Is there a verb that means "being of X trait"? When you give the definition of a certain adjective, you use the verb "is", but this leads to an imprecision in speech that sounds awkward, so is there a better way to express the idea?

Here's an example:

The definition of the word "whitish" is any color between white and gray.

But using is in the above example sounds incorrect and imprecise, is there a better way to word this?

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    The only thing that looks unusual to me about that sentence is the styling used. I would say The definition of the word "whitish" is: Any colour between white and grey. Although the exact styling can vary, the definitional text (along the lines of what you'd find in a dictionary) would normally be a complete sentence—as opposed to just the phrase that you've put in bold. But there's nothing unusual about the use of is itself. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 20:07
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    Not sure why you think that the use of "is" leads to imprecision. If you are concerned about possible ambiguity, maybe "The word 'whitish' is defined as any colour between white and grey" would be more explicit. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


The family of State of Being verbs (is/are/am/were/etc.) are used in this situation.

This does include the verb is, which is used correctly in the sample sentence you provide. It may sound incorrect and imprecise to you, but it is normal and well-understood by a native speaker.

The road is bumpy.

The pie will be delicious when it is done.

I am happy.

Her shirt was purple.

More precise verbs can be used, but these are specific to the trait or quality in question.

The road looks/feels bumpy.

The pie will taste delicious when it is done.

I feel happy.

Her shirt looked purple.

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