An index (plural: usually indexes, more rarely indices; see below) is a list of words or phrases (‘headings’) and associated pointers (‘locators’) to where useful material relating to that heading can be found in a document or collection of documents. Examples are an index in the back matter of a book and an index that serves as a library catalog.
In a traditional back-of-the-book index, the headings will include names of people, places, events, and concepts selected by the indexer as being relevant and of interest to a possible reader of the book. The indexer may be the author, the editor, or a professional indexer working as a third party. The pointers are typically page numbers, paragraph numbers or section numbers.
In a library catalog the words are authors, titles, subject headings, etc., and the pointers are call numbers. Internet search engines (such as Google) and full-text searching help provide access to information but are not as selective as an index, as they provide non-relevant links, and may miss relevant information if it is not phrased in exactly the way they expect.
- A number representing a property or ratio, a coefficient.
- (linguistics) A type of noun where the meaning of the form changes with respect to the context. E.g., 'Today's newspaper' is an indexical form since its referent will differ depending on the context. See also icon and symbol.