Meaning of TERM in English

I. term 1 S1 W1 /tɜːm $ tɜːrm/ BrE AmE noun

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: terme 'edge, limit, end' , from Latin terminus ]

1 . in terms of something if you explain or describe something in terms of a particular fact or event, you are explaining or describing it only in relation to that fact or event

describe/measure/evaluate etc something in terms of something

Femininity is still defined in terms of beauty.

It’s a mistake to think of Florida only in terms of its tourist attractions.

It’s too early to start talking in terms of casualties.

in terms of what/how/who etc

Did the experiment find any differences in terms of what children learned?

2 . in general/practical/financial etc terms used to show that you are describing or considering a subject in a particular way or from a particular point of view

in general/broad/simple etc terms

We explain in simple terms what the treatment involves.

It would be wrong to describe society purely in economic terms.

The war, although successful in military terms, left the economy in ruins.

What do these statistics mean in human terms?

in sb’s terms

In our terms, the scheme has not been a success.

in real/absolute terms (=accurate, true, or including any related changes)

Rail fares have fallen 17 per cent in real terms.

in relative terms (=compared with other, similar things)

Students have less money in relative terms, but spend more on books.

3 . WORD [countable] a word or expression with a particular meaning, especially one that is used for a specific subject or type of language

term for

‘Multimedia’ is the term for any technique combining sounds and images.

in no uncertain terms (=in very clear and angry language)

Journalists were told in no uncertain terms that they were not welcome.

⇨ a contradiction in terms at ↑ contradiction (3)

4 . PERIOD OF TIME [countable] a fixed period of time during which someone does something or something happens

term of/in office (=the time someone spends doing an important job in government)

The mayor was coming to the end of his term in office.

term of

the maximum term of imprisonment

The lease runs for a term of 99 years.

prison/jail term

The men each received a 30-year prison term.

⇨ ↑ fixed-term

5 . SCHOOL/UNIVERSITY [uncountable and countable] especially British English one of the periods of time that the school or university year is divided into. In Britain, there are usually three terms in a year. ⇨ half-term , semester , quarter

summer/autumn/spring term

The exams are at the end of the summer term.

Teachers often feel overworked in term time (=during the term) .

first/last day of term

that all-important first day of term

6 . in the long/short/medium term used to say what will happen or what happens generally over a long, short, or ↑ medium period of time:

The cost of living will go up in the short term.

In the long term, alcohol causes high blood pressure.

⇨ ↑ long-term , ↑ short-term

7 . END [singular, uncountable] technical the end of a particular period of time:

The agreement reaches its term next year.

a child born two months before full term (=of pregnancy)

We can prolong life beyond its natural term.

8 . come to terms with something to accept an unpleasant or sad situation and no longer feel upset or angry about it:

George and Elizabeth have come to terms with the fact that they will never have children.

Counselling helped her come to terms with her grief.

9 . CONDITIONS terms [plural]

a) the conditions that are set for an agreement, contract, arrangement etc:

Under the terms of the agreement, the debt would be repaid over 20 years.

your terms and conditions of employment

Delivery is within the terms of this contract.

equal/unequal/the same etc terms (=conditions that are equal, unequal etc)

Small businesses have to compete on equal terms with large organisations.

Men and women should be able to work on level terms.

on sb’s (own) terms (=according to the conditions that someone wants)

He wanted our relationship to be only on his terms.

b) the arrangements for payment that you agree to when you buy or sell something

reasonable/favourable/cheaper etc terms

Some insurance companies offer very reasonable terms.

This allowed tenant farmers to buy land on easy terms (=by paying small sums of money over a long period) .

10 . RELATIONSHIP terms [plural] if you are on good, bad etc terms with someone, you have a good, bad etc relationship with them

be on good/bad/friendly etc terms (with somebody)

By now, Usha and I were on familiar terms.

He is barely on speaking terms with his father (=they are angry and almost never speak to each other) .

We were soon on first-name terms (=using each other’s first names, as a sign of friendship) .

11 . terms of reference formal the subjects that a person or group of people agree to consider:

the committee’s terms of reference

12 . NUMBER/SIGN [countable] technical one of the numbers or signs used in a mathematical calculation

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 3)


▪ a legal/medical term

The site provides a glossary of legal terms.

