Dense has two formal meanings, and one more that is more informal. When you describe things as dense, you will use the formal meanings of the adjective. If you want to describe a person as dense, you are getting to the informal use of the word.
The Meanings of Dense
1. Closely compacted, with many particles or materials in a small space.
2. A text, lecture, or other material with information that has a lot of information that the reader or listener needs to understand.
3. (Informal) A person that is not very smart, and takes a while to realize things that should be common sense.
1. Definition: Volume and Mass
For the most part, dense is used as the first definition. This is especially true with science, when you talk about the relationship between the volume of something (how big it is) and its mass (how heavy it is).
A good example of demonstrating something very dense and something that is not, is to compare two objects of roughly the same size. If you have a paperweight, you know that it will be quite heavy for its size.
That means it is dense. If you look at the box that the paperweight came in, you will hold something that is not dense at all – mainly because it is full of air.
2. Definition: Information
This is a similar concept if you are dealing with an informational thing. Whether it is a text, lecture, movie, or something else, it can hold a lot of knowledge.
If you find yourself struggling to keep up, it is likely that you are reading a very dense book, for example.
You can also determine whether something is dense by seeing how many pages of notes it generates while you read, listen, or watch it; if you are able to summarize every detail into just one page, it might not be very dense.
However, if you read 5 pages and end up with 3 pages of notes, it is dense.
3. Definition: Person
Saying that a person is dense is usually not a nice thing. It generally means that they are slow to understand something and lack common sense.
If you have been teaching a group of 10 children, for example, and 9 of them understand something you teach them, the tenth one might be a bit dense if no one can explain the concept in a way that can get them to understand.
- Objects that float are less dense than water.
- Since helium is less dense than air, helium balloons will fly in the sky.
- The reading for class this week was so dense; I had to spend 5 hours reading everything!
- Paul wants to read more nonfiction books but they are always so dense.
- I can’t believe that Jim has not realized Amy’s crush on him; he is so dense!
- Polly was afraid that her son was dense but her worries turned out to be unfounded.