Glossary of Terms Outside Computer Science

My work, and requirements engineering, sits on the boundary between computer science and the rest of the world, and terms from other areas can be useful, interesting, and thought-provoking.  Definitions from a variety of sources, mostly the OED

1. a. Rhet.  The repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses. 

1589 PUTTENHAM Eng. Poesie (Arb.) 208 Anaphora, or the Figure of thus:  To thinke on death it is a miserie, To think on life it is a vanitie:  To thinke on the world verily it is, To thinke that heare man hath no perfit blisse. 

b. Gram.  The use of a word which refers to, or is a substitute for, a preceding word or group of words. 

anaphora vs. cataphora

Cf. cataphora, endophora

1933 BLOOMFIELD Language xvi. 266 The word one..replaces a with anaphora of the noun when no other modifier is present (Here are some apples; take one). 

[UKy Classics]

1.a. [Churchill] We shall not flag or fail.  We shall go on to the end.  We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.  We shall never surrender. 

The concluding clause of a sentence, as contrasted with the introductory clause or protasis;  now usually restricted to the consequent clause in a conditional sentence, as ‘If thine enemy hunger, feed him.’
1. Rhet.  A figure of speech, by which a speaker or writer suddenly stops in his discourse, and turns to address pointedly some person or thing, either present or absent;  an exclamatory address.  (As explained by Quintilian, apostrophe was directed to a person present;  modern use has extended it to the absent or dead (who are for the nonce supposed to be present);  but it is by no means confined to these, as sometimes erroneously stated.)

Cf. prosopopoeia

A mapping that is both injective [one-to-one] and surjective [onto]. 
A grammatical figure by which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is inverted in the other. 

1871 A. S. WILKINS Cicero agst. Cat. 138 note, Frequentia sustentatur, alitur otio. This is a good instance of the..figure called which the order of words in the first clause is inverted in the second. 

The use of a word which refers to or substitutes for a following word or group or words.  E.g. Take one, these apples are delicious.

Cf. anaphora, endophora
6. A citation of parallel passages in a book, esp. in the Bible.  Obs.

1538 COVERDALE N.T. title-p., With a true Concordaunce in the margent. 

b. An alphabetical arrangement of the principal words contained in a book, with citations of the passages in which they occur.  These were first made for the Bible;  hence Johnson's explanation ‘A book which shows in how many texts of scripture any word occurs’.  Orig. in pl. (med.L. concordantiæ), each group of parallel passages being properly a concordantia.  This is sometimes denominated a verbal concordance as distinguished from a real concordance which is an index of subjects or topics. 

1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) VIII. 235 Frere Hewe [ob. 1262]..þat expownede al þe bible, and made a greet concordaunce [Harl. MS. concordances] uppon þe bible.  a1631 DONNE in Select. (1840) 192 To search the Scriptures, not as though thou wouldst make a concordance, but an application. 

coordinate term
coordinate term
Two words are coordinate terms if they are hyponyms of the same hypernym

Cf. holonym, meronym, polyseme

The use of a word which refers to or substitutes for a preceding or following word or group or words. 

Cf. anaphora, cataphora

1. In the Old Greek Tragedy, the interlocutory parts between two choric songs, because these were originally interpolations. 

2. An incidental narrative or digression in a poem, story, etc., separable from the main subject, yet arising naturally from it. 

1839 THIRLWALL Greece II. 183 Herodotus introduces an episode, first sight strangely misplaced. 

3. transf. An incidental ‘passage’ in a person's life, in the history of a country, the world, an institution, etc. 

1773 GOLDSM. Stoops to Conq. II. i, The terrors of a formal courtship, together with the episode of aunts, grandmothers and cousins. 


1. A boundary, limit.  Obs. rare

c1315 SHOREHAM 145 God nys naugt in þer worldle a-closed, Ac hy hys ine hym.  Þag hy nabbe ende ne forþe gol, Get over al he hys y-hol. 

2. a. The terminal point of a race:  any object (as a pillar, mound, etc.) by which this is marked;  a winning-post, or the like. 

1531 ELYOT Gov. III. xx. (1534) 224a, As in rennynge, passynge the gole, is accounted but rasshenesse, so rennynge halfe waye is reproued for slownesse.  1538Dict., Meta, a but, or pricke to shote at, somtyme a marke or gowle in the felde, wherevnto men or horses do runne.  1561 T. NORTON Calvin's Inst. III. 222 Let that be appointed the gole for vs to run and trauaill vnto. 

b. fig. The object to which effort or ambition is directed;  the destination of a (more or less laborious) journey.  spec. in Psychol. An end or result towards which behaviour is consciously or unconsciously directed.  Freq. attrib. and Comb.

