I would have typed a clearer question in the title, but it would have been way too long.

By "static," I mean a word or phrase that refers to one object, and one object only. ex.

  • The Eiffel Tower
  • The United States of America
  • Bill Gates

By "dynamic," I mean something for which the closest analogy I can think of is a UNIX symlink. ex.

  • The current president of the US (sort of like a symlink to Donald Trump, where Donald Trump is a "static" noun)
  • The pen on the table (again, like a symlink. Unlike the above, there is no canonical name to refer to this object).
  • My phone
  • Tonight (refers to a period of time, which in this case might be 20180708 190000 - 230000 EST)

Does this difference exist as a linguistic notion? Again, the best analogy I can come up with is comparing a UNIX file (of any type other than symlink) and a UNIX symlink.

  • 1
    For starters, this kind of thing is covered by semantics. Your distinction is basically the difference between intension and extension. Jul 9, 2018 at 2:38
  • @JeremyNeedle Is the material covered by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensional_and_intensional_definitions what you mean? If so, I do not see how intension and extension have to do with my question. Jul 10, 2018 at 2:34
  • It's true that they're not precisely congruent, but I think they adequately cover your terms (and a lot more). I'm afraid I'm not a semanticist, so I'm not going to be able to get more elaborate here. I recommend you poke around some more. Look here under Kripke: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_reference_theory Jul 10, 2018 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


In the philosophy of language and modal logic, the conceptions you label "static" and "dynamic" are called rigid designator and flaccid designator respecively.

  • Awesome. Exactly what I was looking for. Jul 12, 2018 at 1:03

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