The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘New Elements (Kaina stoiceia)’


The other form of degenerate sign is to be termed an index. It is defined as a sign which is fit to serve as such by virtue of being in a real reaction with its object. For example, a weathercock is such a sign. It is fit to be taken as an index of the wind for the reason that it is physically connected with the wind. A weathercock conveys information; but this it does because in facing the very quarter from which the wind blows, it resembles the wind in this respect, and thus has an icon connected with it. In this respect it is not a pure index. A pure index simply forces attention to the object with which it reacts and puts the interpreter into mediate reaction with that object, but conveys no information. As an example, take an exclamation “Oh!” The letters attached to a geometrical figure are another case. Absolutely unexceptionable examples of degenerate forms must not be expected. All that is possible is to give examples which tend sufficiently in towards those forms to make the mean suggest what is meant. [—]

An index is a sign fit to be used as such because it is in real reaction with the object denoted.

1904 [c.]
EP 2:306-7
‘Index’ (pub. 05.05.13-10:34). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
May 05, 2013, 10:34 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Nov 12, 2015, 17:43 by Mats Bergman