Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Lexicon for Entrepreneurship

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Lexicon for Entrepreneurship

Article excerpt


The entrepreneurship literature has grown to include a host of sub-domain concepts such as "corporate entrepreneurship," "social entrepreneurship," and "opportunity entrepreneurship." This article applies a framework of theoretical lenses to historical definitions of entrepreneurship to explore the range of potential sub-domain terms. A taxonomy is applied to these terms to create a lexicon as well as new combinations of sub-domain terms such as nascent, opportunity, immigrant, and social entrepreneurship. The lexicon and the boundaries between sub-domain terms are used to generate new research questions, testable propositions, and new insights in the field of entrepreneurship.


Entrepreneurship lacks a well-accepted definition (e.g., Bygrave & Hofer, 1991; Bull & Willard, 1993; Cunningham & Lischeron, 1991; Gartner, 1989, 1990; Mitton, 1989; Sexton & Smilor, 1986; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000; Venkataraman, 1997; and many others). As a result, subject populations in different entrepreneurship studies have included small business owners, R&D companies, real estate brokers, middle level managers, mom and pop businesses, manufacturing firms, and non-profit organizations (e.g., Gartner, 1989).

If the definition of entrepreneurship is so broad as to encompass all of these disparate subject populations, our research will show conflicting results about the nature of entrepreneurship. Therefore, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for entrepreneurship scholars to build upon the works of their predecessors (Collins, Locke, & Shane, 2003).

In order to add a degree of clarity, scholars have applied various adjectives to the word entrepreneurship to create sub-domain terms such as "corporate entrepreneurship," "social entrepreneurship," "opportunity entrepreneurship" and "necessity entrepreneurship." These terms provide greater clarity when specifying subject populations or sharing data sets but also enable us to focus on and explore different aspects of entrepreneurship.

The literature is now rich with a wide variety of sub-domain entrepreneurship terms that arise from different theories and that apply to different aspects of entrepreneurship.

The goal of this article is to explore these different sub-domain concepts, specifically: to list the currently used terms; to create new terms; to describe how to classify and how to combine terms; and to explore how they may be used to generate new research questions, testable propositions, and new insights. Finally, the intended outcome is to create and apply a lexicon of entrepreneurship terms that may be used by other scholars.


This article is largely an analytical and descriptive work that can be used to better understand and apply the theoretical foundations of the entrepreneurship field. There are four primary sets of research questions.

Theoretical Framework Questions: Which theories and schools of thought give rise to different commonly used sub-domain terms? Which new sub-domain terms might arise from these theories that are not commonly in usage or that could be articulated and researched?

Taxonomy Questions: How are the sub-domain terms related to each other? Are sub-domain terms mutually exclusive or is there much overlap among terms? How can we combine subdomain terms into even more clearly defined subject populations?

Lexicon Questions: What is the range of new sub-domain terms? How can we create new terms that may lead to interesting research questions? What is the process by which new terms should be created and used? What would a lexicon of entrepreneurship sub-domain and sub-subdomain terms look like and how could such a lexicon be useful to scholars?

New Insight Questions: How can an understanding of the sub-domain terms in entrepreneurship be used to shed light on more fundamental theoretical questions? …

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