A history of the notion of PROPERHOOD in philosophy and linguistics is given. Two long-standing ideas, (i) that proper names have no sense, and (ii) that they are expressions whose purpose is to refer to individuals, cannot be made to work comprehensively while PROPER is understood as a subcategory of linguistic units, whether of lexemes or phrases. Phrases of the type the old vicarage, which are potentially ambiguous with regard to properhood, encourage the suggestion that PROPER is best understood as mode of reference contrasting with SEMANTIC reference; in the former, the intension/sense of any lexical items within the referring expression, and any entailments they give rise to, are canceled. PROPER NAMES are all those expressions that refer nonintensionally. Linguistic evidence is given that this opposition can be grammaticalized, speculation is made about its neurological basis, and psycholinguistic evidence is adduced in support. The PROPER NOUN,asa lexical category, is argued to be epiphenomenal on proper names as newly defined. Some consequences of the view that proper names have no sense in the act of reference are explored; they are not debarred from having senses (better: synchronic etymologies) accessible during other (meta)linguistic activities.