particle
Pronunciation
  • (RP) IPA: /ˈpɑːtɪk(ə)l/
  • (America) IPA: /ˈpɑɹtɪkəl/

Noun

particle (plural particles)

  1. A very small piece of matter, a fragment; especially, the smallest possible part of something. [from 14th c.]
  2. (physics) Any of various physical objects making up the constituent parts of an atom; an elementary particle or subatomic particle. [from 19th c.]
    • 2011, Brian Cox (physicist) & Jeff Forshaw, The Quantum Universe, Allen Lane 2011, p. 55:
      What, he asked himself, does quantum theory have to say about the familiar properties of particles such as position?
  3. (linguistics) A word that has a particular grammatical function but does not obviously belong to any particular part of speech, such as the word to in English infinitives or O as a vocative particle.
    • In English there is no grammatical device to differentiate predicational judgments from nonpredicational descriptions. This distinction does cast a shadow on the grammatical sphere to some extent, but recognition of it must generally be made in semantic terms. It is maintained here that in Japanese, on the other hand, the distinction is grammatically realized through the use of the two particles wa and ga.
      Traditional grammar typically recognises a number of further categories: for example, in his Reference Book of Terms in Traditional Grammar for Language Students, Simpson (1982) posits two additional word-level categories which he refers to as Particle, and Conjunction. Particles include the italicised words in (58) below:
      (a) He put his hat on
      (b) If you pull too hard, the handle will come off
      (c) He was leaning too far over the side, and fell out
      (d) He went up to see the manager
  4. (linguistics) A part of speech which cannot be inflected: an adverb, preposition, conjunction or interjection.
    • 1844, E. A. Andrews: First Lessions in Latin; or Introduction to Andrews and Stoddard's Latin Grammar. (6th edition, Boston), p.91 (at books.google ↗)
      322. The parts of speech which are neither declined nor conjugated, are called by the general name of particles. 323. They are adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
    • 1894 (2008), B. L. Gildersleeve & G. Lodge: Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar (reprint of the 3rd edition by Dover, 2008), p.9. (at books.google ↗)
      The Parts of Speech are the Noun (Substantive and Adjective), the Pronoun, the Verb, and the Particles (Adverb, Preposition, and Conjunction)[.]
  5. (Christianity) In the Roman Catholic church, a crumb of consecrated bread; also the smaller breads used in the communion of the laity.
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