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thing Line breaks: thing

Definition of thing in English:


1An object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to: look at that metal rail thing over there there are lots of things I’d like to buy
More example sentences
  • Lia wished the thing he had given her would just vibrate; a feeling of unease rested in the pit of her stomach.
  • My suitcase contains many things but one thing you can be sure of is that I've probably not got enough pants.
  • The pink thing beside her is her G-string which she took out and decided not to wear back.
object, article, item, artefact, commodity;
device, gadget, contrivance, instrument, utensil, tool, implement;
entity, body
informal whatsit, what-d'you-call-it, what's-its-name, what's-it, whatchamacallit, thingummy, thingy, thingamabob, thingamajig, oojamaflip, oojah, gizmo
British informal doodah, doobry, gubbins
North American informal doodad, doohickey, doojigger, dingus
1.1 (things) Personal belongings or clothing: she began to unpack her things
luggage, baggage, bags, bags and baggage, chattels, movables, valuables;
clothes, garments;
informal gear, junk, togs, garms, dunnage, traps
British informal clobber
South African informal trek
vulgar slang shit, crap
1.2 (with adjective or noun modifier things) Equipment, utensils, or other objects used for a particular purpose: they cleared away the lunch things
1.3 [with negative] (a thing) Anything (used for emphasis): she couldn’t find a thing to wear
More example sentences
  • They know exactly what they're doing and in that respect I don't have a thing to worry about.
  • I'll let them know what you have planned for us tonight, so don't worry about a thing.
  • She felt as if she could just get lost in his eyes forever and not ever have a thing to worry about.
1.4Used to express one’s disapproval of or contempt for something: you won’t find me smoking those filthy things
1.5 [with postpositive adjective] (things) All that can be described in the specified way: his love for all things English
More example sentences
  • He seems to have developed a penchant for all things good, wholesome and American.
  • O'Hagan did not always have such seething contempt for all things Caledonian.
  • His fascination with all things Chopper also extends to the world wide web.
2An inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being: I’m not a thing, not a work of art to be cherished
2.1 [with adjective] A living creature or plant: the sea is the primal source of all living things on earth
More example sentences
  • I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on the earth.
  • The trees protected by this bill are among the oldest, tallest, and largest living things on earth.
  • Now, obviously, the presence of living things on Earth runs counter to this rule.
2.2 [with adjective] Used to express one’s feelings of pity, affection, approval, or contempt for a person or animal: have a nice weekend in the country, you lucky thing! the lamb was a puny little thing
person, soul, creature, wretch
informal devil, beggar, bunny, bastard
British vulgar slang sod, bugger
3An action, event, thought, or utterance: she said the first thing that came into her head the only thing I could do well was cook
More example sentences
  • There is one girl in my class who constantly says funny things which I wish I could remember later.
  • Get out of the armchair, do things you enjoy and things you think will make a difference.
  • You should thus try to convince your husband that such a thing is not socially acceptable.
act, action, deed, undertaking, exploit, feat;
task, job, chore, piece of business
thought, notion, idea, concept, conception;
concern, matter, worry, preoccupation
remark, statement, comment, utterance, observation, declaration, pronouncement
3.1 (things) Circumstances or matters that are unspecified: things haven’t gone entirely to plan how are things with you?
More example sentences
  • The kiss of love is the kiss of life and no matter how badly things have been going, it's the kiss that heals.
  • It seems like the lesson here is to let things slide, no matter how painful things get.
  • I now realise that all is not lost, no matter how bad things get, all is never lost.
matters, affairs, circumstances, conditions, relations;
state of affairs, situation, life
3.2An abstract entity, quality, or concept: mourning and depression are not the same thing they had one thing in common—they were men of action
More example sentences
  • It is not at all necessary, though, that such a concept or such a thing exist.
  • A concept that has too many clothes may in the end be the same thing as a concept that has none.
  • We realised how our hobby was the thing we had in common and the most important part of that was sharing.
3.3An example or type of something: the game is the latest thing in family fun
More example sentences
  • I've never been a fan of that sort of thing but with fashion being what it is these days I let her have it done.
  • The bottom line is society hasn't opened up much to accept this kind of thing.
  • The young girl appeared oblivious to what he was up to; Martin guessed she did this sort of thing quite often.
3.4 [with adjective or noun modifier] informal A situation or activity of a specified type or quality: your being here is just a friendship thing, OK?
More example sentences
  • She was afraid because this modeling thing was a new situation so removed from her reality.
  • I'm doing the premiere party thing tonight, so will have something to say about it tomorrow.
  • The older son thing requires its own space, so the telling will be separate, if it happens.
3.5 informal A romantic or sexual relationship: Phil and Lisa had been having a thing
More example sentences
  • Danny loves Taylor, and Kylie has a thing with Sam.
  • Husband had a thing with the babysitter, who then moves in with husband and child.
  • Julian had a thing with Shelby and Candace had a thing with an anonymous stranger.
3.6 informal An established or genuine phenomenon or practice (typically used in expressions registering surprise or incredulity): according to media reports, sleep texting is now a thing among serious smartphone addicts he looks like he’s wearing boxers underneath his trunks (is that a thing?)
More example sentences
  • Winter white may work in November, but winter egg-shell blue is definitely not a thing.
  • Add some pizazz to your pregnancy by body-painting your baby bump (seriously, this is a thing).
  • Kind of sad that having a glucose-measuring device for your kids is a thing now, worthy of a feature.
4 (the thing) informal What is needed or required: you need a tonic—and here’s just the thing
4.1What is socially acceptable or fashionable: it wouldn’t be quite the thing to go to a royal garden party in wellies
More example sentences
  • At the newcomer level, sketch shows seem quite the thing.
  • Apparently it's quite the thing to drop out of society for months and take to the rivers and byways.
  • Around the time of Michael and A Life Less Ordinary, angels were quite the thing.
fashionable, in fashion, in vogue, popular, all the rage;
Frenchle dernier cri
informal trendy, cool, in, the in thing, big, with it, hip, happening, now
5 (one's thing) informal One’s special interest or inclination: reading isn’t my thing
what one likes, what interests one
informal one's cup of tea, one's bag, what turns one on, what floats one's boat
6 (the thing) informal Used to introduce or emphasize an important point: the thing is, I am going to sell this house here’s the thing: this is a story, not a piece of hard news that’s the thing about style—no two people are completely alike
More example sentences
  • It was almost 20 years ago, and the thing was, it was introducing a revolutionary product.
  • ‘But the thing was, of course, you got your revenge when it came to your turn,’ he says with relish.
  • You know, the thing was, Australia was really held to ransom there, as far as I'm concerned.
fact of the matter, fact, point, issue, problem


