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I saw a question on this site asking about the difference between two similar words and one of the answers said it was the specific context each word was used in, except they used a single word that meant that.

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  • Can you provide a link to the question you are talking about?
    – Sam
    Jul 22, 2014 at 17:48
  • I saw it months ago so I don't remember. If I did, I'd have looked for it.
    – aaa
    Jul 22, 2014 at 18:00
  • Are you talking about homonyms? (e.g. bow [and arrow] and bow [to bow down to someone]) Jul 22, 2014 at 18:32
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    Maybe you are looking for connotation? Two words with similar meanings can have slightly different connotations, and this difference sometimes depends on the context.
    – Drew
    Jul 22, 2014 at 19:18
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    You might be asking for "sense" also. It is the meaning of a word, especially within a context.
    – ermanen
    Jul 22, 2014 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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I think you may be referring to contextualization:

To contextualize:

  • to place (a word or idea, for example) in a particular context.

  • to put (a linguistic element, an action, etc.) in a context, esp. one that is characteristic or appropriate, as for purposes of study.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com

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The generic single word you are looking for is "context".

It sounds like you are looking for a more specific word, which describes the particular context which is normally found around a particular word. In the sentences:

The stone was too hard to break

The pear was too hard to eat

What you are looking for is a word which describes "stone too __ to break" and "pear too __ to eat".

This would distinguish hard from other uses of hard, such as

I failed the exam because it was hard

In Natural Language Processing (NLP), this relationship is referred to as lexical co-occurrence. It would follow that the context itself would be referred to as "lexical co-occurrers". However, this term is not used in in NLP. Instead, the context around a word is referred to simply as context or lexical context.

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