Date: 1200-1300
Language: Old French
Origin: terme 'edge, limit, end', from Latin terminus


1 noun
term1 S1 W1

in terms of something

if you explain or describe something in terms of a particular fact or event, you are explaining or describing it only in relation to that fact or event
describe/measure/evaluate etc something in terms of something
Femininity is still defined in terms of beauty.
It's a mistake to think of Florida only in terms of its tourist attractions.
It's too early to start talking in terms of casualties.
in terms of what/how/who etc
Did the experiment find any differences in terms of what children learned?

in general/practical/financial etc terms

used to show that you are describing or considering a subject in a particular way or from a particular point of view
in general/broad/simple etc terms
We explain in simple terms what the treatment involves.
It would be wrong to describe society purely in economic terms.
The war, although successful in military terms, left the economy in ruins.
What do these statistics mean in human terms?
in somebody's terms
In our terms, the scheme has not been a success.
in real/absolute terms (=accurate, true, or including any related changes)
Rail fares have fallen 17 per cent in real terms.
in relative terms (=compared with other, similar things)
Students have less money in relative terms, but spend more on books.


[countable] a word or expression with a particular meaning, especially one that is used for a specific subject or type of language
term for
'Multimedia' is the term for any technique combining sounds and images.
legal/medical/technical term
Many legal terms have more than one meaning.
photographs, or to use the technical term, 'half-tones'
It was he who coined (=invented) the term 'anorexia'.
term of abuse/endearment/respect etc (=rude, loving, respectful etc language)
The word 'communist' had become a term of abuse.
in strong/glowing/forthright etc terms (=showing a strong etc emotion or attitude)
I complained to the manager in the strongest possible terms.
His reply was couched in sinister terms.
in no uncertain terms (=language that is very clear and angry)
Journalists were told, in no uncertain terms, that they were not welcome.

➔ a contradiction in terms

at contradiction (3)

period of time

[countable] a fixed period of time during which someone does something or something happens
term in office (=the time someone spends doing an important job in government)
It was always clear that Schmidt's third term in office would prove a difficult one.
term of
the maximum term of imprisonment
The lease runs for a term of 99 years.
prison/jail term
The men each received a 30-year prison term.
fixed/long/short term
a fixed-term contract
In the long term, alcohol causes high blood pressure.
Dad loaned us his car for the short term.


[uncountable and countable] British EnglishSE one of the three periods of time that the school or university year is divided into [↪ half-term]
summer/autumn/spring term
The exams are at the end of the summer term.
Teachers often feel overworked in term time (=during the term).
first/last day of term
that all-important first day of term
! At a British school or university, the year is divided into three terms. At an American university, there are two semesters or three trimesters.


[singular, uncountable] technicalBF the end of a particular period of time [↪ long-term, short-term]:
The agreement reaches its term next year.
a child born two months before full term (=of pregnancy)
The arrangement had outlived its natural term (=the length of time it was expected to exist).

come to terms with something

to accept an unpleasant or sad situation and no longer feel upset or angry about it:
George and Elizabeth have come to terms with the fact that they will never have children.
Counselling helped her come to terms with her grief.



a) the conditions that are set for an agreement, contract, arrangement etc:
Under the terms of the agreement, the debt would be repaid over 20 years.
your terms and conditions of employment
Delivery is within the terms of this contract.
equal/unequal/the same etc terms (=conditions that are equal, unequal etc)
Small businesses have to compete on equal terms with large organisations.
Men and women should be able to work on level terms.
on somebody's (own) terms (=according to the conditions that someone wants)
He wanted our relationship to be only on his terms.
b) BFL the arrangements for payment that you agree to when you buy or sell something
reasonable/favourable/cheaper etc terms
Some insurance companies offer very reasonable terms.
This allowed tenant farmers to buy land on easy terms (=by paying small sums of money over a long period).



[plural] if you are on good, bad etc terms with someone, you have a good, bad etc relationship with them
be on good/bad/friendly etc terms (with somebody)
By now, Usha and I were on familiar terms.
He is barely on speaking terms with his father (=they are angry and almost never speak to each other).
We were soon on first-name terms (=using each other's first names, as a sign of friendship).

terms of reference

formal the subjects that a person or group of people agree to consider:
the committee's terms of reference


[countable] technicalHM one of the numbers or signs used in a mathematical calculation
someone's first name: first name, given name especially AmE, Christian name

someone's family name: family name, last name, surname, maiden name (a woman's family name before she gets married)

the name between your first and last name: middle name

all of the words of someone's name: full name

when someone writes their name: signature, autograph (of a famous person)

a name used instead of someone's real name: nickname a short name used by someone's friends or family
pen name
/pseudonym a name used by a writer
stage name
the name used by an actor
false name
, alias a name used especially by a criminal
under an assumed name
using a false name in order to hide your identity

the name of a thing: title the name of a book, film, picture etc
common name
the name for a plant, animal, substance etc used by ordinary people
scientific name
the name used by scientists
a word or phrase used in technical contexts

See also

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