“Funder” – is this a new noun?

16 05 2010

Have you noticed funder creeping into people’s language? I checked dictionary.com, and they said “no dictionary results. Did you mean finder?”  No I didn’t. I meant funder, used as an agentive noun, the form that usually denotes the `doer’ or `performer’ of an action, often ending in `-er’ or `-or’ (eg. runner).

We’ve long had  fund both as a noun (eg mortgage fund) and a verb (eg who’s going to fund the new building?). It works as an adjective (eg a funding agency) and also in such constructions as well-funded or under-funded or poorly funded, where funded is adjectival, drawn from the past participle form of the verb, fund ( the way lots of adjectives are formed – consider lost or disgraced.)  Going further into the history we find out more.

Fund comes from French fond meaning  “a bottom floor, ground”, and also “a merchant’s basic stock or capital”; originally, it came from Latin, forbottom or piece of land”. The noun fund in the sense of “money at one’s disposal” came into the language in the early 18th century, and about 50 years later, the verb to fund arrived. England was well and truly into the Industrial Revolution then, and no doubt the verb to fund was sorely needed by the new commercial class. Fundraiser took a few more centuries, arriving in 1957. None of that, however, explains the recent proliferation of funder.

I went to my old pals, the gang of 4, to see what they had to say.

Macquarie: lots of variants, but no funder.

Oxford: same as the Macquarie: no funder.

Collins: gives 8 senses of  fund before including the noun funder, without further explanation.

Chambers: the only one of the Big Four to give the word and definition: funder – one who provides money for a project etc, a financial backer.

It seems more prevalent in American English. Merriam Webster defines funder as one who provides funds;  while yourdictionary.com says: “a provider of funds as for the support of a charitable or nonprofit organization”. Google yields 1,850,ooo hits for funder but not many of these are reliable uses of funder in the sense employed here. Mostly, they’re entries like a funders‘ network and associations (eg Founders and Funders); or  names (eg writer, Anna Funder).

However, all we can glean from these dictionary sources  is that “funder” is a more recent variant of the word. If the proliferation in daily use continues, I predict we can expect an entry for funder in new editions across the board. But dictionaries, like everyone else, need funds to stay afloat. Perhaps they also need funders.



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