gift” in english when I want to say “reglar”, and to use “to give” when I want to say “dar”. Using “to give” in both situations just spoils a part of the meaning.

  9. Justin Lynchem says:

    sounds like white trash speak…too dumb to think of the right way to say something so they just “force” a word in there…

  10. Ryk Fawcett says:

    I can’t stand it – I heard an Indian guy say it when I was travelling through India. We were talking about the Kashmiri conflict and Pakistan and he used it in his argument against Pakistan as such: We(India) gifted that land to them. Lets not get started on the implications of his sentence however, but it was something I had never heard before and It irked me somewhat too.

  11. Emily Talbott says:

    sorry, I just hate the word gift as a verb – I would ban its use even if that means that the English language remains static for centuries.

  12. Bob Crowley says:

    The use of the term “gift” as a verb, though correct, is affected speech. Affected speech is thought to be inferior. One example of affected speech is the use of “went missing” instead of “disappeared”.

  13. proctorsilex says:

    “unrealistic view of how English is supposed to work”
    HA! You seem to argue that English is somehow designed for creativity, but it was no more designed for creativity than it was for anal retention because it was not really designed at all (probably more so than any other language). Regardless, the background of the unofficial formations is what gets to me. Our contemporary use of gift as a verb appears to be some marketing scheme. Marketing, ignorance, and laziness in language development get on my nerves.

  14. Melting Granite says:

    McDonald’s is running a promotion where they are giving away money near the holidays.

    How do they tell us the prizes they are giving away? They say, “Here’s what we’re gifting away.”

    Gift as a verb is resulting in idiotic statements such as the one McDonald’s is using. You don’t “gift away” prizes, you GIVE them away!

    STOP USING GIFT AS A VERB! It is moving us closer to Idiocracy!

  15. is ‘regale’ ok?

  16. Brad Irby says:

    I’ve heard this used in reference to real estate, meaning that the referenced item qualified as a gift for tax purposes. “This property was gifted to me by my brother.” Other than in that context, this word doesn’t make sense. Just use “give”.

  17. For lack of better criticism, it is simply “wordy,” as we say in the journalism business. Why use the word when the simpler “gave” would suffice? Avoid jargon. If police reports, for instance, require that irksome “gave chase” when referring to an officer running after a suspect, reporters are not under any obligation to do so. We’d simply write something along the lines of “The officers saw someone fleeing the scene of the wreck and ran toward the figure.” Not they “gave chase.” Writing 101.

  18. the word “gifted” or “gift” is fine to use as a verb in formal speech or writing. to me, to be “gifted” something sounds like an honor and something not to be taken lightly and to be “given” or to “give” something is more casual and informal.

    ex. My father gifted me his estate before he passed. VS My father gave me his estate before he passed.

    and

    My sister gifted me her bike before she left for college VS My sister gave me her bike before leaving for college

    gifting or gift has more meaning behind the word and usually only works depending on context :)

    • If_you_ask_me says:

      To many of us gift as a verb sounds tortured. And pretentious. So, if your sister leaves for college and there isn’t room in the U-Haul for the bike and she really would like to buy a better bike when she gets settled in her college apartment, that’s probably just giving you the bike, right? But, if she is really sentimental about this particular bike and therefor makes a big deal out of asking you to take care of it while she is away, and maybe sheds a tear about how she is going to miss you, that’s gifting it, right? SMH

    • Actually, Lola, it sounds pretentious in your examples.

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