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1605. Learned borrowing from Latin collocātiō (a putting together). By surface analysis, col- (together) +‎ location. The technical sense in linguistics was established in 1951, although it may actually be earlier.



Examples (linguistics)
  • strong tea
  • heavy drinker
  • high-throughput sequencing
  • congestive heart failure

collocation (countable and uncountable, plural collocations)

  1. (uncountable) The grouping or juxtaposition of things, especially words or sounds.
    • 1869, Friedrich Max Müller, Lectures on the Science of Language delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in April, May, and June, 1861, 2nd ed, Scribner, p 288:
      Everything in fact depends in Chinese on the proper collocation of words in a sentence. Thus ngò tà ni means “I beat thee;” but ni tà ngò would mean “Thou beatest me.”
    • 1931, H. P. Lovecraft, chapter 6, in The Whisperer in Darkness:
      It drowsed like the older New England cities which one remembers from boyhood, and something in the collocation of roofs and steeples and chimneys and brick walls formed contours touching deep viol-strings of ancestral emotion.
  2. (countable) Such a specific grouping.
    • 1880, William Dwight Whitney, Richard Morris, Language and its study, with especial reference to the Indo-European family, 2nd ed, Trübner & Co., p 56:
      We said at first breāk fâst—“I broke fast at such an hour this morning:” he, or they, who first ventured to say I breakfasted were guilty of as heinous a violation of grammatical rule as he would be who should now declare I takedinnered, instead of I took dinner; but good usage came over to their side and ratified the blunder, because the community were minded to give a specific name to their earliest meal and to the act of partaking of it, and therefore converted the collocation breākfâst into the real compound brĕakfast.
  3. (linguistics, translation studies) A sequence of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance (i.e., the statistically significant placement of particular words in a language), often representing an established name for, or idiomatic way of conveying, a particular semantic concept.
    Hyponyms: noun phrase, multiword term, open compound term, verb phrase, adjective phrase
    • 1917, Otto Jespersen, Negation in English and Other Languages, Copenhagen: A.F. Høst, page 39:
      Little and few are also incomplete negatives; note the frequent collocation with no: there is little or no danger.
    • 1938, H.E. Palmer, A Grammar of English Words, Longmans, Green:
      [subtitle] One thousand English words and their pronunciation, together with information concerning the several meanings of each word, its inflections and derivatives, and the collocations and phrases into which it enters.
    • 1951, John Rupert Firth, Papers in linguistics, 1934–1951, Oxford University Press, page 194:
      I propose to bring forward as a technical term, meaning by ‘collocation’, and to apply the test of ‘collocability’.
    • 1968, John Rupert Firth, Frank Robert Palmer, Selected Papers of J.R. Firth, 1952-1959, Longmans, page 181:
      Collocations of a given word are statements of the habitual or customary places of that word in a collocational order but not in any other contextual order and emphatically not in grammatical order
    • 1995, Paul Kussmaul, Training the Translator, Benjamins Translation Library, page 17:
      The problem here was the translation of "period" by German "Periode". In describing the symptoms we may say that in connection with "Schlaf" the German word "Phase" would have been a better collocation.
    • 2004, Sabine Bartsch, Structural and Functional Properties of Collocations in English: A Corpus Study of Lexical and Pragmatic Constraints on Lexical Co-Occurrence, Gunter Narr Verlag, page 30:
      It is not entirely clear who was the first linguist to use the term collocation in the sense of a recurrent, relatively fixed word combination. Among the first linguists to base a theory of meaning on the notion of “meaning by collocation” is J.R. Firth (1957) who is commonly credited with systematically introducing the concept of collocation into linguistic theory.
    • 2006, Tony McEnery, Richard Xiao, Yukio Tono, Corpus-Based Language Studies: An Advanced Resource Book, Taylor & Francis:
      [p 56] The term collocation refers to the characteristic co-occurrence patterns of words, i.e., which words typically co-occur in corpus data (see Units A10.2 and C1). Collocates can be lexical words or grammatical words. Collocations are identified using a statistical approach. Three statistical formulae are most commonly used in corpus linguistics to identify significant collocations: the M1 (mutual information), t and z scores.
      [p 159] In lexical studies collocation and semantic prosody/preference can only be quantified reliably on the basis of corpus data.
  4. (mathematics) A method of finding an approximate solution of an ordinary differential equation by determining coefficients in an expansion so as to make vanish at prescribed points; the expansion with the coefficients thus found is the sought approximation.
  5. (computing) A service allowing multiple customers to locate network, server, and storage gear and connect them to a variety of telecommunications and network service providers, at a minimum of cost and complexity.
    • 2011, "Tyler Durden", Zero Hedge, Watch Bernanke's Q&A With FOMC Approved Sycophants Live Here:
      As usual, nothing of significance will be asked, and most certainly, answered, but do expect the dollar (and, inversely, ES) to go up, then down, then up, and so forth as random vacuum tubes blow in NYSE's ultramodern Mahwah collocation facility.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • common collocation
  • strong collocation


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]



Learned borrowing from Latin collocātiōnem (a putting together).



collocation f (plural collocations)

  1. collocation


  • Polish: kolokacja

Further reading[edit]