Deictic(s): A word that refers to another word or element in a text or passage and relies on that word or element for its meaning. Deictics are often pronouns, adjectives, or adverbs, although any word that directly refers to and is contingent upon something else is a deictic.

EXAMPLE: The sentence, “Jack was shot here yesterday; he was a drug dealer, so it came as no surprise,” contains four deictics: here, yesterday, he, and it. He and it are pronouns that clearly refer to Jack and the shooting, respectively. Here could refer to a location (such as Chicago or a subterranean garage) or to the part of Jack’s body the bullet entered (such as the head). If we are given the referent for here before we read or hear this sentence, we can easily understand what here refers to. If we are not given this information, here is a deictic that brings us into the narrative in medias res (“in the middle of things”); despite the lack of a named referent, here is a deictic because it refers to something specific even if we do not know what that something is. The meaning of yesterday is similarly determined by whatever information, if any, we are given.