What came first, concrete as a way to express a solid thought, or concrete as a solid building material?

And what I am really getting at is, prior to the invention of concrete as a building material, was there a different metaphor used to express the idea of a concrete thought?

  • 3
    Do keep in mind that concrete goes back to the Egyptians and was commonly used by the Romans.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 23 '19 at 12:53
  • 1
    @HotLicks True, but nobody called the stuff concrete until mid 19th century. Best so far - "concrete idea" - 1838, concrete as cemented sand and gravel - 1834. The use of concrete meaning not abstract goes back to 1500s.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 23 '19 at 14:12
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    @PhilSweet -- So it really should be called "opus caementicium thought"!
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 23 '19 at 17:10
  • Hint: Consult a thesaurus for antonyms of "abstract".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 23 '19 at 20:40

The answer can be found in a dictionary where there is a comprehensive discussion of the word and you can see that it has a long history meaning "solid", "not abstract" and so on. From its Latin origin meaning "grow together" its main meaning is "solid, stuck together".

It is the logical opposite of discrete (in separate parts) although it is not used as an antonym.


"Rock solid" should do the trick.

He used "rock solid" reasoning.


Of course you could use "solid as a rock" in the same context. I'm not sure which came first.


  • But "rock solid reasoning" isn't necessarily complimentary. I might think of it is being "dumb as a rock" :-)
    – jamesqf
    Mar 23 '19 at 17:16
  • But "concrete thought" isn't necessarily complimentary either. It's a statement of fact. They had only bones and stones to work with in those days. "dumb as a rock" is not the same idiom.
    – user22542
    Mar 23 '19 at 17:24

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