Is “preference” a recently verbed noun?

Apple TextEdit is giving a red line underneath “preferenced” as if it’s not a valid word.

Wiktionary describes “preference” as being a verb as well as a noun.

Is it a recently verbed noun that’s considered non-standard by some dictionaries?


The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1985 printing)—the edition that comes with a magnifying glass because each page contain four pages of content at reduced size—does not include an entry for preference as a verb. Nor does Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition (2000), The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001), The Encarta World English Dictionary (1999), Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, new edition (1992), Random House College Dictionary (1984), or Webster’s II New College Dictionary (1999).

So it’s safe to say that preference as a verb is not well established in the opinion of recent lexicographers. But that’s not to say that no one uses preference in that way.

Early instances of ‘preferenced’ as a verb

A Google Books search for preferenced finds instances going back to 1850—four decades before the first occurrence the Eleventh Collegiate reports for the now well-established verb form of reference (1891). From Samuels and others vs. Blanchard and others (January 1870 term), in Wisconsin Reports: Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin (1871):

In 1850, the persons owning interests in said lands and power entered into a contract, under seal, by which it is covenanted, among other things, “that Cole, Bailey & Co. shall have the right to use their seven hundred inches of water, which is now preferenced to them.” at a certain point therein designated.

This case is interesting because its outcome hinged in part on the court’s interpretation of the meaning of preferenced and on whether that term (as interpreted) was legally binding. (The court held that the contract legally established a right of use of the said 700 inches of water.)

From “Digest of Recent Indian Cases (Civil),” in The Lawyer (August 1, 1908):

——Wojibularly — Sharauk hakiat — Malik— Owner of resumed muafi Preferenced over co-sharers in other khata. — The wajibularz gave a right of pre-emption to sharik hakiat, if any, of the malikans who sold their property. Held, that an owner of resumed muafi (where that was resumed before the preparation of the wajibularly,) was a malik within the meaning of the wajibularz, if he was a co-share in the same khata with the vendor and had a sharik of a different khata.

From The Grain Dealers Journal (May 25, 1917):

GREAT FALLS, MONT[ANA].—There is going to be considerable elevator building in this part of the state, during the coming season, but whether they will be built or not depends on the government making elevator material preferenced until the wheat begins to move, which certainly should be advocated.—The Thompson Co.

From Bell Telephone News (April 1919):

LOW WAIST LINES AND SIMPLE DESIGNS! These Seem to Be Preferenced by the Paris Models, Who Lean toward Overblouses in Lovely Materials, Novelty Sleeves, Peplums and Ribbons Hanging from the Hipline

From Jacob Kadushin, Jewish Code of Jurisprudence: Talmudical Law Decisions Civil, Criminal, and Social, second edition (1919):

R had note from B and sold the note according to law to C, and when C came to collect the note D presented a note that he had from R dated before the note that R had from B, and he claimed that the note that R gave to C that is the money from his debtor and wins the collection on account of being preferenced. The right is with D because his note is first (L. c.).

From Senate Committee on Immigration, Admission of Certain Relatives: Hearing on S. 2245 (1926) [combined snippets]:

Mr. DUBOIS. In any event, we have two lasses within the bill. The relatives of aliens who have filed prior to 1921 are non quota. Relatives of all other aliens are preferenced within the quota. We can say that practically the entire quota would be made up of these dependents.

Recent instances of ‘preferenced’ as a verb

From Vendela Vida, Girls on the Verge: Debutante Dips, Drive-bys, and Other Initiations (1999):

The scantron has matched our preference lists with those of the houses and we may have up to seven parties to go to that day, or we may have zero—it all depends on whether or not the houses we “preferenced” also preferenced us.

From Rose Brewer, “A Critical Sociology of African Americans, the U.S. Welfare State, and Neoliberalism in the Era of Corporate Globalization,” in Race and Ethnicity: Across Time, Space, and Discipline (2004):

The fact of the matter Is that the racialization of of the state and the rhetoric of Black undeservedness is a core structuring principle of U.S. society located in the ideology and practice of white supremacy (Mills 1997). Thus economic claims based on paid labor were preferenced over motherhood claims.

From Robert Schwartz & Reto Francioni, Equity Markets in Action (2004):

Public customers are free to pick randomly the market-maker firm to whom they send an order, or they can select the market maker based on previously established relationships. Orders are typically preferenced to a market maker who has developed a special relationship with a particular customer.

From Rodney Smith, Against the Machines: Minor Parties and Independents in New South Wales, 1910–2006 (2006):

The Australia Party felt uncomfortable preferencing either Labor or the Coalition, since it wanted to present itself as an alternative to both. In practice, the Party usually preferenced Labor, largely as a counterweight to DLP preferences. The evidence suggests that only around three- fifths of Australia Party voters followed its how to vote cards.

From Marcus West, Feeling, Being, and the Sense of Self: A New Perspective on Identity, Affect and Narcissistic Disorder (2007):

It is argued here that Jung’s formulation is only problematic in so far as he preferenced spiritual experience in a way that distorts his understanding of the psyche and the process of individuation, his allied concept of human development.

From Daniel Minoli, IP Multicast with Applications to IPTV and Mobile DVB-H (2008): Receiving HELLOs. A router does not respond to a HELLO message if the received HELLO is “better” than its own or equally preferenced but lower addressed. A router must respond to a HELLO message if that received is lesser preferenced (or equally preferenced but higher addressed) than would be sent by this router over the same interface.


In Google Books searches, you can find dozens of instances where preferenced is used as a verb (and dozens more where it is used as an adjective), over many decades. It seems to me that one can confidently argue (and demonstrate) that preference has been and is used as a verb in numerous contexts by numerous people.

Having said that, I would caution against using preference in preference to prefer unless you have a strong reason to do so—most justifiably that it is a standard term in the particular discipline or subdiscipline in which you want to use it. As a verb, preference is likely to sound strange, uncouth, pretentious, or erroneous to many readers.

Source : Link , Question Author : Andrew Grimm , Answer Author : Sven Yargs

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