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A glossary of terms used in the body of this dictionary. see also Wiktionary:Glossary — which contains terms used elsewhere in the Wiktionary community.

Table of Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  • a. "Ante" (Latin for "before"). Hence, a quotation from "a. 1924" is a quotation from no later than 1924.
  • abbreviation A shortened form of a word, such as an initialism, acronym, or many terms ending in a period.
  • ablative A case that's usually used as the object of certain prepositions. For example, if English had a fully productive case system, then ball in "The man looked at the ball" would most likely be in the ablative.
  • acc., accusative A case that's usually used as the direct object of a verb. For example, if English had a fully productive case system, then ball in "The man threw the ball" would most likely be in the accusative.
  • acronym An abbreviation that is pronounced as the “word” it would spell, such as NATO.
  • adjective A word like big or childish that usually serves to modify a noun.
  • adverb A word like very or often that usually serves to modify an adjective, verb, or other adverb.
  • AHD "American Heritage Dictionary". For historical reasons, this abbreviation is sometimes used here to identify a pronunciation that is given in enPR form.
  • ambitransitive Either transitive or intransitive. For instance, eat and read optionally take a direct object: "I eat daily", "She likes to read" (both intransitive), "Read this book", "I don't eat meat" (both transitive). Note: Although ergative verbs are ambitransitive, a single definition could only refer to an unergative verb.
  • apocopic A word form used in Italian and other languages in which the word is lacking the final sound or syllable.
  • archaic No longer in general use, but still found in some contemporary texts (such as Bible translations) and generally understood (but rarely used) by educated people. For example, thee and thou are archaic pronouns, having been completely superseded by you. Archaic is a stronger term than dated, but not so strong as obsolete.
  • article
    • A member of a fairly small group of determiners that are central to a language. In English, the articles are the (the definite article), a (the indefinite article), and an (a special form of a), as well as (by some theories) a "null article" that is frequently implied but never expressed; other languages frequently have more articles (such as French, which by one reckoning has ten) or fewer (such as Hebrew, which only has one, or Latin, which doesn't have any at all, not counting the null article).
    • A dictionary entry (that is, article and entry are mostly interchangeable in this sense).
  • aspect A property of a verb form indicating the nature of an action as perfective (complete) or imperfective (incomplete or continuing).
  • auxiliary Relating to a verb that accompanies the main verb in a clause in order to make distinctions in tense, mood, voice or aspect.
  • avoidance term A word standardly used to replace a taboo word.

  • back-formation A term formed by removing an apparent prefix or suffix from an older term; for example, the noun pea arose because the final /z/ sound in pease sounded like a plural suffix. Similarly, the verb edit is a back-formation from the earlier noun editor. Not to be confused with clipping, which just shortens a word without changing meaning or part of speech.
  • blend A word or name that starts with the start of one word and ends with the end of another, such as smog (from smoke and fog) or Wiktionary (from wiki and dictionary). Many blends are portmanteaus.
  • bowdlerization The removal of parts of a word or phrase that is considered offensive or vulgar.

