Merriam-Webster Online:

Faith: (1a) belief and trust in and loyalty to God; (1b) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; (2) firm belief in something for which there is no proof.

From my point of view, the first and the second definition is fundamentally different. The first definition is just a shorthand for a statement. I did not learn much except what it stands for.

Sure enough, the second meaning is also a shorthand for something, but compared to (1), it reveals a lot more. In a sense, the first definition may be likened to an acronym.

Are there linguistic terms to better articulate what I am trying to say?

  • 1
    You are probably referring to "connotation".
    – user 66974
    Mar 14, 2018 at 8:11
  • If a concept is expressed from one person to another, the second person may grasp the meaning (or 'definition') of the words but be unable to envisage the concept, through lack of faculty. Such is faith.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 14, 2018 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


First, there is a thing called meaning (explicit suggestion), and then there is another thing called connotation (implicit suggestion). Let's study the WordNet definition of these words:

  1. meaning: the message that is intended or expressed or signified; "what is the meaning of this sentence";

  2. connotation: a meaning implied but not explicitly denoted by some word or expression, which may be understood in addition to the explicit primary meaning.

Firstly, there are some words that can be explicitly defined in terms of other words. For example, a "computer" can be explicitly defined as a device that can be used for processing instructions, such words can have meanings.

Secondly, there are other words like "water" which are so elementary that they cannot be more explicitly defined. Sure, you can do all kinds of analysis about H2O and CO2, but that's beyond the scope of epistemology (search for truth). In essence, water is water, after all.

Your example (faith) falls in the second category - it can have only connotation, not a meaning.

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