A referent is what a word or symbol stands for. The referent is the concrete thing that’s being referred to, so an actual chair would be the referent of the word chair.

The referent of words such as table or building is pretty clear, but some referents are more abstract, like for the words happiness or danger. The word referent is handy in grammar-land, when you’re trying to figure out how words are being used in a sentence. Also, Frankenstein’s monster could be the referent of monster, experiment gone wrong, or big green guy.

Definitions of referent
  1. noun
    something referred to; the object of a reference
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    the referent of an anaphor; a phrase or clause that is referred to by an anaphoric pronoun
    an actual object referred to by a linguistic expression
    something (whether existing or not) that is referred to by a linguistic expression
    type of:
    import, meaning, significance, signification
    the message that is intended or expressed or signified
  2. noun
    something that refers; a term that refers to another term
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    type of:
    a word or expression used for some particular thing
  3. noun
    the first term in a proposition; the term to which other terms relate
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    type of:
    one of the substantive phrases in a logical proposition
  4. adjective
    having reference
    “judgments referent to the indictment”
    denotative, denotive
    having the power of explicitly denoting or designating or naming
Word Family

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