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

  • noun An object or entity that is not or cannot be named specifically.
  • noun An individual object, especially an inanimate object.
  • noun A creature.
  • noun An entity or item.
  • noun Something referred to by a word, symbol, sign, or idea; a referent.
  • noun A possession or item in one's control, as.
  • noun Articles of clothing.
  • noun Possessions, including clothing; belongings.
  • noun Law That which can be possessed or owned.
  • noun The equipment needed for an activity or a special purpose.
  • noun An act, deed, or work.
  • noun The result of work or activity.
  • noun A means to an end.
  • noun A thought, notion, or utterance.
  • noun A piece of information.
  • noun An end or objective.
  • noun A matter of concern.
  • noun A turn of events; a circumstance.
  • noun A particular state of affairs; a situation.
  • noun The general state of affairs; conditions.
  • noun Informal The latest fad or fashion.
  • noun Informal A persistent feeling, interest, desire, or aversion.
  • noun Slang An activity uniquely suitable and satisfying to one.
  • noun Informal Used to refer to something with disapproval or contempt.
  • idiom (first thing) Right away; before anything else.
  • idiom (see/hear) To have hallucinations.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In Scandinavian countries and in regions largely settled by Scandinavians (as the east and north of England), an assembly, public meeting, parliament, or court of law. Also ting. See Althing, Landsthing, Storthing, Folkething.
  • noun That which is or may become the object of thought; that which has existence, or is conceived or imagined as having existence; any object, substance, attribute, idea, fact, circumstance, event, etc. A thing may be either material or ideal, animate or inanimate, actual, possible, or imaginary.
  • noun In more limited applications— A particular existence or appearance which is not or cannot be more definitely characterized; a somewhat; a something.
  • noun A living being: applied to persons or animals, either in admiration, tenderness, or pity, or in contempt; as, a poor sick thing; a poor foolish thing.
  • noun A material object lacking life and consciousness.
  • noun That which is done; an act, doing, undertaking, business, affair, etc.; also, something which is to be done; a duty or task; in the passage from Chaucer, below, in the plural, prayers or devotions.
  • noun A composition, as a tale, a poem, or a piece of music: used informally or depreciatingly.
  • noun [Usually plural] Personal accoutrements, equipments, furniture, etc.; especially, apparel; clothing; in particular, outdoor garments; wraps.
  • noun plural In law, sometimes, the material objects which can be subject to property rights; sometimes, those rights themselves. The distinction which is often made between corporeal and incorporeal things is a consequence of the confusion of these two meanings. Things real comprehend lands, tenements, and hereditaments, including rights and profits issuing out of land; things personal comprehend goods and chattels; and things mixed are such as partake of the characteristics of the two former, as a title-deed.
  • noun plural Circumstances.
  • noun A portion, part, or particular; an item; a particle; a jot, whit, or bit: used in many adverbial expressions, especially after or in composition with no, any, and some. See nothing, anything, something.
  • noun Cause; sake.

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

  • noun In Scandinavian countries, a legislative or judicial assembly; -- used, esp. in composition, in titles of such bodies. See legislature, Norway.
  • noun Whatever exists, or is conceived to exist, as a separate entity, whether animate or inanimate; any separable or distinguishable object of thought.
  • noun An inanimate object, in distinction from a living being; any lifeless material.
  • noun A transaction or occurrence; an event; a deed.
  • noun A portion or part; something.
  • noun A diminutive or slighted object; any object viewed as merely existing; -- often used in pity or contempt.
  • noun colloq. Clothes; furniture; appurtenances; luggage.
  • noun (Law) Whatever may be possessed or owned; a property; -- distinguished from person.


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

[Middle English, from Old English.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old English þing (thing), from Proto-Germanic *þingan; compare German Ding, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian ting. The word originally meant "assembly", then came to mean a specific issue discussed at such an assembly, and ultimately came to mean most broadly "an object". Compare the Latin rēs, also meaning legal matter. Modern use to refer to a Germanic assembly is likely influenced by cognates (from the same Proto-Germanic root) like Old Norse þing (thing), Swedish ting, and Old High German ding with this meaning.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word thing.


  • She kind of has the hero/savior thing going on...maybe it'll lead to her taking over for Adele one day, since we're getting hints that the *whole thing* has some kind of higher purpose.