▪ a technical term

‘Gender’ is a technical term in grammar.

▪ a slang term

‘The Old Bill’ is a slang term for the police.

▪ a derogatory/pejorative term (=one that is insulting or disapproving)

‘Pinko’ is a derogatory term for someone with socialist ideas.

■ verbs

▪ use a term

a term used by psychiatrists

▪ coin a term (=invent it)

Funk coined the term ‘vitamin’ in 1912.

■ phrases

▪ a term of abuse (=a word that is offensive or deliberately rude)

‘Geek’ is used as a term of abuse.

▪ a term of endearment (=a word that expresses your love for someone)

terms of endearment like ‘love’, ‘dear’, and ‘honey’

▪ in strong terms

The Pope condemned both Nazism and Communism in strong terms.

▪ in glowing terms (=praising someone or something highly)

Friends and relatives speak of him in glowing terms.

▪ in layman’s terms (=using ordinary words, not technical words)

Can you explain to me in layman’s terms how my computer works?

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 4)


▪ a prison/jail term

He faced a maximum prison term of 25 years.

▪ a five-year/ten-year term

The President is elected for a five-year term.

▪ a fixed term

The contract was for a fixed term of five years.

▪ a maximum/minimum term

The maximum term was life imprisonment.

■ phrases

▪ a term of/in office

The Governor ends his term of office in September.

▪ a term of imprisonment/detention

She was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.

■ verbs

▪ serve a term

She served a term as chairwoman of the council.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 5)

■ phrases

▪ the beginning/start of term

The beginning of term was only two days away.

▪ the end of term

We had a party at the end of term.

▪ the first/last day of term

On the last day of term we went home early.


▪ a school/university term

The school term was about to start.

▪ a new term

Are you looking forward to the new term?

▪ the spring/summer/autumn term

Mrs Collins will be leaving us at the end of the summer term.

■ phrases

▪ in/during term time

Parents need permission to take their children on holiday during term time.

• • •


▪ word a single group of letters that are used together with a particular meaning:

‘Casa’ is the Italian word for ‘house’.


I looked up the word in a dictionary.

▪ name a word that you use for a particular thing, place, organization etc:

Iberia is the ancient name for the Spanish Peninsula.


What’s the name of that type of dog?

▪ term a word or group of words that is used in a specific subject or area of language:

The medical term for losing your hair is ‘alopecia’.


People use the term ‘carbon footprint’ to talk about man’s polluting effect on the environment.

▪ phrase a group of words that have a particular meaning when used together, or which someone uses on a particular occasion:

We don’t really have a phrase for ‘bon appétit’ in English.


Politicians keep using the phrase ‘family values’.


an Italian phrase book

▪ expression a fixed phrase which is used in a language and has a particular meaning:

He uses a lot of obscure expressions that I don’t really understand.


What does the expression ‘wage slavery’ mean?

▪ buzzword /ˈbʌzwɜːd $ -wɜːrd/ a word or group of words that people in a particular type of work or activity have started using a lot because they think it is important:

E-learning is the buzzword in educational publishing at the moment.


For anthropologists, ethnodiversity has been a buzzword for quite a while.

▪ idiom /ˈɪdiəm/ a group of words that has a special meaning which you cannot guess from the meanings of each separate word:

‘Full of beans’ is an idiom which means feeling lively and energetic.

▪ cliché /ˈkliːʃeɪ $ kliːˈʃeɪ/ a group of words that is used so often that it seems rather boring, annoying, or silly:

It’s a bit of a cliché, but good communication skills are the key to success.


the old movie cliché ‘we can’t go on meeting like this’

▪ slang very informal words used especially by a particular group of people such as young people, criminals, or soldiers:

Grass is slang for marijuana.


prison slang


army slang

▪ jargon words and phrases used in a particular profession or by a particular group of people, which are difficult for other people to understand – often used to show disapproval:

The instructions were full of technical jargon.


complicated legal jargon

II. term 2 BrE AmE verb [transitive usually passive]

to use a particular word or expression to name or describe something:

This condition is sometimes termed RSI, or repetitive strain injury.

Roosevelt termed himself and his policies ‘liberal’.

These developments are loosely termed ‘advanced manufacturing techniques’.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.