I have a list of vocabulary words (it can also be a list of idioms). Now, how do I refer to a particular word in regards to what position it has in the list? I really don't know how to formulate this properly but it should be something along the lines of, for example, when you receive an invoice and in that invoice there are lines and each line has something written on it (maybe, some kind of service that you paid for). So, you can refer to a particular item listed in the invoice as a line item. Can you think of something similar but for words in a vocabulary list? Does list item sound alright to you guys?

An example of a word list (note: adjectives and nouns):

  1. prehistoric
  2. naughty
  3. dough
  4. shy
  5. utility

An example of an idiom list:

  1. rain cats and dogs
  2. cop a plea
  3. aim high
  4. my dogs are barking
  5. count me in

I need this term as a table column name for my database application.

  • Do you have a list of words, and a separate list of idioms? Or do you have one list, where each item can be either a word or an idiom?
    – Jasper
    Dec 1, 2014 at 7:12
  • They're separate. It can be a list of adjectives, a list of nouns, a list of idioms etc. But it can be a mixed bag as well, that is, adjectives, nouns and adverbs together in one list (then I just call it a word list). Dec 1, 2014 at 7:14
  • So, you can refer to a particular item listed in the invoice as a line item. To be honest, "line item" doesn't sound right to me either. Dec 1, 2014 at 16:30
  • 3
    I would keep it simple (my rule of thumb: unless you have a really good reason to do otherwise, keep everything in your code in plain English). Because your list seems to be used for storing words and phrases (or idioms), calling it a list of words, or a list of phrases or a list of idioms might not be a good idea. One workaround could be using the term entry. But I think I'd simply go with item and name the table: vocabulary_list, and the columns: item_number and item_text. Dec 19, 2014 at 0:25

3 Answers 3


"Item" is a generic term for something in a "list".

Each item in a list of words is an "item" or a "word". Each item is also a "concept", but that does not sound natural to my (American) ear.

Each item in a list of idioms is an "item" or an "idiom" or a "concept".

For example, if your list of words is:

  • Wolves -- (Plural noun) the wild ancestors of dogs.
  • Roc -- (Singular noun) a mythical giant bird.
  • Recite -- (Verb) to speak from memory.
  • Gigantic -- (Adjective) very large, like a giant.
  • Invisibly -- (Adverb) in a way that cannot be seen.

You could say:

  • The first word is plural.
  • The second word is a noun.
  • The penultimate word is an adjective.
  • The last word is an adverb.

You could store this list (or a similar list of idioms) in a database table with a schema like this:

  • id (unique number or autonumber, of the row within the table)
  • concept (non-nullable string)
  • plurality (nullable small integer, such as 1 (for singular), 2 (for paired items), 3 (for plurals))
  • part of speech (using a look-up table)
  • definition (string)

You could combine the fields for plurality and part of speech into a single field, also using a look-up table.

You could have another table, which maps ids of items in the list to ids of items that are helpful for understanding them. For example, you could map the idiom "rain cats and dogs" to items for "rain", "cats", and "dogs".


How do I refer to a particular word in regards to what position it has in the list?

You could refer to that as the item's ordinality:

1. Being of a specified position in a numbered series: an ordinal rank of seventh
2. A numeral which designates the place or position of an object in some particular series, as first, second, third, etc.

(definitions from Wordnik)

So, within their respective lists, naughty and cop a plea both have the same ordinality, because they are both the second item in the list.


I'm not sure what is practiced at your place, but here, in India, when I sit with programmer, they often label it as sr_no i.e. serial number.

Here is what something a programmer in India would do. If it looks okay, you may go for it.

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