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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."

Update

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
1  
thesaurus.com/browse/thing –  RegDwigнt Dec 27 '12 at 9:55

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 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.
verb
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

You could use object in place of thing, as in "A holster is an object used to cover a gun."

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Answering this question will put many more items on your list.

'Thing' is the most general physical object and any synonym might work in general (object, entity, etc). But it is also more specific than 'noun'.

If the word you have is a kind of thing, then you can always use a term that is more specific between 'thing' and more general than your new word. For example, among many things, a holster is: an accessory, a piece of equipment, a receptacle, a firearm holder, etc etc. For example, 'a holster is a holder for firearms that usually is worn hanging from a belt'). Another example is to follow the 'is a' relationship:

A dog is a canine is a carnivore is a mammal is an animal is an organism ...

But maybe your new word is not a thing. It could be a concept, like 'honesty' ("honesty is an abstract principle that favors answering with the truth") or a feeling like 'nausea' ("nausea is a symptom of intestinal distress that feels like you're about to vomit.").

At some point, there may not be enough single-word nouns to cover the entire range from general to specific, and then modifiers will be added:

Invisibility is a property, a property of substances, a visual property of substances, ...

This also goes for verbs or adjectives or whatever: "to run is to move you legs quickly", "pink is a color between white and red".

This successive refinement is what eventually ends in a complete definition of your word whatever it is.

What comes out of this is that you can make it more specific, but then you have more words to learn.

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