  • c., ca. "Circa" ("about"). Hence, a quotation from "c. 1924" or "ca. 1924" is a quotation from approximately 1924.
  • c "Of common gender". Some languages have a distinct common gender that combines masculine and feminine but is distinguished from neuter; in others, a "noun of common gender" is a pair of nouns, one masculine and one feminine, that are identical in form, and that have the same sense except that one refers to men and the other to women.
  • calque A borrowing by word-for-word translation: a loan translation.
  • cat. - abbreviation for category. Without the period, the ISO 639-3 code for the Catalan language.
  • category A collection of entries, used to categorize or group entries of words that are similar in syntax (for example, English plural nouns) or in sense (for example, English words pertaining to sports); see Wiktionary:Categorization.
  • cf. "Confer"; "see"; "compare" - often used to indicate a word with similar, or opposite meaning.
  • CJKV Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
  • clipping A shortening of a word, without changing meaning or part of speech. Not to be confused with back-formation, which changes meaning. See: clipping (morphology).
  • clitic A word that attaches to a phrase and cannot be used on its own, such as English -'s. Many languages have clitic pronouns, which may be contrasted with emphatic or strong pronouns; for example, English 'em is a clitic version of them, and always attaches to the preceding word (usually the verb).
  • colloquial Denotes words or expressions that likely arose via casual conversational English, and are likely to be used primarily in casual conversation rather than in more formal written works, speeches, and discourse. Compare similar tag informal. Note: It's a common misconception that colloquial somehow denotes "location" or a word being "regional". This is not the case; the word root for colloquial is related to locution, not location.
  • comparable (of an adjective) able to be compared, having comparative and superlative forms that end in -er and -est, or in conjunction with the words more or most, or in some cases further or furthest. Examples: big, bigger, and biggest; talented, more talented, and most talented; upstairs, further upstairs, and furthest upstairs. Some adjectives are truly uncomparable, such as daily, additional, and else. Many other adjectives, such as unique, existential, and bearable are generally considered uncomparable, but controversially so, where examples can be readily cited of something being "more bearable" or "most unique".
  • comparative - An inflection, or different form, of a comparable adjective showing a relative quality, usually denoting "to a greater extent" but not "to the ultimate extent" (see superlative). In English, the comparative form is usually formed by appending -er, or using the word more. For example, the comparative of green is "greener"; of evil, "more evil".
  • countable, countable noun, count noun Describes a noun which can be freely used with the indefinite article (a or an in English) and with numbers, and which therefore has a plural form. Antonym: uncountable, or mass noun.

  • dat "Dative". A case that's usually used as the indirect object of a verb. For example, if English had a fully productive case system, then him in "She gave him the ball" would most likely be in the dative.
  • dated Formerly in common use, and still in occasional use, but now unfashionable; for example, wireless in the sense of "broadcast radio tuner", groovy, and gay in the sense of "bright" or "happy" could all be considered dated. Dated is not so strong as archaic or obsolete. This definition is currently under active debate in Wiktionary:Obsolete and archaic terms
  • determiner A noun modifier that expresses the in-context reference or quantity of a noun or noun phrase. Determiners are often considered adjectives, but in fact are not quite the same; for example, in English, big is an adjective, so “the big car” is grammatical while *“He saw big car” is not, but some is a determiner, so *“the some car” is not grammatical while “He saw some car” is. In English, adjectives can sometimes stand alone without a noun, while determiners nearly always can (contrast *“He saw big” with “He saw some”), such that they are sometimes considered pronouns as well as adjectives.
  • ditransitive (of a verb) taking two objects, such as give in “Give me the ball” (where me is an indirect object and the ball is a direct object). Compare intransitive and transitive.

  • ed. "Editor". This abbreviation is often used in attributing quotations; the editor of a compilation is generally the individual in charge of selecting what works to include.
  • emphatic Taking particular stress. English's reflexive pronouns double as emphatic ones, as in "I myself haven't seen it" (where "myself" emphasizes the role of the speaker); other languages often have emphatic pronouns that they distinguish from weak or clitic pronouns.
  • enPRWiktionary's English Phonemic Representation system. Details in the English pronunciation key.
  • ergative Optionally taking a direct object that is semantically equivalent to the subject in the intransitive case. For example, the same thing happens to the window in "The window broke" (subject) as in "I broke the window" (direct object), so break is an ergative verb.
  • euphemism A term that is less vulgar or less offensive than the one it replaces.
  • eye dialect A nonstandard spelling used to show a speaker's pronunciation, especially when it's a pronunciation the writer considers dialectic or nonstandard.

  • f"Feminine"; said of a word belonging to the feminine gender, which is usually contrasted with the masculine gender, and also often with a neuter gender.
  • fpl"Feminine plural"; of feminine gender and plural number.
  • familiar Describes a context where those conversing, through speech or written word, are well acquainted with one another and in casual situations often use more informal or colloquial terms to communicate.
  • formal Describes a context where word choice and syntax are primarily limited to those terms and constructions that are accepted by academia or official institutions as most appropriate and correct. Informal terms, frequently those that originate through casual speech (colloquial), are often not appropriate in formal contexts. Examples with varying degrees of formality include: official or legal documents, formal essays, job interviews, etc.

