This tag is for questions related to definitions and nuances of meaning of a word or phrase.

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42
votes
6answers
27k views

Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to?

At what point does next Tuesday mean the next Tuesday that will come to pass and no longer the Tuesday after the Tuesday that will come to pass? And, when does the meaning switch back? ...
53
votes
5answers
3k views

Why is it “geometric” but “theoretical”?

I just came across a course name: Geometric and Theoretical Optics. The mismatched endings bug me. Why do we have both -ical and -ic endings? Is there any difference in meaning between, say, ...
15
votes
2answers
870 views

If I invent a word, what language is it?

I invented a word using medical terminology, Latin and maybe a bit of Greek. (I'm not honestly sure of the etymology of all the morphemes.) Considering that this word is primarily not of English ...
10
votes
7answers
21k views

What does “had had” mean? How does this differ from “had”?

For example, what is the difference between the following two sentences: I had a bad day I had had a bad day
-3
votes
3answers
483 views

On/in its semantics?

Please help me in choosing the right preposition in the below sentence: The returned values seem a bit confusing on/in its semantics, Here I'm talking about returned values of a computer ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “ain't” mean?

What does the contraction ain't mean? Is it appropriate to use it in formal settings?
12
votes
5answers
19k views

What does 'ten of six' mean in regard to time?

I am referring of course to the expression describing time. Today a corporate trainer (From north Philadelphia) that is teaching a class at my company used it in the context that the current time was ...
31
votes
15answers
6k views

Words with opposite meanings in different regions

I can't recall it, but there is a word in American English which now means the opposite of itself in British English. What words are there that have opposite (not just different) meanings in different ...
39
votes
8answers
11k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
15
votes
7answers
36k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
19
votes
1answer
34k views

Why use “need not” instead of “do not need to”?

The header of psyco.sourceforge.net states: High-level languages need not be slower than low-level ones. Why use need not instead of do not need? What does it mean? Also, why no to before be? ...
13
votes
5answers
5k views

How does a word come to have two completely opposite meanings?

Words like "cleave" and "egregious" have meanings that are completely opposite other meanings of the same word. How did such a bizarre, confusing state of affairs ever develop? I mean, I just can't ...
3
votes
1answer
4k views

Question tags — “did you” vs. “didn't you”

Typically, when we ask for confirmation/denial of a statement, we say something like the following: We turn left here, don't we? You have a cat, don't you? We've met before, haven't we? ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

The construction of “Known but to God”

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider has the engraving "KNOWN BUT TO GOD", as presumably no man knows his name, but shouldn't it read "unknown, but to God", as the default for everyone is "unknown", with ...
4
votes
3answers
15k views

“A number of students” vs. “the number of students” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: A number of questions “has been” or “have been” asked? From the grammatical view both are correct, but please explain the difference in meaning: ...
44
votes
23answers
167k views

“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” — times and meanings?

I've seen cases where a noon-time meal is referred to as dinner, and the evening meal is called supper. There's also lunch around noon followed by dinner in the evening. Is there a particular ...
21
votes
9answers
24k views

“A few” vs. “few”

I have few friends. I have a few friends. I thought "few" means just one, two or even none. "A few" typically means more than two. However it seems to me some people say "few" when they ...
13
votes
5answers
18k views

Substitute X for Y

An awful lot of people seem to use the phrase "substitute X for Y" to mean "replace X with Y", while I've always used and understood it as "replace Y with X". This makes sense to me, given that a ...
28
votes
6answers
62k views

What is the correct way to use “neither” and “nor” in a sentence together?

Given these facts: The tool cannot be found in the kitchen. The tool cannot be found in the bathroom. Which is the correct sentence to represent the situation above? I can find the tool ...
8
votes
6answers
22k views

Words with most meanings

I am not a native speaker and it sometimes surprise me how many different meanings some words have. An example is the word call - when I was learning English I thought it was only "shout" or "to ring ...
32
votes
2answers
2k views

What kind of noun is a picture?

I'm not sure of the right place to ask this, but I got confused trying to understand how the computer will interpret the sentence: This is my picture. In actual sense, the real owner of the ...
19
votes
4answers
15k views

What word means what many people think 'ironic' means?

'Ironic' is often used to mean an unusual coincidence rather than its true meaning which is closer to sarcastic. That being said, is there a word that would be a good replacement for what many people ...
8
votes
2answers
599 views

What is the term for the double consecutive use of a word with stress on one of the words to alter its severity?

What is the term when a word is used consecutively twice, with intentional stress placed on the first word, as a means to alter the severity of the word's meaning? I am not referring to a past ...
3
votes
7answers
9k views

What is the difference between “anyone” and “everyone” in this context

What is the difference between "anyone" and "everyone" in the following context? For example, Anyone is welcome to do such and such. and Everyone is welcome to do such and such. mean ...
12
votes
3answers
6k views

“Between A and B” or “from A to B”

Suppose we are talking about the numbers 1, 2, ... , 10. When we use the phrase between 1 and 10, do we include the end-points 1 and 10? Is there any difference if we say from 1 to 10 instead?
2
votes
2answers
645 views

Is the past tense correct in “Did you know Fred was a doctor?” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: He didn't know where New Jersey was… Tense change: previous actions on something that's currently true My wife and I were disagreeing about this today: ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

A depends on B, is A dependant, or is B dependant?

