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A hybrid word is a word which etymologically has one part derived from one language and another part derived from a different language.


Common hybrids

The most common form of hybrid word in English is one which combines etymologically Latin and Greek parts. Since many prefixes and suffixes in English are of Latin or Greek etymology, it is straightforward to add a prefix or suffix from one language to an English word that comes from a different language, thus creating a hybrid word.

Such etymologically disparate mixing is considered by some to be bad form. Others, however, argue that, since both (or all) parts already exist in the English lexicon, such mixing is merely the conflation of two (or more) English morphemes in order to create an English neologism (new word), and so is appropriate.

English examples

  • Aquaphobia – from Latin aqua "water" and Greek φοβία "fear"; this term is distinguished from the non-hybrid word hydrophobia, which can refer to symptoms of rabies.
  • Automobile – a wheeled passenger vehicle, from Greek αυτό~ (auto) "self-" and Latin mobilis "moveable"
  • Biathlon – from the Latin bis and the Greek αθλος (athlos) meaning contest
  • Bigamy – from the Latin bis meaning "twice" and the Greek γαμος (gamos) meaning wedlock.
  • Bioluminescence — from the Greek βιος (bios) "living" and the Latin lumen "light"
  • Dysfunction – from the Greek δυσ- (dys-) meaning "bad" and the Latin functio
  • Electrocution — a portmanteau of electricity, from the Greek ἤλεκτρον (ēlektron), "amber", and execution, from the Latin exsequere, "follow out"
  • Eusociality – from the Greek ευ (eu)meaning good and the Latin socialitas
  • Hexadecimal – from the Greek (hex) meaning "six" and the Latin decimus meaning "tenth"
  • Homosexual – from the Greek ὁμός (homos) meaning "same" and the Latin sexus meaning "gender" (This example is remarked on in Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, with A. E. Housman's character saying "Homosexuality? What barbarity! It's half Greek and half Latin!".)
  • Hyperactive — from the Greek ὑπέρ (hyper) meaning "over" and the Latin activus
  • Hypercomplex – from the Greek (hyper) and the Latin complexus meaning an Embrace.
  • Hypercorrection — from the Greek (hyper) meaning "over" and the Latin correctio
  • Hyperextension — from the Greek (hyper) meaning "over" and the Latin extensio meaning "stretching out"
  • Hypervisor — from the Greek (hyper) meaning "over" and the Latin visor meaning "seer"; the non-hybrid word is supervisor
  • Liposuction — from the Greek λιπος (lipos) meaning "fat" and the Latin suctio meaning "sucking"
  • Macroinstruction — from the Greek μακρος (makros) meaning "long" and the Latin instructio
  • Mega-annum — from the Greek μέγας (megas), meaning "large", and the Latin annum, "year"
  • Metadata — from the Greek (meta) and the Latin data meaning "given"
  • Microvitum — from the Greek μικρος (mikros) meaning "small" and the pseudo-Latin vitum
  • Minneapolis — from Dakota mni meaning "water" and Greek πόλις meaning "city"
  • Monoculture — from the Greek μόνος (monos) meaning “one, single” and the Latin cultura
  • Monolingual — from the Greek μόνπ (monos) meaning "one" and the Latin lingua meaning "tongue"; the non-hybrid word is unilingual
  • Mormon — It was alleged by Joseph Smith[citation needed] that Mormon comes from the English "more" and the Reformed Egyptian mon meaning "good".
  • Neonate — from the Greek νέος (neos), "new", and the Latin natus, "birth"
  • Neuroscience — from the Greek νέυρον neuron, meaning "sinew," and the Latin "sciens," meaning "having knowledge."
  • Neurotransmitter — from the Greek neuron, meaning "sinew," and the Latin, trans meaning "across" and mittere meaning "to send."
  • Nonagon — from the Latin nonus meaning "ninth" and the Greek γωνον (gonon) meaning "angle"; the non-hybrid word is enneagon
  • Pandeism — from the Greek πάν (pan) meaning "all" and Latin deus meaning "God"; the non-hybrid word is pantheism
  • Periglacial — from the Greek πέρι (peri) and the Latin glacialis
  • Polyamory — from the Greek πολύς (polys) meaning "many" and the Latin amor meaning "love"
  • Polydeism — from the Greek πολύς (polys) meaning "many" and the Latin deus meaning "God"; the non-hybrid word is polytheism
  • Quadraphonic — from the Latin quattuor meaning four and the Greek Φονέ (phone) meaning sound; the non-hybrid word is tetraphonic
  • Quadriplegia — from the Latin quattuor meaning four and the Greek πλήσσειν(plegien) meaning To Strike""; the non-hybrid word is tetraplegia
  • Sociology — from the Latin socius, "comrade", and the Greek λόγος (logos) meaning "word", "reason", "discourse"
  • Sociopath — from the Latin socius from sociare meaning "to associate with," and the Greek (-pathes) meaning "sufferer" from pathos meaning "incident", "suffering," or "experience."
  • Taikonaut — From the Chinese word for space "太空"(Taikong") and "ναύτ" (Naut) meaning sailor.
  • Television — from the Greek τῆλε (tēle) meaning "far" and the Latin visio from videre meaning "to see"
  • Tonsillectomy — from the Latin tonsillae "to branch" and the Greek εκτέμειν (ektemnein, “to cut out”)

