Definition of token in US English:



  • 1A thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of a fact, quality, feeling, etc.

    ‘I wanted to offer you a small token of my appreciation’
    ‘mistletoe was cut from an oak tree as a token of good fortune’
    • ‘It is clear that these costumes were worn as tokens of stately ostentation and to display the authority of the wearer.’
    • ‘In general, most objectors dismissed it as a ceremonial or symbolic token; an expression of faith, like a crucifix, except it was a blade that could cut, maim and harm.’
    • ‘His work was almost always meant to have the quality of a personal token, rather than that of an object for public display.’
    • ‘And he declined to accept the token of recognition conferred on him by the Academy.’
    • ‘Engagement rings are merely tokens of esteem that two people have for one another.’
    • ‘Well, for Hollywood couples, the most cherished token of their union isn't always the ring, it is the prenup.’
    • ‘The stickers go on their T-shirts and watching the tots rush about showing their stickers to each-other and to their proud mums, it's obvious how much this little token of achievement means.’
    • ‘The number eight is a token of fortune in Chinese and has special favour across the country.’
    • ‘Symbol systems can arise only in close-knit social groups, for the symbols are meaningful only as tokens in interactions with others.’
    • ‘The knoll near the Pentagon and the parks in lower Manhattan have filled with flowers and tokens of remembrance.’
    • ‘A committee of women collected donations from all over the state to fund the design and production of a sterling silver commemorative token, a loving cup.’
    • ‘The only secrets in Freemasonry are the signs, grips and tokens of recognition and even these were revealed decades ago.’
    • ‘Except for a few very visible tokens, the voices and lives of women are trivialized, if not simply cropped out of the scene altogether, and this is the crux of the problem.’
    • ‘The day had a very symbolic beginning when the school principal handed over a golden key, a token of authority, to the student principal.’
    • ‘But meantime there are signs, tokens, foretastes of the final Kingdom, which in themselves provide powerful support for Christian congregations in their sacrificial work.’
    • ‘There are no faded flags or hand-painted signs of national unity, no simple tokens of remembrance.’
    • ‘In the 1800s, puzzle purses became popular: the Valentine was carefully folded, so its recipient had to refold it to read the messages and find the love tokens concealed therein.’
    • ‘A ring, sword, and sceptre were delivered as tokens of authority and the anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ chanted.’
    • ‘The custom of sending love tokens goes back hundreds of years, but reached extreme levels in Victorian times where precious items were sent as tokens of forbidden love.’
    • ‘Such heartening gestures are subtle but meaningful tokens of unity.’
    symbol, sign, emblem, badge, representation, indication, mark, index, manifestation, expression, pledge, demonstration, recognition
    memento, souvenir, keepsake, reminder, record, trophy, relic, remembrance, memorial
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic A characteristic or distinctive sign or mark, especially a badge or favor worn to indicate allegiance to a particular person or party.
      ribbon, rosette, badge
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2archaic A word or object conferring authority on or serving to authenticate the speaker or holder.
    3. 1.3 A staff or other object given to a locomotive engineer on a single-track railroad as authority to proceed over a given section of line.
  • 2A voucher that can be exchanged for goods or services, typically one given as a gift or offered as part of a promotional offer.

