Is it grammatically appropriate to use the word "puzzling" as a noun, similar to the way "reading" or "gaming" is used?

Ex: Puzzling is what he enjoyed most.

Or is it better to use this:

Puzzle-solving is what he enjoyed most.

Note: I'm asking about informal US English usage.

2 Answers 2


puzzling used in this way would be a gerund. gerunds are derived from a verb X and take the meaning of "the activity of doing X".

reading is derived from the verb read, and it is clear that the gerund does mean the activity of this.

gaming, on the other hand, doesn't work like that, because the verb game means to gamble (it can also mean to cheat the system). The gerund gaming therefore means the activity of gambling. When gambling started to get automated in 1891, machines where you put money into a slot and pull the handle were called gaming machines.

In the 1970's, the first computerised games were installed alongside the slot machines, and so the activity of playing computer games became known as gaming even though in most computer games at the time no gambling took place. Because of its origins, gaming has a specific meaning (computer games) rather than the general meaning of playing any kind of game.

With puzzling, the verb puzzle has this definiton in the Cambridge Dictionary.

to cause someone to feel confused and slightly worried because they cannot understand something, or to think hard about something in order to understand it

The natural meaning of puzzling as a gerund would therefore be the activity of confusing people.

That said, nobody controls the English language, so you are at liberty to create neologisms for your personal use or for humourous effect. If the english-speaking community feels the need for the word you create and likes your neologism, it could one day end up in the dictionary.

  • @Jasper, thank you for pointing that out. I have updated my answer.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 20, 2018 at 0:25
  • The noun "gaming" has also been adopted as jargon by people who enjoy role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons and its successors). Jan 20, 2018 at 1:53
  • @CanadianYankee, Dungeons and Dragons predates the first computer adventure game "Colossal Cave Adventure" by only two years: i wonder whether they called it gaming back then. This article discusses the war games that predated the fantasty games like D&D. medium.com/@increment/the-first-female-gamers-c784fbe3ff37
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 20, 2018 at 5:00

reading understanding writing, and so on

Not every word ending with “ing” means could be stand alone by it own.

“Puzzling” it is a “gerund” not a “noun”

A gerund (verb base + ing), also called “present participle”

You can just look the word up in dictionary to make sure if it can stand as a noun. Or placed in dictionary as a noun.

If it’s not existed in dictionary as a noun, then it is impossible to use it as a noun as the other words mentioned above: writing, understanding, reading.

Here Andrew’s answer could help you.

  • Sometimes, gerunds are also used as nouns, which is why I asked. Thank you for your comment and link. Jan 19, 2018 at 22:47

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