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I usually write new words I learned or found on a website to help me remember them better. For example, I learned the word "holster" and I wrote "A holster is a thing used to cover a gun."

This is perfectly fine to me if there are 2 or 3 words per day. But the problem is I learn about 10 - 15 new words a day and it looks strange to use the word "thing" over and over again.

I want to know alternative words for the word "thing."


After I read several answers to this question. It sounds like I can say "A holster is used to cover a gun." If so, is this sentence sounds better than "A holster is a thing used to cover a gun"?

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I think you should just say: > It looks strange to see the same word over and over again. That way they do not have to fill in what thing you are talking about, but are clear that you mean a word. –  tchrist Dec 27 '12 at 4:51
But you could avoid it altogether by writing A holster is what is used to cover a gun or even simpler, A holster is used to cover a gun. I probably would have written 'A holster straps to a person's body and is used to carry a gun' though. –  Jim Dec 27 '12 at 4:56
I'd change that definition to "A holster is a cloth or leather case used to carry a gun." See the dictionary entry for holster. –  user21497 Dec 27 '12 at 4:58
I'd add "on your person" as a key element of that definition, or "a holster is a cloth or leather case that gets strapped onto your body in order to carry a gun." –  Hellion Dec 27 '12 at 5:47
thesaurus.com/browse/thing –  RegDwigнt Dec 27 '12 at 9:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

First off, not all words refer to things, in the usual sense of tangible objects. It's therefore not always possible to refer to anything as a thing.

Moreover, the word almost always carries more meaning than simply an idea as a nondescript thing. Consider your own example for instance.

hol·ster /ˈhōlstər/ noun [ODO] A holder for carrying a handgun or other firearm, typically made of leather and worn on a belt or under the arm.
Put (a gun) into its holster.

Notice the use of the descriptor holder, which is very significant and useful here. Calling it merely a thing would have led to loss of this information.

When you learn a new word that is a verb, adjective, adverb, or another POS, it may not be possible to use thing, as we already said above. We have to say, for example in the above case, the act of (putting a gun into its holder).

Through a careful choice on a case to case basis, you can record more useful information about the word.

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@code4eight Note, too, that following Kris' recommendation provides you an opportunity to practice more words, so you get twice the return on your effort. –  StoneyB Dec 27 '12 at 13:32
What does "POS" in the second paragraph from the bottom mean? –  code4eight Jan 3 '13 at 4:07
@code4eight POS here stands for Part of Speech. –  Kris Jan 3 '13 at 8:51

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