from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One that is representative of a group as a whole.
  • noun One serving as a pattern of a specific kind.
  • noun A similar case that constitutes a model or precedent.
  • noun A punishment given as a warning or deterrent.
  • noun One that has been given such a punishment.
  • noun A problem or exercise used to illustrate a principle or method.
  • idiom (for example) As an illustrative instance.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To furnish with examples; give examples of.
  • To justify by the authority of an example.
  • To set or make an example of; present as an example.
  • To give an example.
  • noun One of a number of things, or a part of anything, generally a small quantity, exhibited or serving to show the character or quality of the whole; a representative part or instance; a sample; a specimen; an exemplar.
  • noun An instance serving for illustration; a particular case or circumstance, quotation, or other thing, illustrating a general statement, proposition, rule, or truth.
  • noun A pattern in morals or manners worthy of imitation; a model of conduct or manner; an archetype; one who or that which is proposed or is proper to be imitated.
  • noun An instance serving for a warning; a warning.
  • noun In zoology, a prepared specimen.
  • noun In mathematics, an arithmetical or algebraic problem, illustrating a rule or method, to be worked out by a student: as, an example in addition; an example in quadratics.
  • noun Synonyms Example, Pattern, Model, Precedent, Ideal, Instance; archetype, prototype; exemplification. Example is the most general of these words; it is the only one of them that admits application to that which is to be avoided. An example is something to guide the understanding, so that one may decide what to do and what not to do. Pattern and model express that which is to be closely followed or copied; they primarily refer to physical shape: as, an artist's model; but also freely to the shaping of conduct and character: as, a pattern of sobriety; a model of virtue. Perhaps model suggests the more complete example, but the difference between the two words in this respect is small. A precedent is an example set in the past, as a legal decision which may be pleaded in law as the basis of a further decision, and in private affairs a thing once done or allowed, and so pleaded as a reason or an excuse for more of the same sort: as, a precedent for indulgence. An ideal is a model of perfection, primarily imaginary, but by hyperbole sometimes real. An example is generally a representative person or thing, but the word is sometimes used instead of instance with reference to a representative act or course of conduct: as, to prove a rule by examples; to prove a man's fidelity or treachery by instances or examples.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To set an example for; to give a precedent for; to exemplify; to give an instance of; to instance.
  • noun One or a portion taken to show the character or quality of the whole; a sample; a specimen.
  • noun That which is to be followed or imitated as a model; a pattern or copy.
  • noun That which resembles or corresponds with something else; a precedent; a model.
  • noun That which is to be avoided; one selected for punishment and to serve as a warning; a warning.
  • noun An instance serving for illustration of a rule or precept, especially a problem to be solved, or a case to be determined, as an exercise in the application of the rules of any study or branch of science.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Something that is representative of all such things in a group.
  • noun Something that serves to illustrate or explain a rule.
  • noun Something that serves as a pattern of behaviour to be imitated (a good example) or not to be imitated (a bad example).
  • noun A person punished as a warning to others.
  • noun A parallel or closely similar case, especially when serving as a precedent or model.
  • noun An instance (as a problem to be solved) serving to illustrate the rule or precept or to act as an exercise in the application of the rule.
  • verb To be illustrated or exemplified (by)

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun punishment intended as a warning to others
  • noun a task performed or problem solved in order to develop skill or understanding
  • noun an occurrence of something
  • noun an item of information that is typical of a class or group
  • noun a representative form or pattern
  • noun something to be imitated


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French example, essaumple, from Latin exemplum, from eximere, to take out : ex-, ex- + emere, to take; see em- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English example, from Old French essample (French: exemple), from Latin exemplum ("literally what is taken out (as a sample), a sample, pattern, specimen, copy for imitation, etc."), from eximō ("take out"), from ex ("out") + emō ("buy; acquire"); see exempt. Compare ensample, sample, exemplar. Displaced native Middle English bisne, forbus, forbusen ("example, model, template, exemplar") (from Old English bīsen, forebīsen, forebȳsen ("example, model, template, exemplar")) and Middle English byspel ("example, proverb") (from Old English bīspel).


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  • It is not the example which makes the adion good; but the goodnefs of the adion which gives force to the example*

    Three dialogues on the amusements of clergymen [signed Jos. Frampton]. 1797

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  • If someone were to post an article changing a few words in the title example: Why________ can't _______________ (You fill in the blanks) using politically incorrect words such as anything critical of non-whites, they would become instant pariahs.

    Serendip's Exchange - 2009

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  • While I agree with your overall position and don't want to start a my-browser-is-better discussion, I think your example is a bit faulty.

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  • Horrible. Especially "simple example". I think it's the "mple" bit that gets me.

    August 15, 2008

  • *flashes his ample dimples*

    August 15, 2008

  • vocabcloud is so much cooler.

    August 15, 2008

  • Is not.

    August 15, 2008

  • bilby - make it stop!

    August 16, 2008