    Make Mine Metaphorical: Dollhouse thoughts DAVID BISHOP 2009

  • A slight aside: the first year in the league, I thought this whole trash talking thing might be a cultural thing* because most of the Hated Team is black.

    drbigbeef Diary Entry drbigbeef 2006

  • To say a choice of honesty and acceptance is a horrible thing and to say that a choice to deceive and lie and deny and abase is a good thing… well, that is quite a perversion of logic.

    badger Diary Entry badger 2002

  • _Entity_ means thing or being; hence a _nonentity_ is _no thing_ or nothing.

    Orthography As Outlined in the State Course of Study for Illinois Elmer W. Cavins

  • I am not capable of such a thing, he says; "_Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing_?"

    Men of the Bible; Some Lesser-Known Characters George Milligan

  • Although each class of substances was said by the alchemists to have its own particular character, or life, nevertheless they taught that there is a deep-seated likeness between all things, inasmuch as the power of _the essence_, or _the one thing_, is so great that under its influence different things are produced from the same origin, and different things are caused to pass into and become the same thing.

    The Story of Alchemy and the Beginnings of Chemistry M. M. Pattison Muir

  • "None deserve the fair but the _brave_ [_deserve the fair_."] "They postpone the thing which [_they ought to do, and do not] but_ which [_thing_] they cannot avoid purposing to do."

    English Grammar in Familiar Lectures Samuel Kirkham

  • In order to be polite, it is necessary that you do not only the courteous thing, but the _correct thing_.

    Certain Success Norval A. Hawkins

  • Another thing, however "-- and he paused significantly --" _another thing_ that I had never thought about came up to make trouble.

    Have We No Rights? A frank discussion of the "rights" of missionaries Mabel Williamson

  • He had to understand that Knowledge is not knowing _about_ a thing but knowing the _thing_.

    Their Yesterdays Harold Bell Wright 1908


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • From wikipedia:

    A thing or ting (Old Norse and Icelandic: þing; other modern Scandinavian languages: ting) was the governing assembly in Germanic societies, made up of the free people of the community and presided by lawspeakers. The English word 'thing', meaning "object" is also derived from this; the semantic evolution having been roughly "assembly" → "court" → "case" → "business" → "purpose" → "object".

    The national parliaments of Iceland, Norway and Denmark all have names that incorporate thing:

    * Althing - The Icelandic "General Thing"

    * Folketing - The Danish "People's Thing"

    * Storting - The Norwegian "Great Thing"

    The parliaments of the self-governing territories of Åland, Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Isle of Man also have names that refer to thing.

    * Lagting - The Ålandic "Law Thing"

    * Løgting - The Faroese "Law Thing"

    * Landsting - The Greenlandic "Land Thing"

    * Tynwald - The Manx "Thing Meadow"

    Similarly, prior to 1953, the Danish parliamentary system was the Rigsdag, which comprised the two houses of the Folketing (People's Thing) and the Landsting (Land Thing). The former, which was reserved for people of means, was abolished by the constitution of 1953.

    The Norwegian parliament, Storting, is divided into two chambers named the Lagting and the Odelsting, which translates loosely into the Thing of the Law and the Thing of the Lords. On the lower administrative level the governing bodies on the county level in Norway are called Fylkesting, the Thing of the County.

    In Norway and Sweden there exist own administrative bodies with limited autonomy for the Sami people minorities. It is called the Sameting, the Thing of the Sami, in both countries.

    March 5, 2007

  • Even this one gets WeirdNetted.

    May 4, 2008

  • Our family lore tells a different story:

    Q: Why are so many Swedes named Sam Ting?

    A: Because ven dee first Svede got of da boat, da man asked his name and da Svede said "Yon Yonson. Den, ven he asks da next Svede, he says "Sam-a Ting." And so on.

    May 4, 2008

  • Here is how the joke goes at our home:

    The Chinese fellow was asked by his colleagues how it came about that his name is Kowalski. He explained that when his grandfather came off the boat, the guy in front of him was a big Polack. And when grandfather was asked what his name was, he told the man it was Sam Ting.

    May 4, 2008

  • Donations of property were made in the presence of an assembly called the thing, which gave rise to the barbarous Latin verb thingare, to grant or donate before witnesses. If a man shall wish to thingare his property, he must make the gairethinx ("spear donation") in the presence of free men....

    November 25, 2008