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


"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.
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 subject is the person or thing doing the action, cf passive voice. (see also Voice (grammar)), e.g., The boy kicked the ball.
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.
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
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 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 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.
A word with a meaning that is the opposite of a meaning of another word. For example, good is an antonym of bad.
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.
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.
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.
A noun or adjective (or phrase), that names a real object with the attributes of another real object. This is in contrast to an substantive noun or adjective, which names a real object that is the actual substance named by the noun or adjective. Often used specifically to refer to nouns modifying other nouns, such as wagon in wagon wheel or chicken in chicken soup. Some languages, e.g. the Slavic languages, have special adjectives that serve this function, having the meaning "related to X" for a noun X. An example of this type of adjective is кури́ный (kurínyj, related to chickens), used for example in кури́ный бульо́н (kurínyj bulʹón, chicken soup). Generally, adjectives of this sort cannot be qualified by more, less or very.
In some Indo-European languages, a prefixed vowel (usually e-; έ or ή in modern 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.
Other Languages