What is a Lexicon? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Mirar! Regarder! Guardare! These are all ways to say look from different lexicons. Look at this lesson to learn what a lexicon is and explore examples of different lexicons.

What Is a Lexicon?

If you have ever watched a football game you might think there is something wrong with your hearing! You probably heard the players yelling strange phrases and words like, 'hut, hut, hike' or 'blitz.'

You might feel the same way when you hear lawyers on TV yelling, 'I object' to a judge or, 'you may cross-examine, counsel' to other lawyers. The vocabulary of a group of people, language or field is called a lexicon.

These groups of people - football players and lawyers - seem to have their own language or way of speaking.

Football players have their own vocabulary.
football player

In the English language the word 'hike' has a meaning - to take a walk in the wilderness or to raise up. So, 'hike' is a part of the English vocabulary or lexicon. As we mentioned up above, hike is also a part of the special lexicon of football players. When a football player yells 'hike,' it means to be ready to catch the ball. Words or phrases that have meaning in a lexicon are called lexemes. In this lesson, we'll look at how lexicons are used in the world around us.

A World of Lexicons

Bonjour! Caio! Hola! Shalom! These are all ways to say hello in different languages - French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew. These words for hello are part of the vocabulary or lexicon of these languages.

Bonjour is the word in the lexicon of French that means hello.

Any group of people that has a specific set of words they use to communicate has a lexicon. This includes entire nations that speak a specific language or smaller groups of people, like teenagers, who have their own vocabulary or slang.

Lexicon Masters

Just like entire nations can have a lexicon, an individual person can have their own lexicon if they use a unique vocabulary to communicate.

The famous writer and poet William Shakespeare is said to have his own lexicon because he often created new words and phrases to use in his poems and plays. In fact, Shakespeare is said to have invented over 1,700 words. There are entire dictionaries written to help readers understand his lexicon. One modern day word that can often be heard is the word 'muggle.' This lexeme is a word that J.K. Rowling created for her Harry Potter series, which means non-magical person. It became used so often because of the popularity of the series, that it can now be found in the dictionary!

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