Concrete Words: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Concrete Words
  • 1:33 Examples of Concrete Words
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

You don't have to study the sidewalk or a construction manual to find out about concrete words. Just take a look at this lesson, where you'll find out what these types of words are and see some helpful examples that you can find all around you!

Definition of Concrete Words

Can you hear 'love' or taste 'disappointment'? If so, you might want to see a doctor because we can't normally hear or taste emotions. That's because these words are abstract, meaning we can't see, smell, hear, taste, or touch them. Concrete words, on the other hand, are terms that identify things and events that can be measured and observed.

Let's take the word 'concrete', for instance. How do you know the sidewalk is hard? Of course you can feel its measurably firm and rigid qualities beneath your feet, and your face would definitely figure that out if you tripped. In other words, your understanding of 'concrete' is based on observation of its physical characteristics. However, if you were asked how you knew your parents loved you, there would undoubtedly be a wide variety of answers. This is because 'love' has no physical characteristics that can be measured or observed. With abstracts like 'love' or 'patriotism', we can only hope to detect the effects of the terms, and even those effects stand a good chance of being abstract themselves. For instance, 'happiness' as an effect of 'love'.

Because concrete words are tangible in some way, their definitions are not subject to much change through personal interpretation. For example, you and someone from Alaska would both know what a 'chair' was if you saw one. And there would be little debate that grass is 'green' (though you might get some squabbles over the shade). Conversely, abstract words possess just about as many different interpretations as there are people. 'Disobedience', for instance, can take on all sorts of individual forms, from public protests to not finishing your peas.

Examples of Concrete Words

Aside from conjunctions, prepositions, or interjections, concrete words can appear as any other part of speech.

Concrete words are some of the first ones we learn and the majority of those are nouns. Words like 'table', 'car', and 'Mommy' are all concrete nouns because we can interact with any of these on a physical level. We also learn personal pronouns, such as 'I', 'you', 'he', 'she', 'we', etc…, rather early on and certainly these are all concrete, as well.

We most often associate adjectives with description, so it should make sense that quite a few of them are also concrete words. For example, I can hear something that's 'loud', see if it's 'translucent', taste something 'spicy', feel when it's 'cold', or smell something 'putrid'. As long as you don't start tasting 'purple', concrete adjectives are fairly straightforward.

We know verbs represent actions, but not all actions can be measured or observed. We might think we know when someone is 'living', but that abstract term has a myriad of interpretations depending on whom you ask. One good way to distinguish concrete verbs from abstract ones is to ask whether the action represented is physical (concrete: 'walking', 'talking', 'hitting') or mental (abstract: 'thinking', 'worrying', 'objecting').

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