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to German Ding. Early senses included 'meeting' and 'matter, concern' as well as 'inanimate object'.

  • Just about anything can be called a thing, but in Old English it first meant ‘a meeting, an assembly’ or ‘a court, a council’. The word developed through ‘a matter brought before a court’ and ‘a concern, an affair’ to its more general modern senses. To be all things to all men can mean either ‘to attempt to please everyone’ or ‘to be able to be used differently by different people’. The expression probably goes back to a biblical verse in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘I am made all things to all men.’ Odd sounds at night can be alarming, but if you are frightened you could recite ‘The Cornish or West Country Litany’, a traditional prayer which runs: ‘From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties / And things that go bump in the night, / Good Lord, deliver us!’ This has given us the expression things that go bump in the night for ghosts and supernatural beings. After a certain age everyone can be struck by the gloomy thought that things ain't what they used to be. The phrase originated as the title of a song by Ted Persons in 1941. The idiom do one's (own) thing is recorded from the mid 19th century, but it did not become widespread until the 1960s during the hippie culture; have a thing with (somebody) dates from this same decade.


be all things to all men (or people)

Please everyone, typically by fitting in with their needs or expectations: a politician running scared of the electorate and trying to be all things to all people
More example sentences
  • Of course, just as SAC cannot be all things to all people, the cultural strategy will not please everyone or meet all needs.
  • Simply put, like the Toronto event, it is expected to be all things to all people.
  • It was a superb attempt to be all things to all men that culminated in a result that made everyone happy.
1.1Be able to be interpreted or used differently by different people: multimedia is all things to all men
More example sentences
  • You may not be able to be all things to all people, but when it comes to dairy packaging, the industry is sure trying.
  • It is trying to be all things to all people, while selling upmarket food.
  • ‘You're asking a piece of wood to be all things to all people,’ he says.