  • gender — A way of classifying nouns in some languages. In such languages, each noun has a specific gender (often determined by its meaning and/or form), and other words (especially adjectives and pronouns) will often change form to agree with the noun's gender.
  • gerund — Any of various non-finite verb forms in various languages. In English, a "gerund" is a verb in its -ing form when used in a way that resembles the use of a noun.

  • idiom A phrase whose meaning is apparently unconnected with the individual words that make it up, such as come a cropper "suffer misfortune", or more generally a phrase whose meaning is not apparent from said individual words.
  • idiomatic Pertaining or conforming to the mode of expression characteristic of a language. Idioms, collocations, and modal verbs are examples of idiomatic language.
  • imperfect The imperfective past tense of a verb, indicating that the action described happened repeatedly, habitually or continuously.
  • imperfective Progressive. The aspect of a verb, indicating that the action described is, was or will be continuing, uncompleted or repeated. For example, “is painting” in “Tom is painting the fence” may be considered imperfective. (Contrast perfective.)
  • imperfective past A verb form of imperfective aspect and past tense, which is used to describe an action or event which was happening continuously or repeatedly in the past, as in “Tom was painting the fence” or “Tom used to paint the fence.”
  • impersonal verb A verb that cannot take a subject, or takes a third-person subject pronoun (e.g. it) without an antecedent. The term weather verb is also sometimes used in some texts, since such verbs of weather (e.g. rain) are impersonal in many languages.
  • informal Denotes spoken or written words that are used primarily in a familiar, or casual, context, where a clear, formal equivalent often exists that is employed in its place in formal contexts. Compare similar tag colloquial.
  • initialism An abbreviation that is formed from the initial letters of a sequence of words. Initialisms that are pronounced as words, such as UNICEF, are usually called acronyms, so the term initialism is generally only used for those that are pronounced letter by letter, such as USA.
  • inflection The change in form of a word to represent various grammatical categories, such as tense (e.g. past tense, present tense, future tense) or number (e.g. singular, plural). For example, the verb run may be inflected to produce runs, ran, and running. In highly inflected languages, such as Latin, there will be many more forms. Two major types of inflection are conjugation (inflection of verbs) and declension (inflection of nouns, adjectives, and pronouns).
  • intransitive (said of a verb) Not taking a direct object; not transitive. For example, the verb listen doesn't usually take a direct object; one cannot say *"I listened the ball".
  • IPA The International Phonetic Alphabet; a standardized system for transcribing the sounds in any spoken language.
  • irregular Not following the usual rules of inflection; for example, the plural of English man is men, which is irregular; the regularly formed plural would have been *mans.

  • lemma, lemmata The headword or citation form of an inflected word, especially the form found in a bilingual dictionary. This is usually, for verbs: the infinitive or the present tense, first person singular; and for nouns: the nominitive singular. (In linguistics the word is sometimes used in a sense which includes this definition plus all the inflections cf lexeme).

  • n Of neuter gender.
  • negative polarity item A term or construction that is generally found only in questions, negative sentences, and certain other “negative polarity” contexts; for example, anyone is a negative polarity item, as one can say "I didn't see anyone" and "Did you see anyone?", but not *"I saw anyone."
  • neologism A newly discovered term or meaning. See Wiktionary:Neologisms.
  • noun

