One thing I’ve taken note of while living in Brazil, is that Brazilians have no idea how to use the slang term “word,” which is extremely common in informal American use of English. Are you one of them?
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Pop quiz: What are five different uses for the word “word?
If you didn’t already know of these five uses for “word” then you’re like 99.9% of all non-native English speaker, but today you can move on step closer.
Word means more than just “palavra.” Besides meaning a group of letters that make up sentences, word also has many other meanings.
“Word,” when used correctly, can be one of the most colorful and versatile words in the English language. Similar to the word “fuck,” “word” can be used to mean many different things. It is one of the rare words that can mean exact opposites, depending on context, tone, and body language.
“Word” is also one of the most complicated words in the English language, simply because it has so many uses. To tell the difference between it’s many uses, you really need to pay attention to the context and intonation of the speaker.
Informal Uses of “Word”
1. Word can mean okay or just to communicate that you heard them.
- “I’ll be there in 5 minutes.”
- “I’m going to the store, I’ll be back later.”
Note: Here it’s usually said quickly and indifferently.
2. Word can mean cool, like:
- “I got an A on my test.”
Note: Here it’s used with a little more excitement, and it’s a little more drawn out.
3. Word can be used in an annoyed or indifferent way, like yeah, whatever:
- “Hey man, you forgot to clean up.”
- “I’m going to hang out with John (someone you don’t like).”
Note: Here it’s used often with the roll of the eyes, and in annoyed sound in their voice. It’s also a little drawn out.
4. Word can be used to show disbelief, like “really?”:
- “Yo, I got a new car.”
5. Word up is also sometimes used, but it has a slightly different meaning. It can mean I agree with what you’re saying, usually with some enthusiasm.
- “Real Life English is amazing!”
6. To put words in your mouth means to falsely or inaccurately report what you said.
- “Hey man, that’s not what I said. You’re putting words in my mouth.“
7. To take the words out of my mouth means I was thinking the exact same thing.
- “I was just about to say that! You took the words right out of my mouth.”
8. Word on the street is a rumor or piece of information that is currently being talked about.
- “Word on the street is Chad has a fan club.”
9. Word to the wise is a hint or brief explanation given.
- “Word to the wise, don’t go through the favelas in a BMW.”
Less Informal Uses of “Word”
10. To give your word means to tell the truth:
- “Will you be here when I get back? Give me your word.”
11. Don’t take my word for it is to trust what is being said:
- “Papaya is delicious, but don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.
12. Keep your word, do what you have promised.
- “Josh gave his word to not eat meat for 30 days.
- “Remember Josh, you said you would go on a vegetarian diet for 30 days, keep your word.
13. To have a word is to have a quick conversation, to speak briefly.
- “I have some news, can I have a word with you real quick?”
14. In other words, to express something in a different way. In other words is often abbreviated as i.e.
- “I got drunk at the bar last night, so in other words I’m getting better at holding my liquor.”
15. Just say the word means I am at your service, just tell me when you want to be served.
- “Would you like some water?”
“Not now, maybe later.”
“Just say the word.”
16. Word of mouth is when Information passed through people talking, not through the written language.
- “Capoeira was passed down through word of mouth.”
17. Words fail me / at a loss for words means to be unable to speak. Often used to express disbelief or dismay.
- “Words fail me, I don’t know what to say…” or “I can’t believe he did that, I’m at a loss for words…”
18. In your own words means to say it as you think it.
- In your own words, what does chapter 12 say?
Word is a dynamic, colorful word that is used quite often in both the spoken and written language of English. Because of it’s versatility, proper usage will make the speaker seem quite advanced.
To get some practice using these different phrases, feel free to make a comment putting one of more of these different uses into practice and have your work corrected by a native speaker.
Another important thing you can do is just pay attention to the way it’s used in films and TV shows. Plus, if you live in Belo Horizonte, be sure to come to our RLE events. Join the community and you’ll be invited to our next event (Saturday August 11!)
If you have any questions about what was written above, or would like more details about a certain use, just say the word. 😉
Get a free copy of 101 Words You’ll Never Learn in School, an ebook that teaches you many slang words and phrases like what was written above. Click the above link for more information.
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