The examination of what words mean; a form of scholarship much applied to the Bible in the second half of the 20th cent. Account is taken of the context and situation of words and phrases; the same word may have different connotations in various biblical passages (elohim, which can mean ‘God’ or ‘gods’, is such a word in Hebrew) or a word may change its meaning as between its being uttered by a prophet and subsequently incorporated in the book of his oracles.