be on to a good thing

informal Have found a job or other situation that is pleasant, profitable, or easy: many directors who take dividends in lieu of salary think they are on to a good thing
More example sentences
  • They took advantage of the new government's inexperience at the time and, knowing that it was their first project, knew they were on to a good thing and exploited the situation to the fullest.
  • Standard Life Investments proved last week it knows when it is on to a good thing by launching a second European private equity fund which will undoubtedly be one of the largest and most significant launches by a Scottish house this year.
  • He said: ‘I reckoned that there was enough demand to set up a specialist company, and when my wife also agreed, then I knew we were on to a good thing.’

be hearing (or seeing) things

Imagine that one can hear (or see) something that is not in fact there: the first time I spotted a puffin I thought I was seeing things
More example sentences
  • She is hearing things, imagining them, she knows she is.
  • I was going to tell her she was hearing things and to go back to sleep when I heard the sound of breaking furniture below.
  • Approaching the bridge, we thought we were seeing things!

a close (or near) thing

A narrow avoidance of something unpleasant: we got him out, but it was a close thing
More example sentences
  • It was a near miss as far as I was concerned, a close thing.
  • It was a close thing for me too, but I was young, and have a healthy heart and I lasted the whole half-hour of assault.
  • Theodosius also built a second set of walls around Constantinople (it had been a near thing with the Visigoths) and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.

do one's own thing

informal Follow one’s own interests or inclinations regardless of others: they don’t seem to be a couple, they just seem to be two people who do their own thing
More example sentences
  • It's always welcome to find a band that are not following the crowd and really doing their own thing.
  • It's just a case of going out there and doing your own thing.
  • ‘It was that teenage thing of doing your own thing as a student,’ Diana recalls.

do the —— thing

informal , chiefly North American Engage in the kind of behaviour typically associated with someone or something: a film in which he does the bad-guy thing
More example sentences
  • While we're doing the media thing, might as well be time for a roundup.
  • He got the crowd doing the waving arms thing.
  • I don't do the tests thing very often these days.

do things to

informal Have a powerful emotional effect on: it just does things to me when we kiss
More example sentences
  • Inspiring, amazing, and proving that in an age where film, TV, novels and the internet dominate, a truly magical piece of theatre can still do things to your feelings and emotions that no other media can.
  • In other words, pop is conceived of as an aesthetic object which is contemplated and ‘enjoyed’ by a transcendent subject, not as something which has effects on a body, which does things to you.
  • Apologies to my Portugese and Brazilian readers for confusing your beautiful language with the other one - it was the chocolate you know - it does things to my brain.

for one thing

Used to introduce one of two or more possible reasons for something, the remainder of which may or may not be stated: Why hadn’t he arranged to see her at the house? For one thing, it would have been warmer
More example sentences
  • Class, for one thing, appears to have changed radically while the Queen remains.
  • Well, for one thing, the cast of characters apparently has spread out all over the country.
  • Well, for one thing, writing a shocking story has been, historically, one way to bring yourself to public attention.

have a thing about

informal Have a strong liking for or dislike of: she had a thing about men who wore glasses I’ve always had a thing about mirrors—I can’t have one near my bed
More example sentences
  • I have a thing about sumptuously comfortable beds.
  • And, perhaps as a result, I've always had a thing about not eating too many sweets, although this never seemed to extend to alcohol.
  • And he had a thing about not looking directly at her.
phobia, fear, horror, terror;
dislike, aversion, hatred, detestation, loathing;
complex, neurosis
informal hang-up, bee in one's bonnet
fetish, obsession, fixation

have a thing for

informal Have a strong liking for: I think he has a bit of a thing for you
More example sentences
  • He was a little miffed at Trevor's comment about him having a thing for Susie.
  • When we last left our heroes, Rachel had just found out that Ross has long had a thing for her.
  • He has a thing for annoying me though.

