\ ˈwərd How to pronounce word (audio) \

Definition of word

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use
(2) : the entire set of linguistic forms produced by combining a single base with various inflectional elements without change in the part of speech elements
b(1) : a written or printed character or combination of characters representing a spoken word the number of words to a line sometimes used with the first letter of a real or pretended taboo word prefixed as an often humorous euphemism the first man to utter the f word on British TVTimewe were not afraid to use the d word and talk about death— Erma Bombeck
(2) : any segment of written or printed discourse ordinarily appearing between spaces or between a space and a punctuation mark
2a : a brief remark or conversation would like to have a word with you
b : something that is said
c words plural
(1) : talk, discourse putting one's feelings into words
(2) : the text of a vocal musical composition
3 : order, command don't move till I give the word
4a : news, information sent word that he would be late
b : rumor
5 : promise, declaration kept her word
6 : a quarrelsome utterance or conversation usually used in plural they had words and parted
7 often capitalized
a : the expressed or manifested mind and will of God
c : logos
8 : the act of speaking or of making verbal communication
10 : a number of bytes processed as a unit and conveying a quantum of information in communication and computer work
11 : a verbal signal : password
12 slang used interjectionally to express agreement
good word
1 : a favorable statement put in a good word for me
2 : good news what's the good word
in a word
: in short
in so many words
1 : in exactly those terms implied that such actions were criminal but did not say so in so many words
2 : in plain forthright language in so many words, she wasn't fit to be seen— Jean Stafford
of few words
: not inclined to say more than is necessary : laconic a man of few words
of one's word
: that can be relied on to keep a promise used only after man or woman a man of his word
upon my word
: with my assurance : indeed, assuredly upon my word, I've never heard of such a thing


worded; wording; words

Definition of word (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to express in words : phrase a carefully worded reply

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Synonyms for word

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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What makes a word a real word?

The word word has a wide range of meanings and uses in English. Yet one of the most often looked for pieces of information regarding word is not something that would be found in its definition. Instead, it is some variant of the question, What makes a word a real word?

One of the most prolific areas of change and variation in English is vocabulary; new words are constantly being coined to name or describe new inventions or innovations, or to better identify aspects of our rapidly changing world. Constraints of time, money, and staff would make it impossible for any dictionary, no matter how large, to capture a fully comprehensive account of all the words in the language. And even if such a leviathan reference was somehow fashioned, the dictionary would be obsolete the instant it was published as speakers and writers continued generating new terms to meet their constantly changing needs.

Most general English dictionaries are designed to include only those words that meet certain criteria of usage across wide areas and over extended periods of time (for more details about how words are chosen for dictionary entry, read "How does a word get into a Merriam-Webster dictionary?" in our FAQ). As a result, they may omit words that are still in the process of becoming established, those that are too highly specialized, or those that are so informal that they are rarely documented in professionally edited writing. But the words left out are as real as those that gain entry; the former simply haven't met the criteria for dictionary entry–at least not yet (newer ones may ultimately gain admission to the dictionary's pages if they gain sufficient use).

However, in preparing your own writings, it is worth remembering that the dictionary encompasses the most widely used terms in English. Words that are left out may have usage limited to specific, isolated, or informal contexts, so they should be used carefully.

