Original Research - Special Collection: Navigating Talent in a Disruptive World

Searching for meaning in a disruptive world – Constructing a lexicon of the meanings of meaning

Jeremias J. de Klerk
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 49 | a2060 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v49i0.2060 | © 2023 Jeremias J. de Klerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 September 2022 | Published: 03 February 2023

About the author(s)

Jeremias J. de Klerk, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Bellville, South Africa


Orientation: Meaning is not a concept whose significance needs to be debated anymore. Rather, the meaning of meaning is a concept that needs more clarity to improve its understanding.

Research purpose: In this paper, the construct of meaning is deconstructed to develop a lexicon of the respective meanings of meaning, especially as they apply to the domain of work.

Motivation for the study: Descriptions of the various meanings of meaning tend to be lost across many different journal articles and books. More clarity regarding the meanings of meaning and how they compare and relate with each other is essential to promote valid research and influential practice in this field.

Research approach/design and method: Theoretical research is conducted through a literature study and the meanings of meaning are determined through theory synthesis and topical analyses.

Main findings: Meaning is a multidimensional construct, especially as it applies to the work context. The concept of meaning in life is distinct and should be distinguished from related concepts, such as the meaning of work, meaning at work, meaning in work, and meaningful work.

Practical/managerial implications: By clarifying meanings of meaning, the lexicon provides a unique reference work for scholars, and an essential guide for practitioners in the fields of psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, and even psychiatry, who aspire to advance and promote meaningfulness in their work contexts.

Contribution/value-add: As far as could be established, this is the first lexicon of the meanings of meaning in one easy-to-use compendium, for accurate comparison and reference.


meaning; lexicon; meaning in life; meaningful work; meaning at work, meaning in work, meaning through work

JEL Codes

I31: General Welfare, Well-Being

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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Crossref Citations

1. A pathway to greater meaning in life and well-being for senior executives beset by anti-meaning
Juan-Mari Kruger, Jeremias Jesaja De Klerk
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 14  year: 2023  
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1187913