The meanings of ‘talent’ and ‘talent management’ have been vague and ambiguous since the terms entered common usage with the emergence of talent management as a field. This lack of semantic clarity, and the lack of operational clarity it sometimes gives rise to, has been a concern for talent management researchers, and has recently led to several attempts to shed light on the meaning of both terms in order to gain a more rigorous understanding of the nature of the field. In this chapter, I present an etymological analysis of the historical changes in the way the words are used, finding that the word ‘talent’ has shifted from a single denotative, referential meaning concerned with money and units of measure to a multitude of poorly defined meanings with undefined properties, having to do with abilities and aptitudes, mental endowments, and mental powers. These meanings are typically presented in the field as denotations — as real, objective properties of individuals that are picked out by ‘talent’ and by researchers making use of the word — although there is some doubt as to whether they ever succeed in referring, as opposed to simply displaying a belief on the part of the speaker or serving some social function, for instance, designating someone as the centre of a certain kind of attention. Today, this multiplicity of meanings is typically seen as a terminological strength in talent management research and practice.
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- The Etymology of the Term ‘Talent’
- Palgrave Macmillan UK