1608 SHAKES. Per. II. i. 171 Then Honour be but a Goale to my Will, This day Ile rise, or else adde ill to ill.  1934 Mind XLIII. 111 Not all action is due to goal-seeking propensities 1951 R. FIRTH Elem. Social Organiz. vii. 220 This action is goal-oriented.  1952 T. PARSONS Social System 8 The goal-directedness of action.  1964 GOULD & KOLB Dict. Soc. Sci. 290/1 Goal in psychology and in some social psychology has come increasingly to denote an end result of an act or series of acts whether or not it can be said to be intended by the organism acting. 

The art or science of interpretation, esp. of Scripture.  Commonly distinguished from exegesis or practical exposition. 
The name of a whole of which a meronym is a part. 

Cf. coordinate term, hypernym, hyponym, polyseme

(pl. hypomnemata) [Wikipedia] (edited for grammar and spelling)

The hypomnema is a special type of notebook used in ancient Greek society by variety of common people such as tradesmen, philosophers, theologians, and students to keep personal records and formulate opinions about the experience of the self.  This habitual type of personal notekeeping was coming into vogue in Plato's time (ca. 4th century BC) and represents one of western culture's earliest technological advancements to create a conscious logos. 

This new technology was as disruptive to ancient Greek society as the introduction of the computer into private life today.  Hypomnemata served the growing cultivated public in many ways — as account books, public registers, guides for conduct, and individual notebooks serving as memoranda. 

In The Care of the Self, the third volume of Foucault's The History of Sexuality, he writes:  As personal as they were, the hypomnemata must nevertheless not be taken for intimate diaries or for those accounts of spiritual experience (temptations, struggles, falls, and victories) which can be found in later Christian literature.  [...] [T]heir objective is not to bring the arcana conscientiae to light, the confession of which — be it oral or written — has a purifying value.

Plato's students used the hypomnema as the foundation to his philosophic teachings.  A hypomnema constituted a material memory of things read, heard, or thought, thus offering these as an accumulated treasure for rereading and later meditation.  They also formed a raw material for the writing of more systematic treatises in which were given arguments and means by which to struggle against some defect (such as anger, envy, gossip, flattery) or to overcome some difficult circumstance (a mourning, an exile, downfall, disgrace). 

hypernym vs. hyponym
A word with a broad meaning constituting a category into which words with more specific meanings fall;  a superordinate term.  Opposed to hyponym;  related to coordinate term

Cf. coordinate term, holonym, hyponym, meronym, polyseme

A word with a specific meaning that falls into the category constituted by a word with a broader meaning;  a subordinate term.  Opposed to hypernym

Cf. coordinate term, holonym, hypernym, meronym, polyseme

trans. To sort (words as they occur in a text) so as to group together those that are inflected or variant forms of the same word. 

1973 Computers & Humanities VII. 132 The vocabulary lists were next lemmatized by hand.  Ibid., The computer program made no attempt to lemmatize words or to distinguish homographs, but simply counted the number of occurrences of each distinct word-type. 

holonym vs. meronym
A figure of speech in which two (or sometimes more) complementary parts are used to represent the whole, as in goods and chattels (immovable and movable property, thus property), and the Homeric κειμήλιά τε πρόβασίν riches which lie and riches which move (Watkins, How to Kill a Dragon, Oxford 1995). 
The name of a constituent part of a whole named by a holonym

Cf. coordinate term, hypernym, hyponym, polyseme

1. A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable;  an instance of this, a metaphorical expression.  Cf. metonymy n., simile n. 

1712 J. ADDISON Spectator No 289 ¶8 Those beautiful Metaphors in Scripture, where Life is termed a Pilgrimage.  1876 J. B. MOZLEY Serm. before Univ. Oxf. xvi. 301 The metaphor of the poet is perfectly true in fact, for life is a stage.  1952 R. A. KNOX Hidden Stream iv. 33 It is a metaphor if you describe Oxford as a hive of industry, or some of its inhabitants as drones. 

2. Something regarded as representative or suggestive of something else, esp. as a material emblem of an abstract quality, condition, notion, etc.;  a symbol, a token. Freq. with for, of

1997 J. SEABROOK Deeper viii. 253 The desktop metaphor shifted to the hypertext metaphor, in which work was not filed in stand-alone folders but linked across networks to other pages. 

