Is there a term that I can use to generically refer to a word, an idiom or any other kind of linguistic entity related to vocabulary? vocabulary unit is what I can conceive of at the moment. Does that sound okay to you people? To my ears, it sounds someway okay but, at the same time, it reminds me of an English grammar textbook that has chapters, often called units, dedicated to learning vocabulary.

  • I use vocabulary item(s) with my students, for talking about words and multi-word items that they are learning, want to learn, have learned, or know. Dec 1, 2014 at 9:22
  • I know the term vocabulary entry, will it fit? Dec 1, 2014 at 11:01
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    When you said both term and expression didn't you just supply your own answer? I wouldn't say vocabulary unit or vocabulary term. The term lexical unit is not one most people would know or use. You can simply say word or phrase, but that technically wouldn't include a sentence or clause.
    – user6951
    Dec 1, 2014 at 15:38
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    Thank you. "lexical item" is the actual term that's used in linguistics. Here's the Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_item Dec 2, 2014 at 10:06
  • A linguistic term is lexeme, and I have heard "lexicophrase" for things that should be registered in a dictionary.
    – rogermue
    Dec 23, 2014 at 9:19

4 Answers 4


A technical term for this is LEXICAL ITEM. Linguists often refer to words as lexemes. However, lexeme would not work for the Original Poster's needs because it would not cover idioms, or, for example phrasal verbs. These entail more than one lexeme, more than one word.

We often use the uncountable noun lexis to refer to vocabulary in general.

Hope this is helpful!


From the wording of your question it sounds like you're looking for something not too formal, and broad enough to cover words, phrases and idioms.

In this case, I would simply say vocabulary item. It's simple and to the point, and it covers all of the above.


Vocabulary Entity sounds better to me.


I wonder if we're over-complicating things here for the OP? Given the context - we're simply looking for an entry or term referenced in a list.

I prefer term as it's a little more specific.

From the OED:

Any word or group of words expressing a notion or conception, or denoting an object of thought; an expression (for something).

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