I am using a text analysis tool to analyse a number of academic texts. The tool provides a list of words used, and a count for each. When describing the results, I want to distinguish between the meaningful/significant words, and the rest - which are generic words such as 'the', 'and', 'a', 'of', 'to', 'is', 'in', 'that', 'for', 'be' etc.

I need a word or phrase that can best describe these generic words, so that I can say that I have eliminated them from my review. My sentence as it stands is:

‘Risk’ was the third most frequently used word, after eliminating the generic words from the analysis.

I am looking to replace generic in this sentence with the correct term.

  • I don't think 'generic' is an appropriate term: have you looked it up in a dictionary? What's wrong with "common words" or "commonly used words"? In either case, you perhaps need to specify what you are referring to as 'common words': you mention only a few, but are words such as "that", "which", "do", etc. included in that scope.
    – TrevorD
    May 21, 2016 at 13:57
  • @TrevorD - thanks. I've added more examples of these common words, and noted that generic is the word I am trying to replace - I agree it's not a good fit here. Perhaps it's easier to define the opposite, i.e. the significant/meaningful words - which appear to be mostly nouns and adjectives (examples: "disaster", "management", "emergency", "vulnerability", "social")
    – Mike
    May 21, 2016 at 14:05
  • Up to you which way you define them, but I imagine that your program has a list of words to be ignored, rather than a list of words to be included (otherwise you may omit to count unusual words). So I think you're right to refer to the excluded words, and I would stick with 'common', maybe 'insignificant'.
    – TrevorD
    May 21, 2016 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


From support.dtsearch...

A noise word is a word such as the or if that is so common that it is not useful in searches. To save time, noise words are not indexed and are ignored in index searches.

But it's also worth noting this from Microsoft...

SQL Server has a mechanism that discards commonly occurring strings that do not help the search. These discarded strings are called stopwords.

  • 1
    thanks. I'm going to go with 'noise words' because I feel the meaning would be more self evident to my audience than 'stopwords' would be. Cheers!
    – Mike
    May 22, 2016 at 10:07
  • I named noise word first because that's the "non-specialist" term I normally use myself, and I assume it's more easily understood by ordinary people. I'm familiar with the computer indexing context, but to me stopword is effectively "domain-specific jargon". But noting Wikipedia's Words that are not function words are called content words (or open class words or lexical words or autosemantic words) I don't understand why Almu's answer was downvoted & then deleted - function word is just another domain-specific (grammar) term. May 23, 2016 at 13:10

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