Simile Oxford is like a hive of industry.
Metaphor Oxford is a hive of industry.
Metonymy The Crown assents.
Synecdoche whole-for-part The White House said the bill will not pass.
part-for-whole All hands on deck!
genus-for-species In customer service we deal with the public.
species-for-genus I need a xerox of this.
material-for-object He used to throw the pigskin a bit.

a. Rhetoric.  (A figure of speech characterized by) the action of substituting for a word or phrase denoting an object, action, institution, etc., a word or phrase denoting a property or something associated with it;  an instance of this. 

b.  In extended use: a thing used or regarded as a substitute for or symbol of something else.  Also (esp. in Linguistics and Literary Theory):  the process of semantic association involved in producing and understanding a metonymy.  Because the association involved in metonymy is typically by contiguity rather than similarity, metonymy is often contrasted with metaphor. 

1625 A. GIL Sacred Philos. II. 156 Shebet signifies either a staffe, a truncheon, or Scepter,..and so by a metonymia it may signifie authority. 


In rhetoric and cognitive linguistics, ...  the use of a single characteristic to identify a more complex entity.  It is also known as denominatio or pars pro toto (part for the whole). 

  • The pen is mightier than the sword (pen is a metonym for writing;  sword is a metonym for violence). 
  • The White House, to refer to the President of the United States and his advisors. 
  • The press, to refer to the news media (especially newspapers). 
  • A dish, to refer to an entree. 
  • Hollywood to refer to the American film industry (this is also a toponym). 

Metonymy works by contiguity rather than similarity.  The printing press produces newspapers (hence, the press for the news media);  food is presented on a dish (hence dish for entree).  However, when people use metonymy, they don't typically wish to transfer qualities as they do with metaphor:  there is nothing house-like about the president, crown-like about the king, or plate-like about an entree.  Rather, metonymy transfers a whole set of associations which may or may not be integral to the meaning. 

In linguistics, as in rhetoric, the distinction between metaphor and metonymy is important.  Two examples using the term fishing help make the distinction clear (example drawn from Dirven, 1996). 

The phrase to fish pearls uses metonymy, drawing from fishing the idea of taking things from the ocean.  What is carried across from fishing fish to fishing pearls is the domain of usage and the associations with the ocean and boats, but we understand the phrase in spite of rather than because of the literal meaning of fishing:  we know you do not use a fishing rod or net to get pearls. 

In contrast, the metaphorical phrase fishing for information, transfers the concept of fishing (waiting, hoping to catch something that you can't see) into a new domain. 

Thus, metonymy works by calling up a domain of usage and an array of associations (in the example above, boats, the ocean, gathering life from the sea) whereas metaphor picks a target set of meanings and transfers them to a new domain of usage. 

Synecdoche, where a specific part of something is taken to refer to the whole, is usually understood as a specific kind of metonymy.  Sometimes, however, people make an absolute distinction between a metonymy and a synecdoche, treating metonymy as different from rather than inclusive of synecdoche.  There is a similar problem with the usage of simile and metaphor. 

When the distinction is made, it is the following:  when A is used to refer to B, it is a synecdoche if A is a part of B and a metonym if A is commonly associated with B but not a part of it. 

Thus, The White House said would be a metonymy for the president and his staff, because the White House (A) is not part of the president or his staff (B), it is merely closely associated with them because of physical proximity.  On the other hand, asking for All hands on deck is a synecdoche because hands (A) are actually a part of the men (B) to whom they refer. 

There is an example which displays synecdoche, metaphor and metonymy in one sentence.  Fifty keels ploughed the deep, where keels is the synecdoche as it takes a part (of the ship) as the whole (of the ship);  ploughed is the metaphor as it substitutes the concept of ploughing a field for moving through the ocean;  and the deep is the metonym, as deepness is an attribute associated with the ocean. 

Cf. metaphor, simile, synecdoche

The science or study of being;  that department of metaphysics which relates to the being or essence of things, or to being in the abstract. 

1721 BAILEY, Ontology, an Account of being in the Abstract.  a1832 BENTHAM Fragm. Ontol. Wks. 1843 VIII. 195 The field of ontology, or as it may otherwise be termed, the field of supremely abstract entities, is a yet untrodden labyrinth. 

(final 'e' is pronounced)

a. A short passage, section, or paragraph in a writing. 

b. Eccl. A portion of Scripture appointed for reading in public worship. 

c. Anc. Pros. ‘A passage consisting of strophe and antistrophe’ (Liddell & Scott). 

