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In language, a word is the smallest element that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content (with literal or practical meaning). this contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own. a word may consist of a single morpheme, or several (rocks, redness, quickly, running, unexpected), whereas a morpheme may not be able to stand on its own as a word (in the words just mentioned, these are -s, -ness, -ly, -ing, un-, -ed).