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or key word

[kee-wurd] /ˈkiˌwɜrd/
a word that serves as a key, as to the meaning of another word, a sentence, passage, or the like.
a word used to encipher or decipher a cryptogram, as a pattern for a transposition procedure or the basis for a complex substitution.
Also called catchword. Library Science. a significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of a document or other item being indexed, used as the index entry.
Digital Technology. a word used to classify or organize digital content, or to facilitate an online search for information: Search the database for the keyword “Ireland.”.
Origin of keyword
First recorded in 1855-60; key1 + word Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for key-word
Historical Examples
  • Three keys in this bunch; a key-time, a key-book, and a key-word.

    Quiet Talks on Power S.D. Gordon
  • The moment he let fall this key-word, “Politics,” I began to suspect that he was right.

    A Diplomatic Adventure S. Weir Mitchell
  • Co-operation is the key-word, the essence, the very soul of Solaris Farm.

    Solaris Farm

    Milan C. Edson
  • And without the key-word or key-sentence we shall never be any wiser than we are.

    In Jeopardy Van Tassel Sutphen
  • The key-word of Christianity is love, and its message is grace.

    The Religions of Japan William Elliot Griffis
  • I fancy I've had the key-word all the while and never realized it.

  • Meanwhile what are you doing as to the French key-word—trying for it?

  • Our agreement is that if I provide the key-word, he will provide the letter in question.

  • The key-word of the telephone development of to-day is this—organization.

    The History of the Telephone Herbert N. Casson
  • Assume that the message to be transmitted is: "To-morrow sure," and that the key-word is: "In the inn."

British Dictionary definitions for key-word


a word used as a key to a code
any significant word or phrase, esp a word used to describe the contents of a document
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for key-word



also key-word, 1807, from key (n.1) + word (n.). Originally in reference to codes and ciphers.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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