American English

Definition of term noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] a word or phrase used as the name of something, especially one connected with a particular type of language a technical/legal/scientific, etc. term a term of abuse “Register” is the term commonly used to describe different levels of formality in language. Thesauruswordterm phrase expression idiomThese are all words for a unit of language used to express something.word a single unit of language that means something and can be spoken or written:Do not write more than 200 words. He uses a lot of long words.term (somewhat formal) a word or phrase used as the name of something, especially one connected with a particular type of language:technical/legal/scientific terms “Old man” is a slang term for “father.”phrase a group of words that have a particular meaning when used together:Who coined the phrase “desktop publishing” (= used it for the first time)? In grammar, a phrase is a group of words without a finite verb, especially one that forms part of a sentence: “the green car” and “on Friday morning” are phrases.expression a word or phrase:He tends to use lots of new expressions that I've never heard before.idiom a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words:“To let the cat out of the bag” is an idiom meaning to tell a secret by mistake.Patterns a(n) word/term/expression for something a new word/term/phrase/expression a technical/colloquial/slang word/term/phrase/expression an idiomatic phrase/expression to use a(n) word/term/phrase/expression/idiom to coin a(n) word/term/phrase/expression a(n) word/term/phrase/expression/idiom means something Language Bankdefinedefining terms It is important to clarify what is meant by climate change. Climate change can/may be defined as “the long-term fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, wind, and other aspects of the earth's climate.” A generally accepted definition of global warming is the gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth's atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is defined by the author as the process by which heat from the sun is trapped in the earth's atmosphere, causing the temperature of the earth to rise. The author uses the term “climate change”to refer to any significant change in measures of climate lasting for an extended period. The term “carbon footprint”refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an individual or organization. Scientists suggest that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will result in an increase in global temperatures, and the term “global warming”is used to describe this phenomenon.
  2. 2terms [plural] a way of expressing yourself or of saying something We wish to protest in the strongest possible terms (= to say we are very angry). I'll try to explain in simple terms. The letter was brief, and couched in very polite terms. She spoke of you in glowing terms (= expressing her admiration of you). Thesauruslanguagevocabulary terms wording terminologyThese are all terms for the words and expressions people use when they speak or write, or for a particular style of speaking or writing.language a particular style of speaking or writing:Give your instructions in everyday language. the language of the legal professionvocabulary all the words that a person knows or uses, or all the words in a particular language; the words that people use when they are talking about a particular subject:to have a large/wide/limited vocabulary The word has become part of everyday vocabulary.terms a way of expressing yourself or of saying something:I'll try to explain in simple terms.wording [usually sing.] the words that are used in a piece of writing or a speech, especially when they have been carefully chosen:It was the standard form of wording for a wedding invitation.terminology (somewhat formal) the set of technical words or expressions used in a particular subject; words used with particular meanings:medical terminology Scientists are constantly developing new terminologies. Literary/poetic terminology is used for talking about literature or poetry. Literary/poetic language is used for writing in a literary or poetic style.Patterns formal/informal/simple/everyday language/vocabulary/terms business/scientific/technical/specialized language/vocabulary/terminology A word enters the language/the vocabulary.
  3. conditions
  4. 3terms [plural] the conditions that people offer, demand, or accept when they make an agreement, an arrangement, or a contract peace terms Under the terms of the agreement, their funding of the project will continue until 2015. They failed to agree on the terms of a settlement. These are the terms and conditions of your employment.
  5. 4terms [plural] conditions that you agree to when you buy, sell, or pay for something; a price or cost to buy something on easy terms (= paying for it over a long period) My terms are $20 a lesson.
  6. period of time
  7. 5[countable] a period of time for which something lasts; a fixed or limited time during the president's first term of/in office He faces a maximum prison/jail term of 25 years. a long term of imprisonment The term of agreement can be for either two or three years.
  8. 6 [countable, uncountable] one of the two or three periods in the year during which classes are held in schools, colleges, etc. the spring/summer/fall term the end of the term see also semester, trimester
  9. 7[singular] (formal) the end of a particular period of time, especially one for which an agreement, etc. lasts the term of the loan His life had reached its natural term. This view of the economy is approaching its term (= it will soon be old-fashioned) (medical) The pregnancy went to full term (= lasted the normal length of time).
  10. in math
  11. 8[countable] (mathematics) each of the various parts in a series, an equation, etc.
  12. Idioms
    be on good, friendly, bad, etc. terms (with somebody)
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    to have a good, friendly, etc. relationship with someone I had no idea that you and he were on such intimate terms (= were such close friends). He is still on excellent terms with his ex-wife. I'm on first-name terms with my boss now (= we call each other by our first names).
    be on speaking terms (with somebody), be speaking (to somebody)
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     to be willing to be polite or friendly toward someone, especially after an argument She hasn't been on speaking terms with her uncle for years. Are they speaking to each other again yet?
    come to terms (with somebody)
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    to reach an agreement with someone; to find a way of living or working together The enemy was eventually forced to come to terms.
    come to terms with something
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    to accept something unpleasant by learning to deal with it She is still coming to terms with her son's death.
    a contradiction in terms
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    a statement containing words that contradict each other's meaning A “nomad settlement” is a contradiction in terms.
    in the long/short/medium term
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    used to describe what will happen a long, short, etc. time in the future Such a development seems unlikely, at least in the short term (= it will not happen for quite a long time). In the longer term, children of depressed mothers are more likely to suffer from childhood depression. see also long-term, medium-term, short-term
    in no uncertain terms
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    clearly and strongly I told him what I thought of him in no uncertain terms.
    in terms of something, in…terms
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    used to show what aspect of a subject you are talking about or how you are thinking about it The job is great in terms of salary, but it has its disadvantages. This title ranks alongside the Olympics in terms of importance. What does this mean in terms of cost? In terms of cost — how much were you thinking of charging? In terms of extra staff–how many will we need? In practical terms this law may be difficult to enforce. The decision was disastrous in political terms. He's talking in terms of starting a completely new career.
    on equal terms (with somebody)
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    having the same advantages and disadvantages as someone else Can our industry compete on equal terms with its overseas rivals?
    on your own terms, on somebody's terms
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    according to the conditions that you or someone else decides I'll only take the job on my own terms. I'm not doing it on your terms.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: term