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Not to be confused with the homophone intention; or the related concept of intentionality.

In linguistics, logic, philosophy, and other fields, an intension is any property or quality connoted by a word, phrase or other symbol. In the case of a word, it is often implied by its definition. The term may also refer to the complete set of meanings or properties that are implied by a concept, although the term comprehension is technically more correct for this.

Intension is generally discussed with regard to extension (or denotation). Intension refers to the set of all possible things a word or phrase could describe, extension to the set of all actual things the word describes. For example, the intension of a car is the all-inclusive concept of a car, including, for example, mile-long cars made of chocolate that may not actually exist. But the extension of 'car' is all actual instances of cars (past, present, and future), which will amount to millions or billions of cars, but probably does not include any mile-long cars made of chocolate.

The meaning of a word can be thought of as the bond between the idea or thing the word refers to and the word itself. Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure contrasts three concepts:

Intension is analogous to the signified, extension to the referent. The intension thus links the signifier to the sign's extension. Without intension of some sort, words can have no meaning.

See also

  • Comprehension
  • Description Logic
  • Intensional definition
  • Intensional statement


  • Ferdinand De Saussure: Course in General Linguistics. Open Court Classics, July 1986. ISBN 0-812-69023-0
    • S. E. Palmer, Vision Science: From Photons to Phenomenology, 1999. MIT Press, ISBN 78-0262161831
Meaning for psychologists
Aspects of meaning
Associative processes | Linguistic meaning | Non-linguistic meaning | Semiotics | Meaning as knowledge | Meaning as epistemology | Meaning as values | Meaning as a value system | Semiosis | Meaning as definition | |[[Meaning as the relationship between Ontology and Truth]] |;|[[]] | |[[]] |[[]] |
Approaches to Meaning
General semantics | Semantics | Social construction of meaning | Verifiability theory of meaning |
Fine grain aspects
Analogy | Connotations | Contextual associations |Denotation | Extension |Extensional definition | Figurative language |Intensional definition | Metacommunicative competence | Metaphor |Semantic generalization |Subtext | Word meaning |
Meaning in clinical settings * Comprehension (logic)
Interpretation | Reframing (NLP) | Cognitive therapy |Therapeutic metaphor | Insight |Insight phenomenology | Existential therapy |Narrative therapy |
Techniques for evaluating meaning
Discourse analysis | Hermeneutics | Content analysis |
Prominant workers in The field of meaning|-
[[]] | Saussure | [[]] | [[]] |

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