American English

Definition of thing noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    jump to other results
  1. 1[countable] an object whose name you do not use because you do not need to or want to, or because you do not know it Can you pass me that thing over there? She's very fond of sweet things (= sweet foods). He's just bought one of those exercise things. Turn that thing off while I'm talking to you!
  2. 2[countable] an object that is not alive in the way that people and plants are Don't treat her like that—she's a person, not a thing! He's good at making things with his hands. She took no interest in the people and things around her.
  3. possessions/equipment
  4. 3things [plural] objects, clothing, or tools that belong to someone or are used for a particular purpose Can I help you pack your things? This box is full of camping things. I'll just clear away the breakfast things. Put your things (= coat, etc.) on and let's go.
  5. anything
  6. 4a thing [singular] used with negatives to mean “anything” in order to emphasize what you are saying I don't have a thing to wear! She hasn't had a thing to eat all day. There wasn't a thing we could do to help. Ignore what he said—it doesn't mean a thing.
  7. fact/event/situation/action
  8. 5[countable] a fact, an event, a situation, or an action; what someone says or thinks There are a lot of things she doesn't know about me. There's another thing I'd like to ask you. A terrible thing happened last night. He found the whole thing (= the situation) very boring. I have loads of things to do today. The main thing to remember is to switch off the burglar alarm. I like camping, climbing, and that sort of thing. She said the first thing that came into her head. “Why did you tell her our secret?” “I did no such thing!” Let's forget the whole thing (= everything).
  9. 6things [plural] the general situation, as it affects someone Things haven't gone entirely to plan. (informal) Hi, Jane!How are things? Think things over before you decide. As things stand at present, he seems certain to win. All things considered (= considering all the difficulties or problems), she's done very well. Why do you make things so difficult for yourself? Thesaurussituationcircumstances position conditions things the case state of affairsThese are all words for the conditions and facts that are connected with and affect the way things are.situation all the things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place:the current economic situationcircumstances the facts that are connected with and affect a situation, an event, or an action; the conditions of a person's life, especially the money they have:The ship sank in mysterious circumstances.position the situation that someone is in, especially when it affects what they can and cannot do:She knew that she was in a position of power.conditions the circumstances in which people live, work, or do things; the physical situation that affects how something happens:We were forced to work outside in freezing conditions.circumstances or conditions?Circumstances often refers to someone's financial situation;conditions are things such as the quality and amount of food or shelter they have. The circumstances that affect an event are the facts surrounding it; the conditions that affect it are usually physical ones, such as the weather.things (somewhat informal) the general situation, as it affects someone:Hi, Jane! How are things? Think things over before you decide.the case the true situation:If that is the case (= if the situation described is true), we need more staff.state of affairs a situation:Well, this is certainly a sorry state of affairs.situation or state of affairs?State of affairs is mostly used with this. It is also used with adjectives describing how good or bad a situation is, such as happy, sorry, shocking, and sad, as well as those relating to time, such as present and current. Situation is much more frequent and is used in a wider variety of contexts.Patterns in (a) particular situation/circumstances/position/state of affairs the/somebody's economic/financial/social situation/circumstances/position/conditions (a/an) happy/fortunate/unfortunate/sad situation/circumstances/position/state of affairs to look at/review the situation/circumstances/conditions/things
  10. what is needed/right
  11. 7[countable, usually singular] what is needed or socially acceptable You need something to cheer you up—I know just the thing! to say the right/wrong thing The best thing to do is to apologize.
  12. things of particular type
  13. 8things [plural] (formal) (followed by an adjective) all that can be described in a particular way She loves all things Japanese.
  14. creature
  15. 9[countable] (used with an adjective) a living creature All living things are composed of cells.
  16. person/animal
  17. 10[countable] (with an adjective) (informal) used to talk to or about a person or an animal, to show how you feel about them You silly thing! You must be starving, you poor things. The cat's very ill, poor old thing.
