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Index (publishing)

list of words or phrases

An index (plural: indexes) 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. In a traditional back-of-the-book index the headings will include names of people, places and events, and concepts selected by a person as being relevant and of interest to a possible reader of the book. 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.


  • I certainly think that the best book in the world would owe the most to a good index, and the worst book, if it had but a single good thought in it, might be kept alive by it.
    • Horace Binney, To S. Austin Allibone; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 974.
  • So essential did I consider an index to be to every book, that I proposed to bring a bill into Parliament to deprive an author who publishes a book without an index of the privilege of copyright, and, moreover, to subject him for his offense to a pecuniary penalty.
  • An index is a necessary implement. * * * Without this, a large author is but a labyrinth without a clue to direct the readers within.
  • The index tells us the contents of stories and directs to the particular chapters.
  • How index-learning turns no student pale, Yet holds the eel of science by the tail.
  • And in such indexes, although small pricks
    To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
    The baby figure of the giant mass
    Of things to come at large.

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