Let me elaborate. A little while after answering a question I came back to check on it and noticed that is was put on-hold. Then I read the hold box and it read, "[b]asic questions on spelling, meaning or pronunciation are off-topic." Then I thought wait isn't "meaning" listed under the "[w]hat topics can I ask about here?" post in the help center. So I had a look and it was.

Here the the screen shots:

Question: enter image description here

Help Center: enter image description here

Maybe this is a mistake, or why is "meaning" both allowed an not allowed?

1 Answer 1


The two aren't contradictory.

The problem here is a more wordy reading can't fit there, because as far as I'm concerned, there's a limited area in the "help center" that moderators can modify, and the rest are topics that are discussed the same way across different SE sites.

There are some "meaning" questions we don't allow, and some we do. The ones we don't are, just like non-allowed questions in any other topic, questions that don't align well with the site's mission.

We don't want to replace a dictionary. That's one of the things our site definitely doesn't want to be. Sure, helping out learners is good, but becoming a dictionary for them isn't helping them.

Thus, we close meaning questions that can be looked up in a dictionary and be answered. This is usually off-topic:

What's the meaning of [word]?

The governors are perplexed trying to [word] foreign ambassadors. — GNN

What does [word] mean in the sentence above?

Usually, any other meaning questions whose answers aren't going to help anyone are closed as well:

What does "woudl" mean?

If only I could save some money, I woudl have bought a new car.

This is a sentence a native speaker used in a chat, so it must be flawless, right? So, what does "woudl" mean?

The question above is just about a typo; it's unlikely to help future visitors.

Having said all that, there are quite some questions that are acceptable on ELL, even perhaps more than what's not. You could've looked up the tag and see this is definitely about meaning and definitely acceptable. It's about something a simple Google search or a dictionary would not tell you reliably.

  • 5
    Yes, exactly. Questions about meaning are definitely allowed, but we usually close basic questions about meaning that are entirely answerable by a dictionary. It can be hard to draw the line between the two sometimes, but that's the idea behind the close reason.
    – user230
    Mar 3, 2017 at 10:36
  • 5
    Here's the best way to ask a meaning question and keep it open and immune from closure: (a) look up the words in the dictionary, (b) share what you found from those lookups as part of your question, and (c) clearly explain why the dictionary definitions have failed to clear up your confusion. Clearly your 'read' vs 'reed' question failed to do that on all three fronts.
    – J.R. Mod
    Mar 3, 2017 at 18:33

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