Word: Definition, Criteria and Examples

Gavin Kolner By Gavin Kolner
3 Min Read

Word is a speech sound or a set of speech sounds that represent and conveys meaning and can be expressed by itself without being divisible into smaller units.

In simple language, a printed or written character or a combination of characters that conveys meaning is called a word.

In traditional grammar, a word is the primary unit of language with comprehensive meanings and uses.

Example: apple, football, earth, animal, etc.

A word is the smallest unit of grammar that can stand alone as a complete utterance, separated by spaces in written language and potentially by pauses in speech.

David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, 2003

The most fundamental method man can extend his orders of abstractions infinitely is dependent and rooted in symbols and, more specifically, in speech. Words are considered symbolic for humans and provide the user with infinitely flexible sensory stimuli that are just as real and beneficial for humans as any other powerful stimuli.

 Criteria for Word

Most English dictionaries are made only to include words that satisfy certain criteria of use across wide areas and over a long period of time. Correspondingly they might exclude words that are developing into being established or those that are too specific or informal that are rarely recorded in professionally edited writing.

Here are several criteria for speech sound called “word”.

Pause and Space

A pause in speech and a space between two written words is necessary. For example, ‘eat’ and ‘banana’ are two different words; by using them in a sentence, we must pause while pronouncing each and space while writing each.

Example: He does not eat a banana.

So, we can not write it like “Hedoesnoteatabanana.” We need to put a space between these words and a pause while pronouncing each so that it can be treated as six different words.

Root of Word

Each word must have at least one root. If we break the root of the word, it will no longer be a word.

Example: The root of the word “undoubtful” is ‘doubt. These sounds cannot be considered words if we split ‘doubt” into ‘do’ and ‘ubt.’


The most important criteria for a word is that it must convey a meaning.

Example: The sound ‘shamangna’ has no English meaning. Therefore, it cannot be an English word. The sound ‘help’ has meaning in English literature, so it can be an English word.

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