I've seen "indicia" in legal documents--most recently in the Ukraine scandal whistleblower report ("preliminary review identified some indicia of an arguable political bias"). Is it just a more formal legalistic synonym for "indications" or is there a subtle distinction?

  • Wkipedia: Indicia (publishing) - a piece of text traditionally appearing on the first recto page after the cover, which usually contains the official name of the publication. Not a term previously known to me. Perhaps a misguided software "auto-correction", since that doesn't seem to match your context very well? – FumbleFingers Sep 27 at 14:34
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  • Wikipedia isn't a dictionary so it doesn't have every meaning of every word. The Wikipedia definition is specifically related to publishing and doesn't exclude other meanings. – Stuart F Sep 27 at 15:16
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    It is an indicium that the writer's nose is being held high. – Hot Licks Sep 27 at 17:10
  • It's bootstraps and suspenders from the legal dept. (We didn't say it was, we said perhaps one could argue that it looked like it could possibly might be.) – Phil Sweet Sep 28 at 1:14

The OED says that an indicium[paywalled link] is an indication, sign, or token. They also say that this loanword from Latin is chiefly used in its plural form, indicia.

The word has been used in English texts since the 17th century. It’s a reasonably common term (at least in formal text) from the OED's “frequency band four”. Here are two of the 19th-century citations they provide, the first from fiction and the second from nonfiction: [italics in originals]

  • 1815 Walter Scott Guy Mannering I. x. 154
    The corpse afforded no other indicia respecting the fate of Kennedy.
  • 1862 George Cornewall Lewis Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients iv. 1
    We may perhaps rather wonder that Hipparchus should have succeeded in discovering this truth by means of the far and faint indicia which were within his reach.

As shown above, the term has sometimes been set in italic to show that it's an unassimilated foreign term, which isn't altogether surprising what with how it's retained its original -um/-a endings from Latin's second-declension neuters.

  • An indicium of an OT. – Kris Sep 27 at 15:03
  • Band 4? How many bands are there? I believe you, but I've never ever heard of it, and I'm an academic (and did Latin at school). – David Sep 27 at 16:54
  • From OED: "This word belongs in Frequency Band 4. Band 4 contains words which occur between 0.1 and 1.0 times per million words in typical modern English usage. Such words are marked by much greater specificity and a wider range of register, regionality, and subject domain than those found in bands 8-5. However, most words remain recognizable to English-speakers, and are likely be used unproblematically in fiction or journalism. Examples include overhang, life support, register, rewrite, nutshell, candlestick, rodeo, embouchure, insectivore (nouns)..." Check top of entry in OED. – TaliesinMerlin Sep 27 at 17:00
  • @David Seven, so this is midway between bands one and seven. This is essentially an inverse logarithmic scale, so band four is ten times as common as band three but only a tenth so common as band five. You can read about the OED’s frequency bands here at their public site. – tchrist Sep 27 at 17:06
  • Thanks. If it’s an inverse log scale I can live with not having met a band four word, which I would have sussed out if I had read Guy Mannering. Living in Scotland now, I’m not surprised at such antiquated or different usage. Still, I’d never become adept at the Times crossword, although I gave up reading it before it reached its present lamentable state. – David Sep 27 at 18:11

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