wikiHow to Differentiate Between a Term and a Word

What's in a name? The words "term" and "word" are terms. The difference between a word and a term will now be distinguished.


  1. Image titled Differentiate Between a Term and a Word Step 1
    Know the definitions of each.
    • A word is a set of letters that when modified and combined according to laws of grammar (syntax) may constitute a sentence, an imperative or other aspect of language.
      • Most often words are terms, because they provide meaning (through representation) and hence our understanding.
    • A term is a word that has meaning (semantics) and most often refers to objects, ideas, events or a state of affair.
      • A term is (in addition to being a word) a point of reference, whereas a word is only a constituent of language. Hence, all terms are words, but only some words can be terms. A term refers to something, either abstract or concrete.
      • Because a term refers to something (e.g. object, event, relation) it represents that something. Terms can easily be spotted if they can be associated with other terms, hence forming a set of terms - a terminology. Thus, to spot the difference between a term and a word requires that the term represent something.
  2. Image titled Fluff up a Paper to Make It Look Longer Step 2
    Learn how to distinguish between them. Distinguishing between for example "of"-as-a word from "of"-as-a-term is often provided by the context of the appearance of the word. Thus, "of" is a word when reading "Napoleon of France" in a book on European history, whereas it is a term when introduced in the context of a book on grammar: "the of-construction".

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Categories: English