meaning

meaning
meaning, sense, acceptation, signification, significance, import are comparable when they denote the idea which something (as a word, a passage, a facial expression, an action, or a situation) conveys to the mind or is intended to convey to the mind.
Meaning, the general term, may be used interchangeably with any of the remaining terms; it may be used of whatever can convey information when properly interpreted and therefore is not only applicable to language and expressions or gestures but to such more cryptic things as symbols and works of art
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a dictionary gives the meanings of words

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if human and the words formed from it can have an exact meaning . . . that meaning must refer to those qualities, characteristics, and powers which distinguish the human being— Krutch

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understand a plain man in his plain meaning—Shak.

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the sentence has meaning to Sam even if it will not have meaning to you. A great many ruminations, discoveries, and memories contribute their connotation— Mailer

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Sense (see also SENSE 2) denotes either the meaning or, more often, one of the specific or particular meanings, of a word or phrase, or sometimes of an allegory
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some words have many senses

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the literal and figurative senses of Pilgrim's Progress

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in the sense usually implied by the word, Minneapolis has no slums, even though it admits to neighborhoods where substandard housing conditions prevail— Amer. Guide Series: Minn.

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More abstractly, it refers to intelligibility in general
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speaks things . . . that carry but half sense—Shak.

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in the first authentic edition . . . the words, I believe, ran "and a table of green fields," which has no senseNewman

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if his work rarely has startling originality ... it always has sense and penetration of judgment— Schlesinger b. 1917

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Acceptation (see also ACCEPTANCE) differs from sense as denoting a meaning of a term chiefly in its stress upon the actual use of that sense or upon its acceptance by a large number of writers and speakers
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it is necessary first to consider the different acceptations of the word knowledge— Locke

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[philosophy] in its common . . . acceptation . . . signifies the search after wisdom— Fielding

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where German has separate words for each subsidiary meaning, French is content with a general term, leaving it to the context to specify which particular acceptation is relevant— Ullmann

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Signification and significance (see signify under MEAN vb 2; significance under IMPORTANCE) are often used interchangeably in spite of the fact that they can be carefully differentiated in their meanings.
Signification applies specifically to the established meaning of a term, a symbol, or a character, or to an established sense of a word; it usually implies that when a particular term or symbol or character is used only such an established idea is evoked in the mind of informed persons
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the significations of the characters which serve as Roman numerals

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I find it very . . . interesting to know the signification of names, and had written to ask him whether Jerusalem meant "the vision of peace" or "the foundation of peace"— Arnold

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the counsel for the appellee would .. . restrict a general term, applicable to many objects, to one of its significations. Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more: it is intercourse— John Marshall

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Significance, on the other hand, applies specifically to the covert as distinguished from the established or the ostensible meaning of something; it may from its other sense (see IMPORTANCE) carry a connotation of weight or moment
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his language is so grandiose that one wonders if his speeches have any significance

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no one knows for a certainty the significance of some early Christian sym- bols

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for the mathematically illiterate, like myself, these things are . . . mere scribblings, without significanceHuxley

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explaining all the minute happenings of the ranch ... as though each of them had a special joyous significanceMary Austin

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Import (see also IMPORTANCE), like significance, may imply momentousness, but in contrast with that term, and like signification, it denotes the idea or the impression conveyed or to be conveyed to the mind by the medium of words
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spoke words in her ear that had an awful import to herMeredith

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Kim gathered the import of the next few sentences— Kipling

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Analogous words: suggestion, implication, intimation, hinting or hint (see corresponding verbs at SUGGEST): denotation, connotation (see under DENOTE)

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

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