Definition of thing noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//θɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//θɪŋ//
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  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. 3  things [plural] (rather informal) objects, clothing or tools that belong to somebody or are used for a particular purpose Shall I help you pack your things? Bring your swimming things with you. 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 haven't got 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 somebody 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've got 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). Vocabulary BuildingOther words for thingInstead 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.
  9. 6  things [plural] (rather informal) the general situation, as it affects somebody 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? Synonymssituationcircumstances 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 present 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 somebody is in, especially when it affects what they can and cannot do:She felt 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 refers to somebody’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 (rather informal) the general situation, as it affects somebody: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:How did this unhappy state of affairs come about?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, sad and unhappy, 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/​unhappy 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. Word OriginOld English, of Germanic origin; related to German Ding. Early senses included ‘meeting’ and ‘matter, concern’ as well as ‘inanimate object’.Extra examples Abby is just the sweetest little thing! Advertising on blogs is going to be the next big thing. All other things being equal, the bigger fighter should win. All things considered, I think we’ve done a good job. Among other things, I have to deal with mail and keep the accounts. Apologizing is never the easiest thing to do. As things stand at present, he seems certain to win. Books may one day become a thing of the past. Calling a doctor seemed the logical thing to do. Clear your painting things away. Clear your painting things= materials away. Come on kids, get your things together—we’re going. Don’t worry about it—just let things take their course. Entertaining people is the most natural thing in the world for her. Fame and fortune don’t mean a thing if you don’t have happiness. Hang on a second—I’ll just take off my painting things. He apologized, and asked for a chance to put things right. He asked me how things were going. He did the decent thing and resigned. He did the right thing and went back to his wife. He hadn’t washed up the dinner things yet. He has a funny way of doing things. He loses his temper at the slightest thing. He makes things out of wood. He offered to help, but she assured him she had things in hand. He’s the nearest thing to a film star I’ve ever met. Her apology only served to make things worse. His new film seems like a sure thing= a certain success. I admit it was a foolish thing to do. I can’t see a thing without my glasses. I did all the right things but I couldn’t get the engine to start. I did my usual thing of losing my keys. I give thanks for every little thing. I have loads of things to do today. I have to work things out my own way. I haven’t eaten a thing all day. I just don’t know if things are going to work out. I managed to get on the train, but it was a close thing= I almost missed it. I managed to get on the train, but it was a close-run thing. I marched into his office to get a few things straight. I need to buy a few basic things like bread and milk. I want to get things sorted out before I go away. I wanted to be a musician, but teaching music is the next best thing. I’m going to arrive early because I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m sure things will turn out OK. I’ve better things to do than stand here chatting all day! Iced tea—the very thing! If she works hard she’s capable of great things. It might speed things up if you call them. It’s a good thing you remembered to turn off the gas! It’s impossible to get things done when you’re looking after a baby. It’s just a practice, not the real thing. It’s no bad thing to express your anger. It’s not the done thing to ask someone how much they earn. It’s such a small thing to ask. Jack knows a thing or two about kids—he has five. Let’s forget the whole thing. Nobody said a thing when he appeared with a wig on. One thing led to another and we ended up dating. People defraud their companies every day, but Mike would never do such a thing! She always manages to say the wrong thing. She helped with the everyday things like shopping and cooking. She’d started the term studying hard, but now was beginning to let things slip. She’s taken a few days off to think things over. She’s tricked you, and you can’t do a thing about it. Sorry, I didn’t mean to complicate things. That was a horrible thing to say to her. That wasn’t a very smart thing to do! The amazing thing is, he wouldn’t accept any money! The baby’s a pretty little thing. The best thing about Alan is he’s always honest. The best thing would be to apologize straight away. The key thing is to remain calm. The last thing she wanted was to upset her parents. The pay cut was just a taste of things to come. There are plenty of things to say about it. There are some weird things going on in that house. There was a week to go to the deadline and things were looking good. There’s no such thing as ghosts. There’s nobody at the door—you must have been imagining things! They go canoeing, climbing, that sort of thing. They hired temporary staff to keep things going over the summer. They patched things up a week after their quarrel. Things came to a head when money was found to be missing from the account. Things looked bleak for the future of the factory. Too much studying can be a bad thing. Try not to let things get to you. Try to look at things from my point of view. Try to look on your rejection as a positive thing. We arranged to meet and talk things over. We chatted about school, but I could tell she had other things on her mind. We were in trouble but now things are looking up. What’s the next thing you want me to do? Who’s been saying things about me? Who’s going to look after things while you’re away? You must be starving, you poor thing! You should suggest changes, rather than accept things as they are. ‘Why did you tell her our secret?’ ‘I did no such thing!’ Don’t treat her like that—she’s a person, not a thing! He found the whole thing very boring. He ran down the hill, screaming like a wild thing. He’s good at making things with his hands. He’s just bought one of those exercise things. I like camping, climbing and that sort of thing. It’s a good thing we got here early. She’s very fond of sweet things. The cat’s very ill, poor old thing! The main thing to remember is to switch off the burglar alarm. There are a lot of things you don’t know about me. There’s another thing I’d like to ask you. Turn that thing off while I’m talking to you! We didn’t want the press to get hold of the story, but it might be no bad thing.Idioms
    all/other things being equal
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    if the conditions stay the same; if other conditions are the same All things being equal, we should finish the job tomorrow.