—— is one thing, —— is another

Used to indicate that the second item mentioned is much more important than the first, and cannot be compared to it: physical attraction was one thing, love was quite another

make a (big) thing of (or about)

informal Make (something) seem more important than it actually is: Meadows made a big thing of paying the bill
More example sentences
  • And, of course, my friends across the aisle have made a big thing about that.
  • I think they are probably looking for something to make a thing about.
  • The news is making a big thing of it because he's gay.

of all things

Out of all conceivable possibilities (used to express surprise): What had he been thinking about? A kitten, of all things!
More example sentences
  • The bizarre thing about the unsavoury incident was that the irate individual was himself, of all things, a referee.
  • He went to London University for a degree in, of all things, theology.
  • I drove, of all things, an Alfa diesel, and it was a glorious experience.

(just) one of those things

informal Used to indicate that one wishes to pass over an unfortunate experience by regarding it as unavoidable or to be accepted: I didn’t manage to go on the tour of Australia, but that was just one of those things
More example sentences
  • It is just one of those things you have to accept.
  • Unfortunately, is hasn't and it's just one of those things.
  • If cycling is one way to sort out York's traffic problems, how come the frequent theft of bikes is brushed off as one of those things?

one thing after another

A series of problems or difficulties: it’s one thing after another with this kid
More example sentences
  • He said: "It's one thing after another at this club at the moment; I feel like I've been let down by the team and I can't understand why."
  • "It's been one thing after another with that shed," Cameron said, "We've been trying for ages to see if somebody wants it. There was nothing we could do in the end."
  • Our heroes undergo setbacks and minor triumphs, disasters and near-disasters, even scrapes with death - one thing after another.

one thing leads to another

Used to suggest that the exact sequence of events is too obvious to need recounting: he offered me a lift home one night and one thing led to another
More example sentences
  • And one thing leads to another and then pretty soon, both people are in this violent dilemma.
  • Anyway it's also fun to see how one thing leads to another.
  • But one thing leads to another, as smokers, dieters and alcoholics all know only too well.

there is only one thing for it

There is only one possible course of action: there was only one thing for it—she would have to open the parcel
More example sentences
  • There's only one thing for it: I'll have to buy it another.
  • There was only one thing for it: throw them out of the window.
  • Following acupuncture, hypnotherapy and support groups, there's only one thing for it: therapy.

(now) there's a thing

informal Used as an expression of surprise.
Example sentences
  • Now, there's a thing: ‘a persistent irritating critic; a nuisance.’
  • ‘Well, there's a thing,’ she said to no one in particular.
  • Now there's a thing: nice to see that no matter what happens, politicians still stay the same.

a thing of the past

A thing that no longer happens or exists: house-price booms were seen as a thing of the past
More example sentences
  • The guide suggests that Britain is now a truly united kingdom with the north-south divide a thing of the past.
  • The habit of walking children to school is mostly a thing of the past.
  • But for one group of tots, such light-hearted activity could be a thing of the past.

a thing or two

informal Used to refer to useful information that can be imparted or learned: Teddy taught me a thing or two about wine
More example sentences
  • My brother taught me a thing or two, the rest I learnt from magazines and tapes.
  • It is rich in culture and scenery and could teach us Irish a thing or two about how we care for our environment.
  • Our children may only be starting out on life's learning curve, but they could teach us a thing or two.

things that go bump in the night

informal , humorous Unexplained and frightening noises at night, regarded as being caused by ghosts: the fear of long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night
More example sentences
  • As a youngster I had a dreadful fear of ghost stories and things that go bump in the night.
  • Meanwhile, professional ghost-finders are set to launch a three-day festival in York dedicated to the things that go bump in the night.
  • You are thinking about things that go bump in the night and monsters under your bed and vampires peering at you through your window.

Words that rhyme with thing

Beijing, bing, bring, Chungking, cling, ding, dingaling, fling, I Ching, king, Kunming, ling, Ming, Nanjing, Peking, ping, ring, sing, Singh, sling, spring, sting, string, swing, Synge, ting, wing, wring, Xining, zing

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