A glossary of terms used in the body of this dictionary. See also Wiktionary:Glossary, which contains terms used elsewhere in the Wiktionary community and Appendix:Glossary of rhetoric, which explains commonly used rhetorical terms.

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


"Ante" (Latin for "before"). Hence, a quotation from "a. 1924" is a quotation from no later than 1923.
A shortened form of a word, such as an initialism, acronym, or many terms ending in a period.
ablative case
A case that indicates separation, or moving away from something. It is used alone or with certain prepositions. For example, if English had a fully productive case system that included the ablative case, then in the phrase came from the city, either "the city" or "from the city" would likely be in the ablative. In some languages, such as Latin, this case has acquired many other uses and does not strictly indicate separation anymore.
In Proto-Indo-European, or any of its descendants (the Indo-European languages), a system of vowel alternation in which the vowels that are used in various parts of the word can change depending on meaning. The system is used for purposes of inflection and word derivation. In the Germanic languages, it forms the basis of the strong verbs. A specific form of ablaut is referred to as a grade; see for instance zero-grade. (More at Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Indo-European ablaut on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )
absolutive case
A case used to indicate the patient or experiencer of a verb's action.
abstract noun
A noun that denotes an idea, emotion, feeling, quality or other abstract or intangible concept, as opposed to a concrete item, or a physical object. Antonym of concrete noun.
abstract verb
In the Slavic languages, a verb of motion whose motion is multidirectional (as opposed to unidirectional) or indirect, or whose action is repeated or in a series (iterative). Also called an indeterminate verb. The opposite type of verb, which expresses a single, completed action, is termed a concrete verb (or a determinate verb). Motion verbs in the Slavic languages come in abstract/concrete lexical pairs, e.g. Russian ходи́ть (xodítʹ, to go (abstract)) vs. идти́ (idtí, to go (concrete)), бе́гать (bégatʹ, to run (abstract)) vs. бежа́ть (bežátʹ, to run (concrete)), носи́ть (nosítʹ, to carry (abstract)) vs. нести́ (nestí, to carry (concrete)). English does not make this distinction. For example, "I went to the post office" could be abstract (if I went there and came back, i.e. multidirectional) or concrete (if I am there now, i.e. unidirectional), and different Russian verbs would be used to translate "went" in these two circumstances. In Polish coming back does not cause abstract verbs to be used, only doing something many times (Chodzę do biura. 'I go to the office (every day).' vs. Idę do biura 'I am going to the office (now).') or moving without target (Chodzę po pokoju 'I am walking around the room.' vs. Idę przez pokój. 'I am walking across the room.') does. Abstract verbs are always imperfective in aspect, even with prefixes that are normally associated with the perfective aspect (e.g. Polish przybiegać).
accusative case, acc.
A case that is 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.
An abbreviation that is pronounced as the “word” it would spell, such as NATO.
active voice
The voice verb form in which the grammatical subject is the person or thing doing the action, e.g., The boy kicked the ball. Cf. passive voice. (See also Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Voice (grammar) on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )
acute accent
A diacritic mark ( ´ ) used that can be placed above a number of letters in many languages of the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic writing systems.
Anno Domini. Year-numbering system equivalent to CE.
A word like big or childish that usually serves to modify a noun.
A word like very, wickedly or often that usually serves to modify an adjective, verb, or other adverb.
Relating to an adverb. For example, an adverbial participle is a participle that functions like an adverb in a sentence.
adverbial clause
A type of dependent clause that modifies a verb in an adverbial fashion. Examples are When my friend arrives, I will take him out to dinner and If it rains, I will go home (the latter example being specifically a conditional clause).
agent noun
A noun that denotes an agent who does the action denoted by the verb from which the noun is derived, such as "cutter" derived from "to cut".
The American Heritage Dictionary. For historical reasons, this abbreviation is sometimes used here to identify a respelled pronunciation that is given in enPR form.
ambitransitive verb
Capable of being either transitive or intransitive depending on usage. For instance, eat and read optionally take a direct object: "I eat daily", "She likes to read" (both intransitive), "Read this book", "I do not eat meat" (both transitive). Note: Although ergative verbs are ambitransitive, a single definition could only refer to an unergative verb.
anglicisation, anglicization
The modification of a foreign (borrowed) word to make it more English in form.
Having a referent that includes a human or animal. Many languages (such as the Slavic languages) classify nouns based on animacy, using different inflections or words with animate and inanimate nouns. (See Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Animacy on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )
The third-to-last syllable of a word, before the penultima.
A word with a meaning that is the opposite of a meaning of another word. For example, good is an antonym of bad. Contrast synonym.
A grammatical category of verbs that is often a perfective past. (See Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg aorist on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )
The removal of a letter or sound from the beginning of a word.
The removal of an initial unstressed sound from a word, the process by which escarp became scarp. Words derived in this way are called aphetic.
A word form in which the word is lacking the final sound or syllable. Occurs in Italian, Spanish, and other languages.
A consonant sound produced by restricting the air flow through the mouth only slightly, resulting in a smooth sound. In English, the approximants are /l/, /ɹ/, /w/, /j/ (as in the initial sounds of loo, rue, woo and you). Approximants are distinguished from fricatives, in which the air is constricted enough to cause a rough, hissing or buzzing sound, and plosives, in which the air is blocked completely for a short period of time.
No longer in general use, but still found in some contemporary texts that aim for an antique style, like historical novels or Bible translations. For example, thee and thou are archaic pronouns, having been completely superseded by you. Archaic is a stronger term than dated, but not as strong as obsolete. (See Wiktionary:Obsolete and archaic terms.)
English Wikipedia has an article on:
Distributed across multiple languages inhabiting a particular area, due to language contact among them rather than due to inheritance from a common ancestor. The term can be applied either to words (see loanword) or features of languages such as in grammar, morphology, and phonology. See also Wanderwort and stratum.
A type of determiner that is used as a grammatical indicator in some languages, and is usually central to the grammar and syntax of that language. In English, the articles are the definite article the, and the indefinite articles a and an. Some languages may have more articles, such as the French partitive articles du, de la and des, while many languages lack articles altogether.
English Wikipedia has an article on:
A property of a verb form indicating the nature of an action as perfective (complete) or imperfective (incomplete or continuing).
aspirated h
In French, an initial ⟨h⟩ that is treated as a consonant; that is to say, liaison and elision are not permitted at the beginning of a word with an aspirated ⟨h⟩.
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which one sound becomes more like a nearby sound. This can occur either within a word or between words. See also dissimilation.
  1. An adjective that stands in a syntactic position where it directly modifies a noun, as opposed to a predicative adjective, which stands in a predicate position but which modifies the subject of the clause. For example, in the big green house, big and green are attributive adjectives, whereas in The house is big and green, big and green are predicative adjectives.
  2. A noun or adjective (or phrase) that names a real object with the attributes of another real object. This is in contrast to a substantive noun or adjective, which names a real object that is the actual substance named by the noun or adjective.
English Wikipedia has an article on:
In some Indo-European languages, a prefixed vowel (usually e-; έ or ή in Greek, a- in Sanskrit) indicating a past tense in a verb.
A word form expressing large size, importance, intensity, or seniority.
auxiliary verb or auxiliary
A verb that accompanies another verb in a clause. It is used to indicate distinctions in tense, mood, voice, aspect or other grammatical nuances. English examples are can, will, have, be.
avoidance term
A word standardly used to replace a taboo word. (See Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Naming taboo on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )