Examples of concepts that are grounded in the physical world

All concepts have their root in the physical world. You could say they are grounded in the real world.

The concept “rough”. We first learn about the concept “rough” from touching certain physical objects like wood, sandpaper, cement, etc. “Rough” means to have uneven or irregular surface. Later, people learn to apply “rough” to things that are not completely finished like a rough draft or apply it to situations that didn’t finish effortlessly like a “rough night” or a “rough trip”. The concept “rough” is used where more physical exertion must be applied than normal or expected.

Contrast that with the concept of “smooth”, another concept learned from our interaction with the physical world. “Smooth” means having an even and regular surface. We first learn about this concept from touching objects like walls, ice, certain plastics, etc. Over time we apply it to movement such as walking and then move up the abstraction ladder and apply it to any situation that was done without effort, ie there was less physical exertion applied than normal. “I had a smooth date” or “The interview went smoothly”.

Another example, the concept “crumble” is to break into small fragments. As kids we play with toy blocks and sand and we see that we can collect them, stack them, and watch them fall apart due to gravity . Over time we learn to apply this concept of falling apart to more and more abstract concepts: the building crumbled, our relationship crumbled, NATO crumbled, etc.

More examples:


Physical definition: able to endure hardship or pain

Abstract examples:

  • Don’t be so tough on her. – using it as verb to cause pain
  • It was a tough assignment – endure mental pain


physical definition: physical discomfort.

Abstract Examples:

  • hanging out with her is painful. – enduring mental pain.

  • We are in a tight situation. – situations are abstract and can have little room to maneuver around


physical definition: a light wind

abstract examples:

  • Highschool was a breeze. – something is easy and light.

uphill battle

physical definition: difficult. Going uphill exerts energy and so is harder than being on a flat or downhill surface.

abstract examples:

  • Writing a book and raising children was an uphill battle. – using lots of mental effort and energy.



physical definition: hard to move; having little room to maneuver.

abstract examples:

physical definition: bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.


Physical definition: Come into the presence of company of.

abstract examples:

  • We met over the phone. – from physical meeting to over a cell phone.

Abstract examples:

  • We connected over email yesterday. – Now any abstract thing can connect like software interfaces or over a phone call.


physical definition: to fall over.

abstract examples:

  • We toppled the government. – they caused the government to be destroyed


physical definition: situated with the boundaries or confines of.

abstract examples:

  • It was an inside job. – someone who was part of some group(inside) had access to information to complete a job.

“to balance”

physical definition: offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another; keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.

abstract examples:

  • We need to balance moving forward without overexerting the troops.
  • You need to have a balanced diets of all the main food groups.

“to complete”

physical definition: make (something) whole or perfect; finish making or doing.

abstract examples:

  • I completed my homework.
  • I completed high school 2 years ago.

“on top of”

physical definition: an object is physically above or resting above another object.

abstract examples:

  • The homework was tough, but he’s on top of it. – someone is in control of it.
  • I’m on top of the world! – I am #1, I’m in a great position.

I have listed examples of concepts that grounded in the physical world. I then gave examples of those concepts be used in abstract situations. I assert that every concept, including abstract concepts, are rooted in the physical world. I bet you can’t find any exceptions. Feel free to contact me if I’m wrong.

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