If A is dependant, what does one call B?
10
votes
2answers
28k views

“Covered with” vs. “covered in” vs. “covered by”

I want to find out the differences in meaning among covered by, covered in, and covered with. For example, what is the difference between: covered with blood covered in blood or the ...
27
votes
12answers
6k views

“Nothing to tell” versus “nothing to say”

There's nothing to tell. There's nothing to say. Can anyone explain the difference between those two statements and give some examples on how they should be used? I think I do have a basic ...
6
votes
4answers
9k views

How to use “tens of” and “hundreds of”?

If I'm not mistaken, tens of means 10 to 99 and hundreds of means 100 to 999. Is this correct? I found in some dictionaries that tens of is actually not correct. I also found that hundreds of could ...
5
votes
4answers
12k views

Does 'should' imply an unquestionable command?

My question is prompted by a question on the programmers.stackexchange: This may be a duplicate of another question here on english.stackechange, but the answers given to that question did not ...
16
votes
7answers
15k views

“Biweekly”, “bimonthly”, “biannual”, and “bicentennial”

What do lengths of time with the "bi" prefix mean"? I have understood bicentennial as once every two hundred years, but biannual as meaning twice a year. Do biweekly and bimonthly mean twice a week or ...
11
votes
7answers
26k views

What does “if you will” mean?

A TV program says, they started this accounting gimmick, if you will, and they... What does "if you will" mean? Is it a short form of "if you will [a certain verb]"?
9
votes
2answers
5k views

Use of “Or”, inclusive or exclusive?

My wife and I are playing a game where you roll dice and move so many spaces in a grid "vertically or horizontally". In the use of English it is very common to say, this or the other when it comes ...
8
votes
3answers
8k views

Is “misogyny” only applicable to men? What is the antonym of misogyny?

I came across the following sentence in New Yorker’s (February 23) article, titled “In Defense of Liz Lemon”: “She behaves as if Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is her daddy. She doesn’t trust her ...
6
votes
7answers
7k views

the difference between fast/quick/rapid

She is a karate coach. She is not very powerful, but she is very quick/fast/rapid. Can I use all three words quick, fast or rapid in the sentence? Could you tell me the different meanings ...
18
votes
7answers
8k views

“All that is gold does not glitter”

"All that is gold does not glitter" is the first line of a poem from the Lord of the Rings and it's supposed to mean "not all gold glitters" but I'm struggling to see how this can be deduced. If all ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Context to distinguish “we” inclusive versus exclusive [closed]

In English, "we" has no clusivity - context is needed to determine whether it means we-including-you or we-excluding-you. What context can a speaker provide to disambiguate without sounding awkward? ...
3
votes
2answers
905 views

Use of “do” in affirmative statements [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do you use “Did + 1st form” instead of “2nd form” When is do used in affirmative sentences? For example: I do think that this is going to be... Is it only ...
2
votes
2answers
776 views

What do you call who writes comments? Commenter or commentator?

What should I call a person writing/adding comments (by pressing "add comment" link)? Commenter or commentator? From a deleted answer, I understand that there are commentators (like those ...
55
votes
1answer
188k views

What does a single letter “J” mean in emailing?

Today is Halloween. After a successful party, many conversations have been going on in my company's email box. The end of one email said "Till next time J". I had no idea what "J" meant in this ...
12
votes
7answers
840 views

Meaning of “stackexchange”

What does stackexchange mean? I have checked out this link to read about the Stack Exchange Network.
1
vote
3answers
8k views

“It could/might/may be funny” — what is the correct usage?

What is the difference in meaning in these three sentences? it might be funny it could be funny it may be funny The answer was partially touched on in this post.
19
votes
6answers
1k views

Word meaning coincidence of reference to the unusual

Most of us have had the experience of stumbling over a new fact or bit of knowledge and then finding several more references to it in the near future. For example, you see a strange word which you're ...
15
votes
3answers
678 views

Can I use “US-American” to disambiguate “American”? If not, what can I use?

Based on this question, I wonder: as an alternative to USAian (which is very nonstandard) is it OK to use US-American to more clearly indicate "inhabitant of the USA"? According to Google Ngram, this ...
15
votes
6answers
34k views

Is “funnest” a word?

We seem to be stuck at an impasse on this issue. Is funnest a word or not? If so, does it mean "most fun"?
21
votes
3answers
3k views

Attorney at law, is there any other kind?

I have wondered from time to time about the phrase "attorney at law." Are there other kinds of attorneys? Attorneys at arms? If not, why do we specify?
5
votes
4answers
5k views

“Me being” versus “my being” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Gerund preceded by possessive pronoun (e.g. “He resents your being more popular than he is”) Until a few months ago, I had always thought that sentences like ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Interpreting the meaning of 'but' as an implication for exclusion/inclusion

I often find it difficult to interpret the meaning of but in some of the sentences where it is used to imply exclusion/inclusion. For example: Drink everything you want but alcohol. Also, sometimes ...
12
votes
7answers
8k views

What does the term “86'd” relate to?

What does it mean when someone or something is referred to as being "86'd"?