What can marketers learn from the dictionary definition of engage?


Formal dictionary definitions of commonly used words often reveal deeper meanings and nuanced tonalities—facets that may convey additional if not unintended significances.

Merriam Webster’s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary provides the following definitions of engage, engaged, and engagement.


Derived from Medieval French, engagier, and the Old French elements of en + gage, the root element of ENGAGE derives from token or gage.

As a transitive verb, the definition of engage includes:
1: To offer (as one’s word) as security for a debt or cause
2: To a) entangle or entrap in (or as in a snare or bog); b) To attract and hold by influence of power; c) To interlock with: MESH; also to cause (mechanical parts) to mesh
3: To bind(as oneself) to do something; especially to binding by a pledge to marry
4: a) To provide occupation for: INVOLVE (engage him in a new project); b) to arrange to obtain the use or service of: HIRE
5: a) To hold the attention of: ENGROSS (her work engages her completely); b) to induce to participate (engaged the shy boy in conversation)
6: a) To enter into contest with b) to bring together or interlock (weapons)
7: To deal with especially at length

As an intransitive verb, the definition of engage includes:
1: a) To pledge oneself: PROMISE; b) GUARANTEE (he engages for the honesty of his brother)
2: a) To begin and carry on an enterprise or activity (engaged in trade for a number of years) b) to take part: PARTICIPATE (at college she engaged in gymnastics)
3: To enter into conflict
4: to come together and interlock (as machinery parts): be or become in gear.


Merriam Webster’s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary provides the following definition of the adjective, ENGAGED:
1: Involved in activity: OCCUPIED
2: Pledged to be married: BETHROTHED
3: Greatly interested: COMMITTED
4: Involved special in a hostile encounter
5: Partly embedded in a wall (an engaged column)
6: Being in gear: MESH


Merriam Webster’s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary provides the following definition of the noun, ENGAGEMENT:
1: a) An arrangement to meet or be present at a specific time and place (a dinner engagement)
b) A job or period of employment, especially as a performer
2: Something that engages: PLEDGE
3: a) The act of engaging: the state of being engaged
b) Emotional involvement or commitment (Seesaws between obsessive engagement and ambiguous detachment)
4: The state of being in gear
5: A hostile encounter between military forces


The idea of engagement with customers and other stakeholders, including staff and shareholders, already exists in the language of commerce and marketing.
However, the emerging use and definition of customer engagement conveys these distinctions:
• Customer engagement presumes a relationship that will persist over time
• Relationship with customers begin first by attracting and holding their attention
• Engagement involves messaging (of tokens), communication (with emotional involvement), and interaction (over an extended period to time)
• Engagement creates expectations for communication, interaction, and collaboration.



The shared cultural norms and meaning of engage often lead to expectations among customers about the nature and manner of their being engaged with vendors; in a
word, relationship. Customer engagement incorporates most if not all the cultural norms of a long-term relationship.

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