    ‘redeem this token for a free dessert’
    • ‘If you are a reader of these papers and would like to pass on the tokens, the students would be most appreciative.’
    • ‘They are currently running a special promotion which involves collecting tokens over a number of weeks.’
    • ‘Freshers' packs are usually given out by Student Union reps and they will contain a book full of tokens for free food and half price travel, clothes and books etc.’
    • ‘More records and record tokens would be given this Yuletide than ever before.’
    • ‘So if your budget stretches to it, a book or record token or gift voucher as well may not go amiss.’
    • ‘For example, you may be entitled to milk tokens if you're receiving benefits, or you may be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant.’
    • ‘In addition, a petition signed by 525 people living in rural areas is asking the council to give pensioners a choice between tokens and half-fare bus passes.’
    • ‘School management and teachers say a sincere thank you to all the parents and pupils who collected the tokens.’
    • ‘The estate had its own import and export facilities, and the workers were paid in tokens to be exchanged for goods in the company store.’
    • ‘When she turned round, the bag, which contained nearly £300 cash and a milk token, had been swiped.’
    • ‘Keep and use all the coupons and tokens you get free, but only if they're for items you would buy anyway.’
    • ‘British banks have given away CD tokens, student rail cards and money boxes in an effort to woo new customers.’
    • ‘Nicole received a book token for outstanding effort.’
    • ‘Prize-winners received book tokens and were treated to an interesting talk on how the murals were painted.’
    • ‘Milk tokens can be exchanged for powdered baby milk or fresh milk.’
    • ‘Anyone who has the opportunity to collect tokens is asked to donate them to the local primary school.’
    • ‘The tokens will be exchanged for equipment for the school.’
    • ‘The other two section winners each receive £75 shopping vouchers and leisure tokens as well as a trophy.’
    • ‘Refugee mothers don't even get the milk tokens that mothers on benefit are entitled to.’
    voucher, coupon, chit, docket, stamp, order, credit note, iou
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    1. 2.1 A metal or plastic disk used to operate a machine or in exchange for particular goods or services.
      • ‘To play you will need to buy a token from one of the wait staff in the casino.’
      • ‘An arcade usually includes a change machine, a vending machine that dispenses the change or tokens kids need to play the games.’
      • ‘Also, to enter the car park one drives up to the barrier, obtains a token from a machine - rather like entering a car wash - and then uses it to board the bus.’
      • ‘They want you to spend hours plugging the machines with tokens.’
      • ‘The couple say they got into trouble when a woman and her Jamaican boyfriend gave them tokens for gambling machines in a casino during the holiday.’
      • ‘Also I got my commuter rail and subway tokens for Boston area trips in advance; that way I didn't have to worry about that at the end of the trip.’
      • ‘It turned out that the machine takes tokens, not coins, and those tokens are only given by stores in the mall.’
      • ‘They were operated by tokens rather than money.’
      • ‘The kid said he wanted to go home, and the coach handed him a subway token.’
      • ‘To use this, one only has to obtain a token at the barrier before entering, park the car and then show the token to the bus driver.’
      • ‘After the war, he worked for the New York Mass Transit Authority, selling tokens from booths in various subway stations.’
      • ‘Digging out his last subway token, he drifted along in their wake.’
      • ‘This sort of system operates in several other cities which have park and ride services, where the bus rider purchases a token before boarding the bus and inserts this token in a machine to exit.’
      • ‘The hotel said the smart card technology allows for smart gaming and the inconvenience of queuing at the cash desk for tokens is no longer necessary.’
      • ‘On return, one simply inserts the token into a machine or goes to a kiosk and pays the fee (£1 last time I used it).’
      • ‘Her birthday party was held at a game arcade where you trade coins for tokens and you play at game machines with the tokens.’
      • ‘Aluminum was in short supply during World War II, so they were replaced by plastic tokens, and then finally discarded in 1951.’
      • ‘The gaming system avoids having to use coins or tokens in the operation of slot machines.’
      • ‘Benjamin put his token into the machine and got on the nearest train.’
      • ‘When you first put in your coins, tokens or tickets, you hear a telephone ring.’
      counter, disc, substitute coin, jetton, chip, piece, man
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  • 3Linguistics
    An individual occurrence of a linguistic unit in speech or writing, as contrasted with the type or class of linguistic unit of which it is an instance.

    Contrasted with type
    • ‘In other words, speech sounds are merely the arbitrary tokens whereby linguistic exchange is carried out.’
    • ‘As we increase the size of the corpus, the number of tokens of the morpheme will obviously increase.’
    • ‘The percentage of tokens covered in this small academic corpus did not differ substantially from the percentage of tokens covered in the first part.’
    • ‘Both the tokens and the types, however, are unreflectingly spoken of as words.’
    • ‘The ratio of adjectives to total word tokens in that effective snippet of prose, by the way, is an unusually high 40 percent.’
    1. 3.1Computing The smallest meaningful unit of information in a sequence of data for a compiler.
      • ‘The operator starts with a literal hyphen, which is followed by a variable token, an expression and an optional block.’
  • 4Computing
    A sequence of bits passed continuously between nodes in a fixed order and enabling a node to transmit information.

    • ‘The first field of bytes which is of fixed length is always present in every message and taken together, these bytes represent a unique message identifier called a token.’
    • ‘The gateway then validates the token with the auth server.’
    • ‘The second: character (before txbi) causes the token to be interpreted as an HFS file type.’
    • ‘This might involve the use of tokens or hard-to-break passwords, but the most important thing is that it is designed into how the applications are accessed and used in day-to-day work.’
    • ‘This is typically done with a unique identifier such as a user name, ID card or a token.’
  • 5A member of a minority group included in an otherwise homogeneous set of people in order to give the appearance of diversity.

    ‘the next black actor or actress selected won't know if it's because of their ability and performance or if they're just a token’


  • 1attributive Done for the sake of appearances or as a symbolic gesture.