  18. Thesaurusthingsstuff property possessions junk belongings goods valuablesThese are all words for objects or items, especially ones that you own or have with you at a particular time.things (somewhat informal) objects, clothing, or tools that you own or that are used for a particular purpose:Can I help you pack your things? This box is full of camping things.stuff (informal) used to refer to a group of objects when you do not know their names, when the names are not important, or when it is obvious what you are talking about:Where's all my stuff? Don't forget your swimming stuff.things or stuff?These words are similar and often you can use either. Use things when the items might be used individually as tools (sewing thingsgardening things). Use stuff to refer to all the equipment necessary for one particular activity or (somewhat formal) a thing or things that are owned by someone:This building is government property. Be careful not to damage other people's property.possessions things that you own, especially something that can be moved:Prisoners were allowed no personal possessions except letters and photographs.junk things that are considered useless or of little value:I've cleared out all that old junk from the attic.belongings possessions that can be moved, especially ones that you have with you at a particular time:Please make sure you have all your belongings with you when leaving the plane.goods (somewhat formal or technical) possessions that can be moved:She was found guilty of trading in stolen goods.valuables things that are worth a lot of money, especially small personal things such as jewelry or cameras:Never leave cash or other valuables lying around.Patterns personal things/stuff/property/possessions/belongings to collect/gather/pack (up) your things/stuff/possessions/belongings to search somebody's/your/the things/stuff/property/belongings to go through somebody's/your/the things/stuff/belongingsIdioms
    all/other things being equal
    jump to other results
    if the conditions stay the same; if other conditions are the same All things being equal, we should finish the job tomorrow.
    and things (like that) (informal)
    jump to other results
    used when you do not want to complete a list She likes nice clothes and things like that. I've been busy shopping and things.
    as it/things turned out
    jump to other results
    as was shown or proved by later events I didn't need my umbrella, as it turned out (= because it didn't rain).
      be all things to all men/people
      jump to other results
    1. 1(of people) to please everyone by changing your attitudes or opinions to suit different people
    2. 2(of things) to be understood or used in different ways by different people
    be a good thing (that)…
    jump to other results
    to be lucky that… It's a good thing we got here early.
    be no bad thing (that)…
    jump to other results
    used to say that although something seems to be bad, it could have good results We didn't want the press to get hold of the story, but it might be no bad thing.
    be onto a good thing
    jump to other results
    to have found a job, situation, or style of life that is pleasant or easy
    be seeing/hearing things (informal) (humorous)
    jump to other results
    to imagine that you can see or hear something that is in fact not there
    the best, fastest, etc. thing going (informal)
    jump to other results
    the best, fastest, etc. thing of its kind currently available It’s a little expensive, but this computer is the best thing going right now. You won’t be disappointed; this car is the fastest thing going.
    come to/be the same thing
    jump to other results
    to have the same result or meaning
    do the decent thing
    jump to other results
    to do what people or society expect, especially in a difficult situation He did the decent thing and resigned.
    do your own thing (informal)
    jump to other results
    to do what you want to do or what interests you, without thinking about other people; to be independent
    do things to somebody (informal)
    jump to other results
    to have a powerful emotional effect on someone That song just does things to me.
    first/last thing
    jump to other results
    early in the morning/late in the evening I need the report on my desk first thing Monday morning. I took the dog for a walk last thing before going to bed.
    first things first (often humorous)
    jump to other results
    the most important matters must be dealt with first We have a lot to discuss, but, first things first, let's have a cup of coffee!
    for one thing
    jump to other results
    used to introduce one of two or more reasons for doing something “Why don't you get a car?” “Well, for one thing, I can't drive!”
    have it/things/everything your own way
    jump to other results
    to have what you want, especially by opposing other people
    have a thing about somebody/something (informal)
    jump to other results
    to have a strong like or dislike of someone or something in a way that seems strange or unreasonable She has a thing about men with beards.
    in the nature of things
    jump to other results
    in the way that things usually happen In the nature of things, young people often rebel against their parents.
    A is one thing, B is another, it's one thing to do A, it's another thing to do B
    jump to other results
    B is very different from A, for example it is more difficult, serious, or important Romance is one thing, marriage is quite another. It's one thing to tease your sister, but it's another to hit her.
    it isn't my, his, etc. thing
    jump to other results
    it is not something that you really enjoy or are interested in
    it's a … thing (informal)
    jump to other results
    it is something that only a particular group understands You wouldn't know what it means—it's a girl thing.
    know/tell somebody a thing or two (about somebody/something) (informal)
    jump to other results
    to know/tell someone some useful, interesting, or surprising information about someone or something She's been married five times, so she knows a thing or two about men!
    make a (big) thing of/about something (informal)
    jump to other results
    to make something seem more important than it really is
    a near thing
    jump to other results
    a situation in which you are successful, but which could also have ended badly Phew! That was a near thing! It could have been a disaster. We won in the end, but it was a near thing.
    not know, etc. the first thing about something/somebody
    jump to other results
    to know nothing at all about something or someone We've lived next to him for years, but we still don't know the first thing about him.
      not quite the thing
      jump to other results
    1. 1not considered socially acceptable It wouldn't be quite the thing to turn up in running gear.