1. That figure of speech which consists in expressing the meaning of a word, phrase, etc., by many or several words instead of by few or one;  a roundabout way of speaking, circumlocution. 

1589 PUTTENHAM Eng. Poesie III. xviii. (Arb.) 203 Then haue ye the figure Periphrasis, when we go about the bush, and will not in one or a few words expresse that thing which we desire to haue knowen, but do chose rather to do it by many words.  1759 STERNE Tr. Shandy I. xi, Yorick had no impression but one..which..he would usually translate into plain English without any periphrasis.  1864 Theol. Rev. Mar. 16 Some name is needful if we would avoid the loose clumsiness of perpetual periphrasis. 

2. An example or instance of this figure; a roundabout phrase.  (The pl. periphrases is not distinguished in writing from that of periphrase.)

1690 LOCKE Hum. Und. II. xxii. §7 And instead of either of those Names, use a Periphrasis to make any one understand their meaning.  Ibid. III. x. § 31 He that hath complex Ideas without Names for necessitated to use Periphrases.  1865 Reader 1 Apr. 365/1 The Laplanders and Tunguy only speak of the bear and the tiger by a periphrasis. 

b. fig. An amplification, a larger expression. 

A word or lexical unit that has several or multiple meanings.

Polysemes are usually considered to have several related meanings, and are thus distinguished from homonyms, words which share the same spelling but have unrelated origins and meanings.

Cf. coordinate term, holonym, hypernym, hyponym, meronym

A. adj. Designating or relating to a word in ancient Greek having an acute accent on the antepenultimate syllable. Also in extended use: designating or relating to a word in another language having the stress on that syllable.
1. A rhetorical figure by which an imaginary or absent person is represented as speaking or acting;  the introduction of a pretended speaker.  Cf. apostrophe

2. A rhetorical figure by which an inanimate or abstract thing is represented as a person, or with personal characteristics:  = PERSONIFICATION 1. 

b. transf.  Applied to a person or thing in which some quality or abstraction is as it were embodied;  an impersonation, embodiment (of something). 

1. That which is put forward; a proposition, a maxim.  rare

1806 Monthly Mag. XXII. 210 It is a universally received protasis among grammarians that the first terms of every language were nouns, which were turned into verbs by putting them in action. 

2. In the ancient drama, The first part of a play, in which the characters are introduced and the subject entered on, as opposed to the epitasis and catastrophe.  Also fig

1632 B. JONSON Magn. Lady I. i, Do you look, master Damplay, for conclusions in a protasis?  I thought the law of comedy had reserved [them] to the catastrophe. 

3. Gram. and Rhet.  The first or introductory clause in a sentence, esp. the clause which expresses the condition in a conditional sentence;  opposed to the apodosis. Also fig

1588 W. KEMPE Educ. Children sig. G.4 v, Only the protasis or first part of our similitude is attributed but to Cato, for want of a like similitude garnished with like authoritie.  a1922 JOYCE Ulysses 704 Positing what protasis would the contraction for such several schemes become a natural and necessary apodosis?  1971 Language XLVII. 81, I use the term ‘conditional sentence’ to cover the entire complex sentence consisting of a protasis and an apodosis. 

4. Ancient Prosody. The first colon of a dicolic line or period. 

1. 1. trans. = SATISFY v. Obs. exc. north. (see E.D.D.). 

1721 KELLY Scot. Prov. 325 Satisfic'd, that is, satisfied. 

2. intr. [by Herb Simon in 1956] To decide on and pursue a course of action that will satisfy the minimum requirements necessary to achieve a particular goal.  Hence satisficer; satisficing ppl. a. and vbl. n.

1956 H. SIMON in Psychol. Rev. LXIII. 129/2 Evidently, organisms adapt well enough to ‘satisfice’;  they do not, in general, ‘optimize’.  Ibid. 136/1 A ‘satisficing’ path, a path that will permit satisfaction at some specified level of all its needs. 

1. a. A sketch or outline of the plot of a play, ballet, novel, opera, story, etc., giving particulars of the scenes, situations, etc.  Also transf. and fig. 

1878 G. H. LEWES Jrnl. 28-29 Apr. in Geo. Eliot Lett. (1956) VII. 13 Schemed a scenario from Daniel Deronda1884 P. SIMPSON in Pall Mall G. 19 May 1/2 As the next step, I write an elaborate scenario..minutely setting down, not only the scenes as they follow, the action of the personages engaged, the sense of all they have to say, but even the ‘stage business’.  1923 WODEHOUSE Inimitable Jeeves xviii. 250 ‘Jeeves!’ ‘Sir?’ ‘I'm in the soup.’ ‘Indeed, sir?’ I sketched out the scenario for him.  ‘What would you advise?’

b. Cinemat. A film script with all the details of scenes, appearances of characters, stage-directions, etc., necessary for shooting the film. 

