The Longman dictionary states that binge can be used as a noun and as a verb, but not as an adjective or adverb. And so, expressions like:

A drinking binge.

An eating binge.

A buying binge.

where binge is used as a noun, are easy to understand. However, I have recently noticed that the word binge can precede a verb or a noun:

She's been binge drinking since her husband died.

Stress might lead to binge-smoking.

The way I understand it is that when followed by a verb, binge is similar to excessively; And when followed by a noun, it becomes similar to excessive [for a short time, that is]. If I'm wrong with my understanding, then what justifies binge preceding a noun or a verb? Also, what is the difference, if any, between the following two sentences?

Stress might lead to binge-smoking.

Stress might lead to a smoking binge (or to smoking binges).

And the following two as well:

She tends to binge on smoking when she is upset.

She tends to binge smoke when she is upset.

  • 1
    I am not sure if I understood correctly but from what I understand that you think that compound words can only consist of "adjective and noun". However two nouns can get together and create a new word such "air-crew". I think this link would help en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/hyphen
    – Mrt
    Sep 23, 2018 at 23:38
  • Yes, but you can't revert air crew to crew air, while you can with binge smoking.
    – Sara
    Sep 23, 2018 at 23:41
  • 2
    Some words can be verb, noun and adjective in the same form and even in the same meaning. however this is not the case for all words. For example the word drink is a verb and noun. You can drink a drink. However, you cannot "food" a food because the word food is not a verb in this meaning. And the word air is not used as a verb in the same meaning as its noun. The word binge is also a verb and noun in the same meaning.
    – Mrt
    Sep 23, 2018 at 23:50
  • I understand that words can have multiple functions ( i.e, nouns, verbs, etc.) and multiple meanings as well. I'm asking about the function of binge when followed by a verb or a noun. I'm also asking about the difference between the sets mentioned above.
    – Sara
    Sep 23, 2018 at 23:55
  • 1
    After the word lead to, you can only use noun or noun clause such as binge-smoking. After the verb tend, you should use a verb. So it depends on main verb and its usage. I don't think there is a big difference between them in terms of meaning.
    – Mrt
    Sep 24, 2018 at 0:00

4 Answers 4


Maybe some of your confusion might be that

binge drink

is the name of the activity and also the action

They went binge drinking at the pub. (activity)
Let's binge drink at the pub. (action)


drinking binge

is only the name of the activity

Let's go on a drinking binge at the pub.


"Binge" is a word that has become used more frequently in recent times beyond its original context.

The Oxford dictionary defines it as "a period of excessive indulgence in an activity, especially drinking alcohol or eating". So while it doesn't exclusively refer to eating and drinking, that is what it it especially refers to.

For example, the term "binge-watching" has become widely used to describe watching an entire TV series in a short period of time, perhaps even one sitting. This has possibly made the term more widely heard beyond its original use. However it is noteworthy that many dictionaries, including the Oxford, give "binge-watching" its own hyphenated entry rather than just a secondary mention under the root word.

Really, some things do not fit the original meaning of the term "binge". Consider eating. Having regular meals is not considered bingeing. Nor is eating little throughout the entire day - this has its own term "grazing". Binge-eating carries the idea of eating a lot in a short space of time. So with that in mind, can you really binge-watch television? You can't actually watch a show any faster than anybody else. A 45 minute TV show takes 45 minutes to watch, no matter how many episodes you watch back-to-back. I would suggest that the term has been reappropriated for somewhat humourous effect and become a new word in its own right. Likewise smoking has long had its own term for someone who smokes one cigarette after another - "chain smoking". Can you really binge on cigarettes? Unless you can alter the laws of physics and make them burn faster I don't think you can.

But to answer your question about the different uses - I don't think the following example of yours is correct...

She tends to binge on smoking when she is upset.

... because smoking is a also a verb. You wouldn't say:

She tends to binge on eating.

You would say:

She tends to binge on food.


She tends to binge-eat

If you use "binge" as a verb I don't think it sits right with another, unless you hyphenate it or present it as one collective verb like binge-eating or binge-watching. If you are going to use "binge" as a verb in its own right then you need to specify what the person is bingeing on.

Again to make the same point, you would not say:

She binged on watching.

You would say binge-watching, or else specify:

She binged on an entire season of Star Trek Discovery.


English nouns can be "attributive". From Wikipedia article on noun adjuncts:

In grammar, a noun adjunct or attributive noun or noun (pre)modifier is an optional noun that modifies another noun; it is a noun functioning as a pre-modifier in a noun phrase.

This leaves the possibility open for well-known two-noun phrases to develop in English.

  • When a phrase with an attributive noun becomes well known in English, it tends to be adapted with other nouns. Not sure of exact dates but binge watching is probably a good example of that; it's definitely a newer term that has been used since video streaming came into vogue--from earlier binge eating or binge drinking.
  • Sometimes, when these become well-known phrases, they fuse together into a single word, and other times they don't. Smartphone is a good example of a newer term that's a single word.

That which you binge on must be, literally or figuratively, a consumable.

They spent the weekend binging on old westerns. Yes

They spent the weekend binging on watching old westerns. No

Smoking, like watching movies, is an activity, not a consumable, so you cannot binge on smoking.

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