Is contentual a proper word? I saw in Wiktionary that it is considered to be a proper word:



Relating to content (as apposed to context)

However, I have not seen it cited in any major dictionaries (Websters, Oxford, Collins etc.).

If the reason it is not in these dictionaries is because the word "contentual" is not considered to be a proper word, why is this so?

  • Wiktionary does not have an editorial policy to be a repository of definitions of proper words. Which is to say if a 'word' is in Wiktionary, there is no guarantee that it is recognizable with a consistent meaning by most people.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 13:04

3 Answers 3


It's in the OED, so I'd say it is a word, albeit not a very common one:

Philos. and Psychol.

Belonging to, or dealing with, content (opp. act or form).

The citations listed are from 1909 to 1962. (I'm not sure when this entry was last updated though.)

  • 1
    Does the OED give a date for its first use? I frequently find that what I see as a new word was used by somebody in, say, 1563. But if it strikes me, as a reasonably well read native speaker of English, as new, then it has not been a great success as a word.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:48
  • 1
    Apparently, the mathematician Hilbert has also appropriated the term in a specialist usage. [McLarty; University of Oxford Mathematical Institute.] Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 23:19
  • Abstract adjectives never really die. They just lie quiescent until they're needed for some new abstruse argument.
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 12:19
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth ... Note Hilbert used the German word "inhaltlich" (meaning: in terms of content), and philosophers translated it using their own English jargon word "contentual".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 13:57

What is your definition of "a proper word"? It strikes me as a new word, so new that it is unusual. If it is new it is not surprising that it has not made its way into the dictionaries that you mention.

In time it may become a word that we all use without a second thought. But it is not there yet.

So, unless you particularly feel the need for this word, or have a particular liking for it, do not use it. Wait and see. If it serves a useful purpose it may survive. If not, not.

  • Note the difference between this answer, conjecture, and Laurel's, based on a solid reference work (with quote and attribution). Answers on ELU should be more than guesswork / opinion. Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 23:00

Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg proposed 'contentual' as a translation of the German 'inhaltlich' (J. Symbol. Log., v. 31 (1966), p. 489), a word used by logicians and philosophers. B-M thought he was coining a new word. As pointed out above, he wasn't. The on-line OED quotes four uses, the oldest from 1909, as mentioned above; it's from a book called Valuation: Its Nature and Laws by W. M. Urban (described by Wikipedia as an American philosopher of language, influenced by Ernst Cassirer).

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