My eighth-grade English teacher, who has since lodged himself in my forebrain, wisely pointed out that the word "thing" conveys next to no meaning and should be revised out of almost every sentence in which it appears. As Webster's definition shows, a "thing" can be, well, anything--an entity (whether real or imagined), an inanimate object, an event, a possession, an action. "Thing" is thus something of a cop-out; you can nearly always find a more precise and vivid word. Besides, if you use it sparingly, you'll find that the word gains power: the reader will know that when you do use it, you're not just suffering from temporary anomia but are rather referring to something so ambiguous or bizarre that it defies even rudimentary classification.

Thank you; I can stop twitching now. If you find the word "thing" in any of my writeups (except for THIS one, you miserable pedants), please feel free to /msg me and I'll revise it after flogging myself a few times.

Thing (thing), n. [AS. þing a thing, cause, assembly, judicial assembly; akin to þingan to negotiate, þingian to reconcile, conciliate, D. ding a thing, OS. thing thing, assembly, judicial assembly, G. ding a thing, formerly also, an assembly, court, Icel. þing a thing, assembly, court, Sw. & Dan. ting; perhaps originally used of the transaction of or before a popular assembly, or the time appointed for such an assembly; cf. G. dingen to bargain, hire, MHG. dingen to hold court, speak before a court, negotiate, Goth. þeihs time, perhaps akin to L. tempus time. Cf. Hustings, and Temporal of time.]

1.

Whatever exists, or is conceived to exist, as a separate entity, whether animate or inanimate; any separable or distinguishable object of thought.

God made . . . every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.
Gen. i. 25.

He sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt.
Gen. xiv. 23.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Keats.

2.

An inanimate object, in distinction from a living being; any lifeless material.

Ye meads and groves, unconscious things!
Cowper.

3.

A transaction or occurrence; an event; a deed.

[And Jacob said] All these things are against me.
Gen. xlii. 36.

Which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Matt. xxi. 24.

4.

A portion or part; something.

Wicked men who understand any thing of wisdom.
Tillotson.

5.

A diminutive or slighted object; any object viewed as merely existing; -- often used in pity or contempt.

See, sons, what things you are!
Shak.

The poor thing sighed, and . . . turned from me.
Addison.

I'll be this abject thing no more.
Granville.

I have a thing in prose.
Swift.

6. pl.

Clothes; furniture; appurtenances; luggage; as, to pack or store one's things. [Colloq.]

⇒ Formerly, the singular was sometimes used in a plural or collective sense.

And them she gave her moebles and her thing.
Chaucer.

Thing was used in a very general sense in Old English, and is still heard colloquially where some more definite term would be used in careful composition.

In the garden [he] walketh to and fro,
And hath his things [i. e., prayers, devotions] said full courteously.
Chaucer.

Hearkening his minstrels their things play.
Chaucer.

7. (Law)

Whatever may be possessed or owned; a property; -- distinguished from person.

8. [In this sense pronounced ting.]

In Scandinavian countries, a legislative or judicial assembly. Longfellow.

Things personal. (Law) Same as Personal property, under Personal. --
Things real. Same as Real property, under Real.

 

© Webster 1913


Thing, Ting (?), n. [Dan. thing, ting, Norw. ting, or Sw. ting.]

In Scandinavian countries, a legislative or judicial assembly; -- used, esp. in composition, in titles of such bodies. See Legislature, Norway.

 

© Webster 1913

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