I've just seen the word 'meaningful' in a book, it felt like I knew this word and its meaning, but nonetheless I decided to see the cambridge dictionary translation. BUT I noticed that the meaning provided in English differs from the meaning provided in my native language.

The meaning of the word in English is "useful, serious, or important". But what stated in my language translation there kind of differs. It's something like "substantial and informative"

Ex.: a meaningful discussion

How does the meaning of the word feel to you? Is it "useful, serious or important" or it's more like "substantial and informative"?

  • 4
    It's all of those things. Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


Sounds like you are reading too much difference between "useful, serious or important" on the one hand, and "substantial and informative" on the other. As lists of words meant to convey the meaning of another word -- in this case "meaningful" -- they both convey pretty much the same.

I guess this is one of the fundamental challenges of dictionaries: to define a word without using that word when by far the most accurate way of expressing a word's meaning is to point to that meaning and usually the best pointing device is the word itself! In other words, "meaningful" means whatever "meaningful" means, but that's of no use to anyone who doesn't already know the meaning.

In the face of that problem, we use mechanisms like example usage, or, as in here, lists of quasi-synonyms (partial synonyms). And the best way to understand such lists, as definitions, is to ignore small differences between words in the list, and focus on what they have in common; their "family resemblance" as it were.

  • Thank you for your answer! Never heard of quasi-synonyms lists before, maybe I'll try using them Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 18:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .