or key word



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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for key-word

Historical Examples of key-word

  • Three keys in this bunch; a key-time, a key-book, and a key-word.

  • 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

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

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