Examples of word in a Sentence

Noun How do you spell that word? “Please” is a useful word. Our teacher often used words I didn't know. What is the French word for car? Describe the experience in your own words. The lawyer used Joe's words against him. She gave the word to begin. We will wait for your word before we serve dinner. Verb Could we word the headline differently? tried to word the declaration exactly right
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When the pantry launched, word spread through social media and students volunteered to pick up food and distribute it every Friday outside the temple, housed in a former Christian church. Star Tribune, "Buddhist temple food pantry a lifeline for Nepalese students," 14 Feb. 2021 After the raid, word spread about the investigation, damaging the company’s image. Bob Hohler, BostonGlobe.com, "Feds charge youth soccer executive in probe of visa practices with pro teams," 12 Feb. 2021 Reports claimed at least 10 teams had expressed interest once word got out that the Lions were open to a trade. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, "Mitch Albom: Matthew Stafford gave Detroit Lions 'every dame thing I had,' still torn over exit," 11 Feb. 2021 But word quickly got out that older people were being vaccinated without appointments. New York Times, "The Wealthy Are Getting More Vaccinations, Even in Poorer Neighborhoods," 2 Feb. 2021 As word spread, more retail investors got in on the action. Anonymous, The New Republic, "I Bought Tens of Thousands of Dollars of GameStop Stock. And I Have No Regrets.," 1 Feb. 2021 In the days before the protest, word spread via social networks. Noam Cohen, Wired, "What the Arab Spring Can Teach Us About GameStop," 29 Jan. 2021 But some clinics have soon-to-expire doses left over at the end of the day or during an early-afternoon lull, and word has quickly spread about this potential back door to vaccine access. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: The anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death," 25 Jan. 2021 When word got around, Birmingham voters changed the city’s form of government, forcing Connor out of his job. Washington Post, "Tom Lankford, civil rights reporter secretly in league with police, dies at 85," 17 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Alabama officials involved in promoting the Mobile area’s growth in aerospace reacted philosophically Monday to word that the 2021 Paris Air Show has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. al, "Paris Air Show, a focus for Alabama development, grounded for 2021," 7 Dec. 2020 For that reason, Duchin says that ACIP will need to carefully word its recommendations in order to ensure consistency. Sara Reardon, Scientific American, "Who Will Get COVID Vaccines First and Who Will Have to Wait?," 3 Dec. 2020 In the filing, the company worded things a bit differently. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Behind the complete collapse of business at Yelp," 10 Apr. 2020 Rehman suggested specific wording for judges to include in their orders. oregonlive, "Under stress: Coronavirus takes a toll on Oregon’s foster system," 4 Apr. 2020 Through carefully worded, open-ended questions, staff members can assess risks, work out issues and help clients move in a positive direction. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "Achievement Centers’ ‘Help Me Grow’ program gets creative: Strong Points," 16 Apr. 2020 It Up campaign, carefully worded as a citizen’s role in nation building. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "Five times Modi has asked Indians to make symbolic gestures for the nation," 5 Apr. 2020 Attorney Carl Johnson, whose firm represents many school boards across the state, said the bill is too vaguely worded and could invite lawsuits. al, "Alabama law would mandate respect for teachers," 27 Feb. 2020 Members of Sanders's campaigns attacked debate host CNN for bias, saying the way a question was asked about the alleged 2018 conversation was worded in a way that sided with Warren. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Warren has nothing else to say on feud with Sanders," 17 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'word.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of word


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b


13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for word


Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German wort word, Latin verbum, Greek eirein to say, speak, Hittite weriya- to call, name

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Time Traveler for word

Time Traveler

The first known use of word was before the 12th century

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Statistics for word

Last Updated

20 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Word.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/word. Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for word



English Language Learners Definition of word

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a sound or combination of sounds that has a meaning and is spoken or written
: a brief remark or conversation : something that a person says
: an order or command



English Language Learners Definition of word (Entry 2 of 2)

: to say (something) in a particular way by choosing which words to use


\ ˈwərd How to pronounce word (audio) \

Kids Definition of word

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a sound or combination of sounds that has meaning and is spoken by a human being
2 : a written or printed letter or letters standing for a spoken word
3 : a brief remark or conversation I'd like a word with you.
4 : command entry 2 sense 1, order We are waiting for the word to begin.
5 : news sense 1 Has there been any word on how they are?
6 : promise entry 1 sense 1 I give you my word.
7 words plural : remarks said in anger or in a quarrel We had words yesterday.


worded; wording

Kids Definition of word (Entry 2 of 2)

: to express in words : phrase I don't know how to word my idea.

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