I understand the contradiction in my title and this post is exactly about that.

Considering the definitions of a noun by Oxford and by Cambridge, an idea is very possibly a thing. My question is whether anything is not a thing? I have seen the definitions of a thing at Oxford and other places but these are confusing to me.

My question is two-fold:

  1. Is 'thing' a word we use to describe anything that we can imagine and is possible? (Both by definition and in casual social settings)
  2. Is the fact that the word 'thing' is part of the words everything and anything make every possible concept a thing?

They are kind of the same question but I would appreciate a slightly different outlook to answer each. Thanks!

Note: To be clear, I am asking about the actual definitions of these words and the usage of the word 'thing'. Please read the tags.

Edit: So far, the closest I have got to answers are:

  • Concepts that involve more than a singular unit of itself cannot seem to be called a thing. A thing can be a collection of things however (eg. keyboards are not a thing but are things. As are the keys that compose them. Individually, they are a thing though.)
  • We usually call solid instances things but this is not a rule at all. (eg. the sun, a bottle of water, an empty ballon vs. a filled balloon, etc...)
  • Scale seems to matter. Something we might call a thing from afar might not be a thing up close (eg. the sun, a city, a person, reflections, etc...)
  • What's next?
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    I'll have what @Akaisteph7 is having. – EightyEighty Dec 12 '17 at 23:05
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    I'm not sure this is a linguistic question. You might get more analytical answers over at philosophy.stackexchange.com – Mitch Dec 12 '17 at 23:27
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    @Akaisteph7 The nuances you're asking about the word are well beyond the simple language-bound lexical semantics. What you are asking is really about mental concepts that are only pointed at by individual words. Other languages have the word 'thing' that are just as broad (or limited) as in English. They may not be identical in semantic coverage as the word in English – Mitch Dec 13 '17 at 1:20
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    Flagged mods to consider migrating this to Philosophy.SE (I think it's a good question there). The question is more about the philosophy of (perhaps) ontology, rather than about the mechanics or common usage of the English language. I.e., in the ontological mapping between the word 'thing' and what that word signifies, ELU.SE is more relevant if the emphasis is on the word (e.g. definition, nuance, connotation) and Philosophy.SE is more relevant if the emphasis is on what the word signifies (e.g. zen nothingness, or here, anti(?)-zen thing-ness). – Lawrence Dec 13 '17 at 4:09
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    This is one of those taking-the-piss questions. – Lambie Dec 13 '17 at 19:13

Here's an answer from Schoolhouse Rock. A noun can be a person, place, or thing.

Clearly, therefore, if something is a person or a place, it cannot be a thing.

  • Then is it really something? This does touch on the second part of my question though.. – Akaisteph7 Oct 21 '18 at 21:31
  • Corresponding to person, we have the words someone, anyone, everyone, and no one. Corresponding to place we have somewhere, anywhere, everywhere and nowhere. It’s true that we use the word something in a general way to refer to the object of our thoughts, which might later be clarified to be a person or a place, but this is merely a convention. People, places and things are distinct categories of thought. – Global Charm Oct 21 '18 at 22:50
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    First, your source is not a good source sorry... Apart from that, that seems like opinion. So, if I see someone from afar and I say it is a thing, am I wrong? Am I always wrong, or is there a point when I am right? What does that depend on? I don't see anything wrong with calling a place a thing either. Like "NY is one thing, but Paris is so much better". Your saying that this is a misuse of the word thing? And so are places and people not part of everything? Are they nothing? – Akaisteph7 Nov 6 '18 at 23:59

Gases and liquids - stuff

solid objects - things

Of course there are exceptions to everything so I won't mention that thing in the corner, which happens to be a ghost.

  • The thing is I am not sure I agree. :) – Lambie Dec 13 '17 at 19:13
  • Is a raindrop a thing? – Chris H Dec 13 '17 at 19:21
  • What is raindrop composed of? – Windle David Dec 13 '17 at 19:57
  • What are your sources? – Akaisteph7 Dec 14 '17 at 15:35

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