    2. 2(old-fashioned) not healthy or normal
    (just) one of those things
    jump to other results
    used to say that you do not want to discuss or think about something bad or unpleasant that has happened, but just accept it It wasn't your fault. It was just one of those things.
    one thing after another (informal)
    jump to other results
    used to complain that a lot of unpleasant things keep happening to you
    one thing leads to another
    jump to other results
    used to suggest that the way one event or action leads to others is so obvious that it does not need to be stated He offered me a ride home one night, and, well, one thing led to another and now we're married!
    the only thing is… (informal)
    jump to other results
    used before mentioning a worry or problem you have with something I'd love to come—the only thing is I might be late.
    overdo it/things
    jump to other results
    to work, study, etc. too hard or for too long He's been overdoing things recently. I overdid it in the gym and hurt my back.
    push your luck, push it/things (informal)
    jump to other results
    to take a risk because you have successfully avoided problems in the past You didn't get caught last time, but don't push your luck!
    the real thing (informal)
    jump to other results
    the genuine thing Are you sure it's the real thing (= love), not just infatuation?
    the/somebody's scheme of things
    jump to other results
    the way things seem to be organized; the way someone wants everything to be organized My personal problems are not really important in the overall scheme of things. I don't think marriage figures in his scheme of things.
    the shape of things to come
    jump to other results
    the way things are likely to develop in the future Are solar-powered cars the shape of things to come?
    sure thing (informal)
    jump to other results
    used to say “yes” to a suggestion or request “Are you coming?” “Sure thing.”
    take it/things easy
    jump to other results
    to relax and avoid working too hard or doing too much The doctor told me to take it easy for a few weeks. I like to take things easy when I'm on vacation.
    take it/things one day at a time (informal)
    jump to other results
    to not think about what will happen in the future I don't know if he'll get better. We're just taking it one day at a time.
    there's only one thing for it
    jump to other results
    there is only one possible course of action
    the (whole)… thing (informal)
    jump to other results
    a situation or an activity of the type mentioned She really didn't want to be involved in the whole family thing.
    the thing is (informal)
    jump to other results
    used to introduce an important fact, reason, or explanation I'm sorry my assignment isn't finished. The thing is, I've had a lot of other work this week.
    the thing (about/with something/somebody) is
    jump to other results
    used to introduce a problem about something or someone The thing with Karl is, he's always late.
    things that go bump in the night (informal) (humorous)
    jump to other results
    used to refer to ghosts and other supernatural things that cannot be explained There are mysterious lights in the sky and things that go bump in the night.
    too much of a good thing
    jump to other results
    used to say that, although something is pleasant, you do not want to have too much of it
    (what) with one thing and another (informal)
    jump to other results
    because you have been busy with various problems, events, or things you had to do I completely forgot her birthday, what with one thing and another.
    work it/things (informal)
    jump to other results
    to arrange something in a particular way, especially by being smart Can you work it so that we get free tickets?
Vocabulary Buildingother words for “thing” Instead of using the word thing, try to use more precise and interesting words, especially in formal written English. aspectThat was the most puzzling aspect of the situation.(…the most puzzling thing about…) attributeCuriosity is an essential attribute for a journalist.(…an essential thing for a journalist to have.) characteristicThis bird has several interesting characteristics.(There are several interesting things about this bird.) detailI want to know every detail of what happened.(…everything about…) featureNoise is a familiar feature of city life.(…a familiar thing in city life.) issueShe has campaigned on many controversial issues.(…many controversial things.) matterWe have several important matters to deal with at this meeting.(…several important things…) pointThat’s a very interesting point you made.(…a very interesting thing you said.) subjectThe book covers a number of subjects.(…a number of things.) topicWe discussed a wide range of topics.(…a wide range of things.) traitHer generosity is one of her most attractive traits.(…one of the most attractive things about her.) Don’t use thing after an adjective when the adjective can be used on its own:Having your own computer is very useful. Having your own computer is a very useful thing. It is often more natural to use words like something, anything, etc. instead of thing:I have something important to tell you. I have an important thing to tell you. Do you want anything else? Do you want any other thing? It is more natural to say a lot, a great deal, much, etc. rather than many things:I have so much to tell you. I have so many things to tell you. She knows a lot about basketball. She knows many things about basketball.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: thing