Difference Between Term and Word

Term vs Word
 

Most of us do not give much thought to the difference between term and word and use them interchangeably. However, a word is a meaningful element in a language. A term, on the other hand, is a word but has a particular meaning in a situation. Hence, these two cannot be used interchangeably. The relationship between a word and a term can simply be understood in the following manner. All terms are words, but not all words are terms. This highlights that words have a general meaning, which applies to our day to day understanding. However, a term goes a step further; it acquires a special meaning in a special situation. Through this article let us examine the differences between a word and a term.

What is a Word?

A word can be defined as a complete meaningful element of a language. Words are made up of morphemes that are the smallest elements of a language. Unlike morphemes that may or may not be able to stand alone, words can always make sense even in isolation. When a number of words are put together, they create a sentence. However, we must pay attention to the grammatical rules that apply to language when creating sentences.

Words can be spoken or else written. These always carry a meaning that is understood by the majority, making the meaning almost universal to the speaker. However, a term does not always carry the same meaning. Most terms are also words. This can be a single word or else a combination of words. When we say culture, value, crime, girl, animal, all these words have a universal meaning to the reader. However, a term does not have this characteristic. It has a special meaning in a specific context.

Difference Between Term and Word

‘Girl’ is a word

What is a Term?

A term can simply be understood as a word. All terms are words, but not all words are terms. A term is a particular definition of a word, which is applicable to a special situation. For example, in disciplines such as sociology, psychology, biology, geography, there are terms that convey a unique meaning to the user. A term can be used to express an idea, an abstract thought, an object, a concept, etc. A term always represents something.

The special feature of a term is that even though it may have a general meaning in our day to day life, it is different from the meaning with which it is associated in a particular discipline. For example, let us take the very idea of a word.

Most of us consider a word as something that is used to represent something else such as a chair or a book. However, a linguistic may have a completely different definition for a word. He may consider it as the smallest meaningful element of a language. A sociolinguistic may define it as the relationship between the signifier and the signified. This highlights that a term and a word are very different from one another.

Term vs Word

As a term a word has a different meaning from its general usage

What is the difference Between Term and Word?

• Definitions of Term and Word:

• A word can be defined as a complete meaningful element of a language.

• A term is a particular definition of a word, which is applicable to a specific situation.

• Connection:

• All terms are words, but not all words are terms.

• Meaning:

• Words have a universal meaning to the speaker of that particular language.

• A term does not have a universal meaning. It has a special meaning in a specific situation.

• Transferring Meaning:

• A word can be transformed into a term when used in a discipline to refer to a specific object or situation.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Girl by Subharnab Majumdar (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Tag cloud by Pyrsmis (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  • jawnee logik

    Although the above article does an adequate job of clarifying “Term vs Word,” in its examples it misses an opportunity to list what most would consider obvious, the primary realm for the use of “terms” i.e. redefined words: the legal profession.

    “Weasel words” would be another more commonly used expression to describe this phenomenon.