Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The "Google" Verb; Our Language Changes with the Culture

Are you a googler, too?

The word "google," most well known as the name of the mega search engine, has been considered a verb for several years now. Who knew?

Language is constantly changing. As life changes and evolves, language has to change and evolve in order to keep up with a society's need to express new ideas. One example of this type of evolution of language is the use of “google,” and derivations of this word, as verbs.

Do You Know What it Means to Google Something?

According to the 10th edition of Collins English Dictionary, the word “google” can be a noun or a verb, either transitive or intransitive (n.d.). That means it can be used with or without an object. The Random House Dictionary assures users that the word, when used as a verb, does not have to be capitalized (n.d.). A person can write or say with confidence that his or her usage is correct, “I am going to google butterflies,” or simply “I am going to google.” This googler is simply saying that he or she is about to use a search engine to find information about butterflies, or he or she is going to search the Internet for any other topic that might come to mind.

Grammatically, the word can also be conjugated per the normal rules of English and used as a gerund: googling. Interestingly enough, one can “google,” even if using a search engine other than Google, much like one can “xerox” on any brand copy machine.  For example, just yesterday I heard a coworker say she had "googled" her Outlook Inbox to find a particular message.  Everyone knew she meant she had searched her Outlook Inbox using the search box under the Microsoft ribbon toolbar.

Do You Know What it Means to Google-Map a Place?

If a person is using the mapping or directions tool within the Google conglomerate, he or she might use the verbs “Google mapping” or “Google Earthing.” Arguably, however, it is correct in this particular usage to capitalize these verbs because a person is using the brand name and the software belonging to Google. The word here is a modifying part of a specific verb phrase. The word “mapping,” and even more so, the word “Earthing,” have different meanings (or little meaning) when compared to “Google mapping” or “Google Earthing.” The jury is still out about whether or not to hyphenate the noun phrase or whether or not to create a compound noun.

Do You Know What it Means to Googlebomb a Search Engine?

“To googlebomb” is more serious than to "google," or look something up on the Internet. This derivation has a negative connotation. Dr. Stephan Ott states, “A Google bomb or Google wash is an attempt to influence the ranking of a given site in results returned by the Google search engine. Due to the way that Google's PageRank algorithm works, a website will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent anchor text. Googlebomb is used both as a verb and a noun” (para. 1). In layman’s terms, if a person (or a person’s friends) wants a specific website to appear at the top of Google’s search results list, that person and his or her friends can create oodles of links that point to that particular website. Like googling, however, googlebombing is not limited to the use of, or an attack on, Google’s search engines.

Do You Know What it Means to Win a Googlewhack?

Gary Stock offers a few great examples of "googlewhacked" results on his web page, Googlewhack! The Search for The One. He also offers an extensive definition and the rules of the game. Yes, "to googlewhack" is to play a game. Simply put, it's to enter a two-word phrase into the Google Search box with the hope of turning up only one result. The main rule is that the googlewhacker (the noun) enter only two words; no numbers, symbols, or punctuation. If a person wins and receives only one hit, that person can have the results checked by another player. Although Mr. Stock's definition refers only to the Google search engine, the game can be played using any search engine.

Whether a person is googling, googlemapping, googlebombing, or googlewhacking, one thing is true: Our language has certainly changed over the past few years to facilitate communicating new ideas and incorporate our daily use of Google's search engine.


  • google. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from website:
  • google. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from website:
  • Stock, G. (2009). Googlewhack! The search for the one. Retrieved from
  • Ott, S. (2001). Google bombing. Links & Law - Information about legal aspects of search engines, linking and framing. Retrieved from

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Originally published on July 22, 2011.

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