Semantic discord

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Semantic discord is the situation where two parties disagree on the definition of a word or several words essential to communicating or formulating any concept at issue. The two parties basically understand two different meanings for the word, or they associate the word with different concepts. Consequently, their disagreeing on these definitions explains why there is a dispute at all. Semantic discord most often arises due to differences in the cultural backgrounds or professional fields of the communicators. Any word or instance of communication that has its effectiveness reduced due to semantic discord is said to be semantically loaded. Semantic disputes are arguments that arise over terms due to semantic discord.


An airplane crashes on a tropical island inhabited by primitives who believe that fire makes everything better. The plane can be repaired if a new propeller could be carved out of local wood. The pilot then attempts to enlist the help of the natives. But as soon as they discover the pilot is attempting to improve the status of the airplane, they set torches to it—because "repair," "improve," "fix" and other such words in this case have different meanings to each of the parties involved. They are semantically loaded terms.

Another example of semantic discord can be found in N-rays under Pathological science.

Avoiding semantic discord is a particular difficulty for language translators.

See also