What does 'sb.' mean in this dictionary, NED, below?

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  • 2
    See page 12, sb. = substantive. Basically, it's noun. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:07
  • @DamkerngT. I can see them on page xxvi.
    – Listenever
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:16
  • I think you're right! The Volume IX, Part II (SU-TH) on Archive.org doesn't have the page number for List of Abbreviations, Signs, &c. (I guess that it's page vii), so I had to use the page number according to the slider bar given by Archive.org. You'd found another volume. This is fascinating! (I think I'm going to download them!) Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:29
  • I've not found it myself. It's introduced on ELL, and I knew it from Mister StoneyB, who if necessary quotes some words from the dictionary, now and then.
    – Listenever
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:41
  • I think the list of abbreviations can be found at the beginning of every volume.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


On page 12 (List of Abbreviations, Signs, &c.), sb. is defined as "substantive".

This term is used for "noun" in older works on language, including older grammars and dictionaries. In the current version of the Oxford English Dictionary, they went and replaced all their sb.'s with n.'s.

You can find more information in this section on Wikipedia,

Substantive as a word for noun
"Substantive" redirects here. For other uses, see Substance (disambiguation).

Starting with old Latin grammars, many European languages use some form of the word substantive as the basic term for noun (for example, Spanish sustantivo, "noun"). Nouns in the dictionaries of such languages are demarked by the abbreviation s. or sb. instead of n, which may be used for proper nouns instead. This corresponds to those grammars in which nouns and adjectives phase into each other in more areas than, for example, the English term predicate adjective entails. In French and Spanish, for example, adjectives frequently act as nouns referring to people who have the characteristics of the adjective. The most common metalanguage to name this concept is nominalization. [...]

  • Thank you so much. I thought that ‘talented’ must have been derived from its verb, as ‘gifted’ is from <gift v + -ed>. But not it is, they say.
    – Listenever
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:04
  • 2
    @Listenever Compare legged in "a four-legged animal". This is the same -ed.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:11

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