Initial-stress-derived noun

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Initial-stress derivation is a phonological process in English, wherein verbs become nouns or adjectives when the stress is moved to the first syllable from a later one — usually, but not always, the second. This is gradually becoming more standardized in some English dialects, but is not present in all, and the list of affected words differs from area to area. Perhaps 100 verb-noun (or adjective) pairs exist in total. Some examples are:

  • conflict.
as a verb, "I hope that won't conFLICT in any way."
as a noun, "There will be no CONflict."
  • record.
as a verb, "Remember to reCORD the show!".
as a noun, "I'll keep a RECord of that request."
  • permit.
as a verb, "I won't perMIT that."
as a noun, "We already got a PERmit."

A more detailed, though incomplete list follows.

When the prefix "re-" is prepended to a monosyllabic word, and the word gains currency both as a noun and as a verb, it will probably fit into this pattern, although, as the following list makes clear, most words fitting this pattern do not match that description.

Many of these have first syllables that evolved from Latin prepositions, although again that does not account for all of them. See also list of Latin words with English derivatives.

When the stress is moved, the pronunciation, especially of vowels, often changes in other ways as well. Most common is the change of a vowel sound to a schwa when it becomes unstressed.

P/U dialect

There is a dialect in the United States referred to informally by linguists as P/U or police/umbrella because in that dialect these nouns (along with cigarette, insurance, and many others) are stressed on the first syllable.


absent - abstract - accent - addict - address - affect - affix - alloy - ally - annex - assay - attribute - augment - combat - combine - commune - compact - complex - compost - compound - compress - concert - conduct - confect - confine(s) - conflict - conscript - conserve - consist - console - consort - construct - consult - content - contest - contract - contrast - converse - convert - convict - costume - decrease - default - defect - desert - detail - dictate - digest - discard - discharge - discount - discourse - dismount - document - escort - essay - excise - exploit - export - extract - finance - foretaste - foretoken - frequent - gallant - impact - implant - implement - impound - import - impress - imprint - incense - incline - increase - indent - inlay - insert - insult - intercept - interchange - intercross - interdict - interlink - interlock - intern - interplay - interspace - interweave - intrigue - invert - invite - involute - mandate - misconduct - misprint - object - offset - ornament - overcount - overlap - overlay - overlook - override - overrun - overturn - perfect - perfume - permit - pervert - prefix - present - proceed(s) - produce - progress - project - protest - purport - rampage - rebel - recall - recap - recess - recoil - record - re-count - redirect - redress - refill - refund - refuse - regress - rehash - reject - relapse - relay - remake - repeat - reprint - research - reset - retake - retard - retract - retread - rewrite - segment - subject - survey - suspect - torment - transfer - transform - transplant - transect - transport - transpose - undercount - underlay - underline - underscore - update - upgrade - uplift - upset


In some cases the spelling changes when the accent moves to another syllable, as in the following verb, noun pairs:

  • envelop, envelope
  • unite, unit

Some two-word phrases follow this pattern:

  • fall out
  • hand out (written as one word when a noun)
  • drop out (also written as a single word when a noun)
  • make up (sometimes hyphenated when a noun)
  • crack down (written as one word when a noun)

Some of these words have very different meanings depending on the part of speech. For instance, to combine is to put together, whereas a combine may be a farm machine or a railway car.

Pronunciations vary geographically. Some words here may belong on this list according to pronunciations prevailing in some regions, but not according to those in others. Some speakers, for example, would consider display as one of these words. For some other speakers, however, address carries stress on the final syllable in both the noun and the verb.

Perhaps transpose is used as a noun only by mathematicians; the transpose of a matrix is the result of the process of transposition of the matrix; the two-syllable noun and the four syllable noun differ in meaning in that one is the result and the other is the process. Similar remarks apply to transform; the process is transformation, the result of the process is the transform, as in Laplace transform, Fourier transform, etc.

A particularly interesting case is the word protest; as a noun it has the stress on the first syllable, but as a verb its meaning depends on stress: with the stress on the second syllable it means to raise a protest; on the first it means to participate in a protest. This appears to result from the derived noun being verbed.