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From Middle English thing, from Old English þing, from Proto-Germanic *þingą; compare West Frisian ding, Low German Ding, Dutch ding, 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.


  • enPR: thĭng, IPA(key): /θɪŋ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪŋ


thing (plural things)

  1. That which is considered to exist as a separate entity, object, quality or concept.
    • 1611King James Version of the Bible, Luke 1:1
      Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us...
    • 2013 June 21, Oliver Burkeman, “The tao of tech”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 2, page 48:
      The dirty secret of the internet is that all this distraction and interruption is immensely profitable. Web companies like to boast about […], or offering services that let you […], "share the things you love with the world" and so on. But the real way to build a successful online business is to be better than your rivals at undermining people's control of their own attention.
  2. A word, symbol, sign, or other referent that can be used to refer to any entity.
  3. An individual object or distinct entity.
  4. (informal) A genuine concept, entity or phenomenon; something that actually exists (contrary to expectation or belief). [from 21st c.]
    Bacon pie? Is that a thing?
    • 2014, Marianna Papastephanou, ‎Torill Strand, ‎Anne Pirrie, Philosophy as a Lived Experience
      Frequent statements of the kind “'Race' is not a thing”, “'races,' put simply, do not exist”, “'race' (as each essay subtly shows) simply does not exist” aim to discredit Todorov's claim that a relapse to an ontology of race is at place []
    • 2014, Harper Lin, Croissant Murder
      Clémence would say that his style was normcore before normcore became a thing. She had to admit that she still found him attractive.
    • 2019, Adam Gopnik, A Thousand Small Sanities, Riverrun 2019, p. 88:
      Conservative philosophy, in other words, is, as we say now, a thing and deserves a serious listen.
  5. (law)
    1. Whatever can be owned.
    2. Corporeal object.
  6. (somewhat dated) The latest fad or fashion.
    What do you mean you don't twerk, Stacy? It's the latest thing!
  7. (in the plural) Clothes, possessions or equipment.
    Hold on, let me just grab my things.
  8. (informal) A unit or container, usually containing edible goods.
    get me a thing of apple juice at the store;  I just ate a whole thing of jelly beans
  9. (informal) A problem, dilemma, or complicating factor.
    The car looks cheap, but the thing is, I have doubts about its safety.
  10. (slang) A penis.
  11. A living being or creature.
    • 2013 August 3, “Revenge of the nerds”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      Think of banking today and the image is of grey-suited men in towering skyscrapers. Its future, however, is being shaped in converted warehouses and funky offices in San Francisco, New York and London, where bright young things in jeans and T-shirts huddle around laptops, sipping lattes or munching on free food.
    you poor thing;  she's a funny old thing, but her heart's in the right place;  I met a pretty blond thing at the bar
  12. That which matters; the crux.
    that's the thing: we don't know where he went;  the thing is, I don't have any money
  13. Used after a noun to refer dismissively to the situation surrounding the noun's referent.
    Oh yeah, I'm supposed to promote that vision thing.
    • 1914, Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, The Movie Man [playscript]:
      Don’t forget to have Gomez postpone that shooting thing. (in reference to the execution of Fernandez)
  14. (informal) That which is favoured; personal preference. (Used in possessive constructions.)
  15. (chiefly historical) A public assembly or judicial council in a Germanic country.
    • 1974, Jón Jóhannesson, A History of the Old Icelandic Commonwealth: Íslendinga Saga, translated by Haraldur Bessason, page 46:
      In accordance with Old Germanic custom men came to the thing fully armed, [...]
    • 1974, Jakob Benediktsson, Landnám og upphaf allsherjarríkis, in Saga Íslands, quoted in 1988 by Jesse L. Byock in Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power, page 85:
      The goðar seem both to have received payment of thing-fararkaup from those who stayed home and at the same time compensated those who went to the thing, and it cannot be seen whether they had any profit from these transactions.
    • 1988, Jesse L. Byock, Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power, page 59:
      All Icelandic things were skap-thing, meaning that they were governed by established procedure and met at regular legally designated intevals at predetermined meeting places.
  16. (informal) A romantic relationship.


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Further readingEdit


thing (third-person singular simple present things, present participle thinging, simple past and past participle thinged)

  1. (rare) To express as a thing; to reify.




From Proto-Sino-Tibetan *siŋ



  1. tree
  2. wood
  3. firewood


  • Matisoff, James A., Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman, University of California Press.

Old DutchEdit


From Proto-Germanic *þingą.


thing n

  1. thing, object
  2. case, matter, issue



Further readingEdit

  • think”, in Oudnederlands Woordenboek, 2012

Old High GermanEdit

Alternative formsEdit


From Proto-Germanic *þingą


thing n

  1. thing, object
  2. matter, case



Old SaxonEdit