[ kawr-puhs ]
/ ˈkɔr pəs /
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noun, plural cor·po·ra [kawr-per-uh] /ˈkɔr pər ə/ or, sometimes, cor·pus·es.
a large or complete collection of writings: the entire corpus of Old English poetry.
the body of a person or animal, especially when dead.
Anatomy. a body, mass, or part having a special character or function.
Linguistics. a body of utterances, as words or sentences, assumed to be representative of and used for lexical, grammatical, or other linguistic analysis.
a principal or capital sum, as opposed to interest or income.
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Origin of corpus

First recorded in 1225–75; Middle English, from Latin


core, corps, corpse, corpus
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does corpus mean?

Corpus most commonly refers to a large or comprehensive collection of creative works, such as all of the writings of a particular author.

An artist’s corpus is their body of work, and in fact the word corpus comes from the Latin word meaning “body.” (This Latin word appears in the well-known legal phrase habeas corpus, meaning “(you may) have the body.”)

More generally, corpus is used in English to refer to the main body, section, or substance of something.

The word is used in a more specific way in linguistics to refer to an entire set of a particular linguistic element within a language, such as words or sentences.

It’s also used in several more specific ways in the context of anatomy in the names of body parts.

The correct plural of corpus can be either corpora or corpuses. (Other Latin-derived words can be pluralized in the same way as corpora.)

Example: Instead of devoting my dissertation to examining a specific theme throughout her corpus, I decided to focus on a single work.

Where does corpus come from?

The first records of the use of the word corpus in English come from the 1200s. It comes from the Latin corpus, meaning “body.” This root forms the basis of many words pertaining to the body or referring to a body in the sense of a group, such as corpse and corps.

Corpus most commonly refers to a collection of texts of a particular author or within some category. The corpus of Shakespeare, for example, is the collection of everything he ever wrote. The word collection here doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all kept in one place like a library or a database—it simply refers to everything in existence that fits into that category.

The word corpus isn’t only used for a collection of works by a single author, or even written works. Corpora can exist for all kinds of topics, time periods, and works.

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What are some other forms related to corpus?

  • corpora (plural)
  • corpuses (plural)

What are some synonyms for corpus?

What are some words that share a root or word element with corpus

What are some words that often get used in discussing corpus?


How is corpus used in real life?

Corpus is most often used in an academic context in the analysis of literature, but it can be used in many other situations.





Try using corpus!

Which of the following terms could be used in reference to a corpus

A. collection
B. compilation
C. body of work
D. all of the above

How to use corpus in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for corpus

/ (ˈkɔːpəs) /

noun plural -pora (-pərə)

Word Origin for corpus

C14: from Latin: body
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