smallest linguistic element that will be said in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content

A word is something spoken by the mouth which is meaningful. It is usually part of a sentence which makes the meaning clear.

Words are also used in writing, which is a relatively modern invention. In alphabetic writing, a word is a collection of letters. The word then communicates a meaning. These can also usually be pronounced. A logogram is also a word.

Some words have more than one meaning, for example 'spring' can refer to the season, the device, or a conjugation of the verb. These are homonyms. Some words have different pronunciation, for example, 'wind' (the noun) and 'wind' (the verb) are pronounced differently.

Some words have different spelling - for example 'color' and 'colour', which are both correct. ‘Color' is used in American English and ‘colour' is used in British English. Some words can be only one letter, for example "a" and "I" in English. Besides English, all other languages have their own words. When written with an alphabet, words are usually separated by a space. When written with ideograms, each word is usually a separate symbol.

Words can be invented. This is called neologism. For example, radar was originally an acronym but became an actual word. Two words may be joined to make a compound word.

Fuller definition


A word is the smallest thing which can be said with meaning. For example, hello is a word.

This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but may not stand on its own. A word may consist of a single morpheme (for example: oh!, rock, red, quick, run, expect), or several (rocks, redness, quickly, running, unexpected), whereas a morpheme may not be able to stand on its own as a word (in the words just given, these are -s, -ness, -ly, -ing, un-, -ed).

The meaning of a word can be found in a dictionary.


More reading

  • Iggulden, Hal; Iggulden, Conn (2007). "The Origin of Words". The Dangerous Book for Boys. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 214–216. ISBN 978-0061243585.