2. A sketch, outline, or description of an imagined situation or sequence of events;  esp.  (a) a synopsis of the development of a hypothetical future world war, and hence an outline of any possible sequence of future events;  (b) an outline of an intended course of action;  (c) a scientific model or description intended to account for observable facts.  Hence, in weakened senses (not easily distinguishable from sense 1a transf. and fig.):  a circumstance, situation, scene, sequence of events, etc. 

The over-use of this word in various loose senses has attracted frequent hostile comment.—R.W.B. 

1962 H. KAHN Thinking about Unthinkable v. 143 A scenario results from an attempt to describe..some hypothetical sequence of events...  Scenarios may explore and emphasize an element of a larger problem such as..the process of ‘escalation’ of a small war.  Ibid., The scenario is an aid to the imagination.  1966 ‘W. COOPERMemoirs of New Man I. viii. 103, I admired the beauty and simplicity of his plan—or ‘scenario’, as the case might be.  1975 Sci. Amer. Jan. 29/2 Some meteoriticists boldly construct multistage scenarios of condensation, agglomeration, accretion, heating, metamorphism and differentiation to explain the accumulated facts.  1975 N.Y. Times 29 Mar. 11/1 There is a certain narrative element in this whacky art, but it would be a brave man who tried to extract a single coherent scenario from any single picture or construction.  1976 Sci. Amer. Oct. 79A/2 Many of the models we have mentioned here are better characterized by the term scenario...  There is so little detailed information that the proposals should not be dignified by the term model.  Nevertheless, a good scenario can sometimes lead to a good model. 

Hence scenario v. trans., to make a scenario of (a story, book, or idea);  to sketch out;  also scenarioize, scenarize, vbs

1. A comparison of one thing with another, esp. as an ornament in poetry or rhetoric. 

1779 JOHNSON L.P., Pope, A simile, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject. 

Cf. metaphor, metonymy

1. Gram. and Rhet.  A figure by which a word, or a particular form or inflexion of a word, is made to refer to two or more other words in the same sentence, while properly applying to or agreeing with only one of them (e.g. a masc. adj. qualifying two ns., masc. and fem.;  a sing. verb serving as predicate to two subjects, sing. and pl.), or applying to them in different senses (e.g. literal and metaphorical).  Cf. ZEUGMA

1586 A. DAY Engl. Secretorie II. (1625) 82 Syllepsis, when one verbe supplyeth two clauses, one person two roomes, or one word serueth to many senses, as, thus, Hee runnes for pleasure, I for feare. 

(final 'e' is long;  pronounced to rhyme with Schenectady)

[OED] A figure by which a more comprehensive term is used for a less comprehensive or vice versâ;  as whole for part or part for whole, genus for species or species for genus, etc. 

Formerly sometimes used loosely or vaguely, and not infrequently misexplained. 

[Wikipedia] a figure of speech that presents a kind of metaphor in which: 

  • A part of something is used for the whole (hands to refer to workers, head for cattle, threads for clothing),
  • The whole is used for a part (the police for a handful of officers, body for the trunk of the body, the Pentagon for the top-ranking generals in the Pentagon building),
  • The species is used for the genus (cutthroat for assassin, kleenex for facial tissue, bread for food),
  • The genus is used for the species (creature for person, milk for cow's milk), or
  • The stuff of which something is made is used for the thing (willow for cricket bat, boards for stage, ivories for piano keys, plastic for credit card). 

Cf. metonymy

The doctrine or study of ends or final causes, esp. as related to the evidences of design or purpose in nature;  also transf. such design as exhibited in natural objects or phenomena. 
A figure by which a single word is made to refer to two or more words in the sentence;  esp. when properly applying in sense to only one of them, or applying to them in different senses;  but formerly more widely, including, e.g., the use of the same predicate, without repetition, with two or more subjects;  also sometimes applied to cases of irregular construction, in which the single word agrees grammatically with only one of the other words to which it refers (more properly called SYLLEPSIS). 

1586 A. DAY Engl. Secretorie II. (1595) 82 Zeugma, when one or more clauses are concluded vnder one verbe, as to say, His loosnesse ouercame all shame; his boldnesse, feare;  his madnesse, reason. 

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Thomas A. Alspaugh