Examples from languages other than English

Modern Hebrew (Israeli)

Modern Hebrew abounds with non-Semitic derivational affixes, which are applied to words of both Semitic and non-Semitic descent. The following hybrid words consist of a Hebrew-descent word and a non-Semitic descent suffix:[1]

  • khamúda-le ‘cutie (feminine singular)’, from khamuda ‘cute (feminine singular) + -le, endearment diminutive of Yiddish descent
  • miluím-nik ‘reservist, reserve soldier’, from miluím ‘reserve’ (literally ‘fill-ins’) + -nik, a most productive agent suffix of Yiddish and Russian descent
  • bitkhon-íst ‘one who evaluates everything from the perspective of national security’, from bitakhón ‘security’ + the productive internationalism -ist
  • kiso-lógya ‘the art of finding a political seat (especially in the Israeli Parliament)’, from kisé ‘seat’ + the productive internationalism -lógya ‘-logy’
  • maarav-izátsya ‘westernization’, from maaráv ‘west’ + the productive internationalism -izátsya ‘-ization’ (itself a hybrid of Greek -ιζ- -iz- and Latin -atio)

Examples of Modern Hebrew hybrid words which include an international prefix are as following:

  • post-milkhamtí ‘postwar’
  • pro-araví ‘pro-Arab’
  • anti-hitnatkút ‘anti-disengagement’

Modern Hebrew also has a productive derogatory prefixal shm-, which results in an ‘echoic expressive’. For example, um shmum, literally ‘United Nations shm-United Nations’, was a pejorative description by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, of the UN (United Nations, Modern Hebrew umot meukhadot, whose acronym is um). Thus, when an Israeli would like to express his impatience with or disdain for philosophy, s/he can say filosófya-shmilosófya. Modern Hebrew shm- is traceable back to Yiddish,[2] and is found in English as well as shm-reduplication.

See also


  1. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2009), Hybridity versus Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns. In Journal of Language Contact, Varia 2: 40-67, p. 49.
  2. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2009), Hybridity versus Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns. In Journal of Language Contact, Varia 2: 40-67, p. 49. Cf. the Turkic initial m-segment conveying a sense of ‘and so on’ as in Turkish dergi mergi okumuyor, literally 'magazine “shmagazine” read:NEGATIVE:PRESENT:3rd.person.singular’, i.e. ‘(He) doesn’t read magazine, journals or anything like that’.

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