    ‘cases like these often bring just token fines from the courts’
    • ‘There were a half dozen or so public works, most token gestures at best, located in both towns.’
    • ‘In response to growing public concern over the plight of the unemployed graduates, the government has made a few token moves to provide jobs.’
    • ‘But even the head acknowledges that her school is beyond such token gestures.’
    • ‘The government would take a tough stand and then make a token concession.’
    • ‘Instead of giving large numbers of students token payments of $100 to $200, we are giving more students real financial support.’
    • ‘I find the whole thing completely irresponsible, and this bill is just a token measure.’
    • ‘How does an apathetic agnostic even begin to redress a quarter-century of token gestures and guest appearances at church?’
    • ‘There is a token amount that this Government is setting aside for the rest of the country, but most of the money raised will be spent on Aucklanders.’
    • ‘It is not surprising therefore that their affiliated unions are only making a token effort to oppose the government's plan.’
    • ‘Despite token opposition to this clause from France, Germany and Mexico, the three countries abstained in the voting, enabling the resolution to be passed.’
    • ‘But, under intense pressure from the military, the courts imposed only token sentences.’
    • ‘The strikers held a march and observed a token hunger strike.’
    • ‘Instead, a so-called ‘hardship fund’ was established to provide token support for those receiving the lowest pensions.’
    • ‘These largely token measures have done little to quell public anger at the violent actions of the police.’
    • ‘When she left her last job, she was offered a token 300 pesos severance pay.’
    • ‘But opposition by the government and big business to anything but a token pay increase has nothing to do with concern for the unemployed.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, Labor is just as anxious as the government to push the legislation through, albeit with token amendments.’
    • ‘The police made no more than a token effort to disguise their enthusiasm for the militia cause.’
    • ‘Neither side called him, and he made one token appearance at the trial.’
    • ‘The strike was little more than a token protest by the union and had little effect on the company's flight schedules.’
    symbolic, emblematic, indicative
    perfunctory, slight, nominal, minimal, insignificant, minor, trivial, mild, hollow, unimportant, trifling, of no account, of no consequence, of no importance, not worth bothering about, not worth mentioning, inconsequential, superficial, small, tiny, minute, inappreciable, imperceptible, infinitesimal, nugatory, petty
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Denoting a member of a minority group included in an otherwise homogeneous set of people in order to give the appearance of diversity.
      ‘the patronizing treatment of the token Middle Eastern character’
      • ‘The second problem is that there is no way to police if the teams are just interviewing these minorities as token candidates to fit under the guidelines.’
      • ‘I really feel he rounds out the cast well, not because he's the token minority but because he plays the loyal friend to the hilt.’
      • ‘Less predictable, however, was the special appearance by a token white girl for some gratuitous booty shaking.’
      • ‘She says U.S. companies boast diversity by including one token minority in advertisements and on TV shows.’
      • ‘A funny, feisty couple, they joke about being token minority characters.’
      • ‘Audiences who had grown tired of hackneyed devices and betting on which token minority would die first had spoken with their wallets.’
      • ‘All that teams such as the 49ers have to do now is parade around two or three token black candidates and then bring in the white candidate they wanted all along.’
      • ‘Too many companies have only token representatives of a diverse group.’


  • by the same (or that or this) token

    • In the same way or for the same reason.

      ‘there was little evidence to substantiate the gossip and, by the same token, there was little to disprove it’
      • ‘Meritocracy says we make our own luck and deserve success; by the same token, nobodies deserve their misery.’
      • ‘A success is a total triumph - an amazing exhilaration - but by the same token, anything less is a complete disaster.’
      • ‘Pressure is a funny thing - it can be used as a very positive force and by the same token, can be very destructive.’
      • ‘We must keep in mind that a settlement bill, while it brings to a conclusion a certain phase of a tribe's seeking to have injustice righted, by the same token also represents a beginning.’
      • ‘There's the possibility that it has, but by the same token there's the possibility that it hasn't.’
      • ‘It is convenient to claim that what goes on in other countries is no business of ours and by the same token that foreigners should keep their noses out of what happens inside our borders.’
      • ‘We're not trying to make a point of being laid-back but, by the same token, you do not want to be gratuitously intense, because that becomes your message.’
      • ‘Popularity need not be equated with the destruction of intellectual values and, by the same token, accessibility need not threaten traditional archival and custodial roles.’
      • ‘But by the same token, the referees would lose more than just face if they were to cause hundreds of players to remain idle at the start of the season.’
      • ‘If the spectacle of the vanity of the self makes us laugh, it makes us cry by the same token, because we are saddened by the great illusions of freedom that the self hoards.’
  • in token of

    • As a sign or symbol of.

      ‘we bought each other drinks in token of the holiday season’
      • ‘He was joined by disciples, the first members of the Franciscan order for which he drew up the rule in 1209, the principal characteristic of which was humility, in token of which they called themselves ‘Friari Minori’.’
      • ‘The fellow was truly smitten, since he risked his job to give Carolyn a smidgen of moon dust in token of his adoration.’
      • ‘All the performers wore cloth caps, in token of the proletarian poet whose doggerel verses about the Tay Bridge and its collapse in 1879 provided the work's text.’
      • ‘When a defeated combatant pats or hits the floor in token of submission, the victor must at once let go his hold.’
      • ‘On Wednesday, in token of their appreciation of his courtesy, the passengers on the Great Lever car subscribed for and presented to him a handsome clock.’
      • ‘Every Mongol house in the region has a pair of three-pronged spears planted in the ground in front of the door, in token of the honor Genghis Khan paid the local warriors 700 years ago when he chose them to form his household guard.’
      • ‘Later traditions say that Arthur and the Knights sat at a Round Table in token of their equality.’
      • ‘We walked down Bostock Street, where practically every blind was drawn in token of a death.’
      • ‘Her last gift to him was the Adam's apple which was placed in his throat in token of their relationship.’
      • ‘Three seconds later I was compelled to pat the floor in token of surrender.’


Old English tāc(e)n, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch teken and German Zeichen, also to teach.