  • p. post or after, often used in quotations. Hence, a quotation from "p. 1924" is a quotation from no earlier than 1924.
  • paroxytone - in Greek, a word with the stress upon the penultimate (second to last) syllable (eg εθνολόγος). Compare with oxytone and proparoxytone.
  • perfective The aspect of a verb, indicating that the action described is or was completed. eg Tom painted the fence. (cf. Imperfective.)
  • perfective past - Simple past, a verb form of perfective aspect and past tense, which is used to describe an action or event which happened in the past. eg Tom painted the fence.
  • phrase
  • pl. Plural.
  • plurale tantum A noun (or a sense of a noun) that is inherently plural and is not used (or is not used in the same sense) in the singular, such as pants in the senses of "trousers" and "underpants", or wheels in the sense of "car". However, in practice, most pluralia tantum are found in the singular in rare cases. (See Category:English pluralia tantum.)
  • portmanteau A blend that combines meanings.
  • productive Used to form new words and phrases. For example, when a new verb appears in Modern English, the productive suffix -ed is used to form its past participle; by contrast, the suffix -en appears in many existing past participles, but is not productive, in that it's not (usually) used to form new ones.
  • progressive A verb in the form Tom is painting, is progressive; imperfective.
  • proparoxytone - in Greek, a word with the stress upon the antepenultimate (third to last) syllable (eg εθνικότητα). Compare with oxytone and paroxytone.
  • proper noun A kind of noun that usually refers to a specific, unique thing, such as Earth and the Alps, though one language's proper noun may translate to another language using a common (not proper) noun. In English, proper nouns are usually capitalized, as are common nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns. The same word may have both common-noun and proper-noun senses (such as German, which is both a proper noun denoting a certain language, and a common noun denoting a person from Germany), and most proper nouns can sometimes be used as common nouns (e.g., John is a proper noun that's a first name, but can be used a common noun with plural Johns meaning “people named John”).
  • proscribed Some educators or other authorities recommend against the listed usage.

  • s singular
  • SAMPA SAMPA, a set of systems for representing the phonemes of various languages in plain ASCII text.
    Not to be confused with X–SAMPA, the system for representing the full IPA in plain ASCII text.
  • sic A Latin adverb meaning "thus, so". It's traditionally used in quotations to indicate that the preceding is not a copying error, but is in fact a verbatim reflection of the source. (For example, if a source contains a typographical error, someone quoting the source might add “[sic]” to make clear that the error was in the original source.)
  • slang Denotes language that is unique to a particular profession or subject, i.e. jargon. Also refers to the specialized language of a social group, sometimes used to make what is said unintelligible to those who are not members of the group, i.e. cant. Such language is usually outside of conventional usage, and is mostly inappropriate in formal contexts.
  • strong pronoun — (Greek) an emphatic pronoun.
  • strong verb (in a Germanic language) a verb undergoing a stem change in some conjugations, usually a vowel change. E.g.: drink, drank, drunk
  • superlative An inflection, or different form, of a comparable adjective showing a relative quality, denoting "to the ultimate extent" (see also comparative). In English, the superlative form is often formed by appending -est, or using the word most. For example, the superlative of big is "biggest"; of confident, "most confident".

  • tr., tran. translator or translated, often used in quotations.
  • transitive a verb which usually has an object (eg I kick the ball), cf. intransitive.
  • transliteration the conversion of text in one script into an equivalent in another script. This may include the conversion of diacritical marks into alternate forms without diacritical marks (e.g., Mörder → Moerder).

  • UK UK English, i.e. The English of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the British Isles excluding the Republic of Ireland).
  • uncomparable or not comparable (of adjectives) unable to be compared, or lacking a comparative and superlative function. See comparable. Examples of adjectives that are not comparable: annual, first, extra, satin, six-figure.
  • uncountable, uncountable noun, or mass noun A noun that cannot be used freely with numbers or the indefinite article, and which therefore takes no plural form. For example, the English noun information is a mass noun: we cannot say that we have *one information, nor that we have *many information (or *many informations). Many languages do not distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns. Antonym: countable, or count noun.

  • weak pronoun a pronoun of one syllable which is dependent on another word and cannot be used on its own; sometimes called clitic. Compare with emphatic or strong.
  • WMFWikimedia Foundation, Inc., the parent organization of Wiktionary and other projects

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