General English


  • noun a synonym for scene, kick, vibe or trip in the sense of main activity or preferred ambience. This item of raffish or hip usage (originating in the USA, probably in the 1940s) has become a well-established colloquialism in such phrases as ‘it’s not really my thing’.

Origin & History of “thing”

The ancestral meaning of thing is ‘time’: it goes back to a prehistoric Germanic *thingam, which was related to Gothic theihs ‘time’, and may come ultimately from the Indo-European base *ten- ‘stretch’ (source of English tend, tense, etc). In Germanic it evolved semantically via ‘appointed time’ to ‘judicial or legislative assembly’. this was the meaning it originally had in English, and it survives in other Germanic languages (the Icelandic parliament is known as the Althing, literally ‘general assembly’). In English, however, it moved on through ‘subject for discussion at such an assembly’ to ‘subject in general, affair, matter’ and finally ‘entity, object’. (The ancient meaning ‘assembly’ is preserved in fossilized form in English husting, etymologically a ‘house assembly’).