    (informal) 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
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    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
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    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
    (British English) to be socially acceptable behaviour
    be a good thing (that)…
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    to be lucky that… It's a good thing we got here early.
    be no bad thing (that)…
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    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.
    to have found a job, situation or style of life that is pleasant or easy
    be seeing/hearing things
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    (informal, humorous) to imagine that you can see or hear something that is in fact not there
    chance would be a fine thing
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    (British English, informal) people say chance would be a fine thing to show that they would like to do or have the thing that somebody has mentioned, but that they do not think that it is very likely
    a situation in which somebody only just wins or loses, for example in a competition or an election Mr Taylor’s election defeat was a close-run thing. The invasion never happened but it was a close-run thing. a situation in which success or failure is equally possible We got him out in the end, but it was a close thing.
    come to/be the same thing
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    to have the same result or meaning
    (informal) to do what you want to do or what interests you, without thinking about other people; to be independent (informal) to have a powerful emotional effect on somebody That song just does things to me. 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. (often humorous) 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! 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
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    to have what you want, especially by opposing other people
    have a thing about somebody/something
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    (informal) to have a strong like or dislike of somebody/something in a way that seems strange or unreasonable She has a thing about men with beards.
    in the nature of things
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    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
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    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
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    it isn’t something that you really enjoy or are interested in
    (informal) 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)
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    (informal) to know/tell somebody some useful, interesting or surprising information about somebody/something She's been married five times, so she knows a thing or two about men!
    make a (big) thing of/about something
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    (informal) to make something seem more important than it really is
    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
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    to know nothing at all about something/somebody We’ve lived next to him for years, but we still don’t know the first thing about him.
    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
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    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 (damned/damn) thing after another
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    (informal) used to complain that a lot of unpleasant things keep happening to you
    one thing leads to another
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    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!
     (informal) used before mentioning a worry or problem you have with something I'd love to come—the only thing is I might be late. 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
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    (informal) 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!
    (informal) the genuine thing Are you sure it's the real thing (= love), not just infatuation?
    the/somebody’s scheme of things
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    the way things seem to be organized; the way somebody 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
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    the way things are likely to develop in the future Are solar-powered cars the shape of things to come?
    (informal, especially North American English) used to say ‘yes’ to a suggestion or request ‘Are you coming?’ ‘Sure thing.’ 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 holiday.
    take it/things one day at a time
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    (informal) 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
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    there is only one possible course of action
    these things are sent to try us
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    (saying) used to say that you should accept an unpleasant situation or event because you cannot change it
    (informal) a situation or an activity of the type mentioned She really didn't want to be involved in the whole family thing.  (informal) 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
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    used to introduce a problem about something/somebody The thing with Karl is, he's always late.
    things that go bump in the night
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    (informal, humorous) 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.
    to do what people or society expect, especially in a difficult situation He did the decent thing and resigned.
    too much of a good thing
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    used to say that, although something is pleasant, you do not want to have too much of it
    (what) with one thing and another
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    (informal) 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.
    (informal) to arrange something in a particular way, especially by being clever Can you work it so that we get free tickets?
Synonymsthingsstuff 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 (rather informal) objects, clothing or tools that you own or that are used for a particular purpose:Shall I help you pack your things? Bring your swimming things.stuff [U] (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?property [U] (rather formal) a thing or things that are owned by somebody: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 [U] 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 (technical or rather formal) possessions that can be moved:He was found guilty of handling stolen goods.valuables things that are worth a lot of money, especially small personal things such as jewellery 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/​belongings
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: thing