Word Smith: Term

One of those words with so many nuanced meanings, term is difficult to translate it effectively in other languages. In different settings the word has vastly different connotations and meanings. In schools the word term is synonymous with periods of time between learning, studying and assessments. Mid-term exams, for example are assessments at the midpoint of the semester. In math it refers to the numbers and letters in a mathematical expression. In English it might refer to the vocabulary that a particular genre of literature evokes using literary expressions, such as metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and alliteration.

The torment of many a college student is the procrastination around the dreaded TERM PAPER. The torment goes up or down depending on the topic, the planning, the execution, and the stress of this paper, often assigned in History classes and others that want a summitive document turned in on the last day of class to evaluate a student’s work and understanding. Term papers may be in place of a final exam.

Outside of school the word term takes on completely different connotations: term insurance or prison term for example. And in politics, term means different time periods for Congress (2 years), Presidents (4 years), and Senators (6 years), each overlapping to improve continuity of legislation and will of the people. Some in politics, appointed judges for example, may have life terms, not to be confused with prison.

The reference to term and the gestation of mammals is biological and controversial, just look at Rowe vs. Wade. This witness post is not meant to take sides on the rights of women. It is meant to highlight the word TERM and how it’s many meanings impact all of us, those deemed FREE and those living in their own prison cells, human inspired and other.

From the dictionary, word meaning of TERM:

  1. a word or phrase used to describe a thing or to express a concept, especially in a particular kind of language or branch of study.
    “the musical term “leitmotiv””
    synonyms: wordexpressionphrase, turn of phrase, idiomlocution
  2. a fixed or limited period for which something, e.g., office, imprisonment, or investment, lasts or is intended to last.
    “the President is elected for a single four-year term”
    synonyms: period, period of time, time, length of time, spellstintduration

  1. give a descriptive name to; call by a specified name.
    “he has been termed the father of modern theology”
    synonyms: callnameentitletitlestyledesignate, describe as, dublabeltag