Neologism: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A neologism (pronounced /niˈɒlədʒɪzəm/); from Greek νέος (neos 'new') + λόγος (logos 'word') is a newly coined word that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. According to Oxford English Dictionary neologism was first used in print in AD 1483.

Other uses

In psychiatry, the term neologism is used to describe the use of words that only have meaning to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning.[1] This is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia) in adults.[2]

People with autism also may create neologisms.[3]

Use of neologisms may also be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.[4]

In theology, a neologism is a relatively new doctrine (for example, rationalism). In this sense, a neologist is one who proposes either a new doctrine or a new interpretation of source material such as religious texts.


Neologisms are often created by combining existing words (see compound noun and adjective) or by giving words new and unique suffixes or prefixes. Portmanteaux are combined words that begin to be used commonly. Neologisms also can be created through abbreviation or acronym, by intentionally rhyming with existing words or simply through playing with sounds.

Neologisms often become popular through memetics, by way of mass media, the Internet, and word of mouth, including academic discourse in many fields renowned for their use of distinctive jargon, and often become accepted parts of the language. Other times, however, they disappear from common use just as readily as they appeared. Whether a neologism continues as part of the language depends on many factors, probably the most important of which is acceptance by the public. It is unusual, however, for a word to enter common use if it does not resemble another word or words in an identifiable way.

When a word or phrase is no longer "new", it is no longer a neologism. Neologisms may take decades to become "old", however. Opinions differ on exactly how old a word must be to cease being considered a neologism.


A protologism is a new word created in the hope that it will become accepted. A protologism may be no more than suggestion of a word that might be used, whereas a neologism is a word that has been used. The term protologism, itself a neologism, was coined by Mikhail Epstein in 2003.[5] Neologisms don't necessarily begin as protologisms since they may arise rapidly and unintentionally.

Evolution of neologisms

Newly-created words entering a language tend to pass through the following stages:

  • Unstable – extremely new, being proposed, or being used only by a small subculture (also known as Protologisms)
  • Diffused – having reached a significant frequency of use, but not yet having gained widespread acceptance
  • Stable – having become recognizable, being en vogue, and perhaps, gaining lasting acceptance
  • Dated – the point where the word has ceased being novel, entered formal linguistic acceptance and, even may have passed into becoming a cliché
  • Passé – when a neologism becomes so culturally dated that the use of it is avoided because its use is seen as a stigma, a sign of being out of step with the norms of a changed cultural tradition, perhaps, with the neologism dropping from the lexicon altogether

Sources of neologism

Popular examples of neologism can be found in science, fiction, branding, literature,linguistic and popular culture.


Words or phrases created to describe new scientific hypotheses, discoveries, or inventions include:

  • x-ray, or röntgenograph (November 8, 1895, by Röntgen)
  • radar (1941) from Radio Detection And Ranging
  • black hole (in the 1960s)
  • laser (1960) from Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  • quasar (1964)
  • prion (1982)
  • beetle bank (early 1990s)
  • lidar (late 1990s) from Light Detection And Ranging

Science fiction

Concepts created to describe new, futuristic ideas include,

Literature more generally

See "Neologisms in literature" topic below.


See also Category:Political neologisms

Words or phrases created to make some kind of political or rhetorical point, sometimes perhaps with an eye to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, include:

Corporate branding

Words coined to name or re-brand corporations and signifying new meaning include:

  • Accenture (2001), derived from "accent on the future"
  • Acette (2002), derived from "ace", meaning expertise, and the encapsulating suffix "ette"; when read together as aye~set signifying "expertise encapsulated".
  • Protiviti (2002), derived from professionalism and proactivity as well as independence and integrity.


Words created to describe new kinds of objects and concepts originating in various types of design include:

Popular culture

Words or phrases evolved from mass media content or used to describe popular cultural phenomena (these may be considered a variety of slang as well as neologisms) include:

Commerce and advertising

Genericised trademarks include:


Words or phrases created to describe new language constructs include:


Miscellaneous sources include:

  • nonce words—are words coined and used only for a particular occasion, usually for a special literary effect.

Neologisms in literature

Many neologisms have come from popular literature and tend to appear in different forms. Most commonly, they are simply taken from a word used in the narrative of a book; a few representative examples are: "grok" (to achieve complete intuitive understanding), from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein; "McJob", from Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland; "cyberspace", from Neuromancer by William Gibson; "nymphet" from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Sometimes the title of a book becomes the neologism, for instance, Catch-22 (from the title of Joseph Heller's novel). Alternately, the author's name may become the neologism, although the term is sometimes based on only one work of that author. This includes such words as "Orwellian" (from George Orwell, referring to his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four) and "Ballardesque" or "Ballardian" (from J.G. Ballard, author of Crash). Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle was the container of the Bokononism family of nonce words.

Another category is words derived from famous characters in literature, such as quixotic (referring to the titular character in Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes), a scrooge (from the main character in Dickens's A Christmas Carol), or a pollyanna (from Eleanor H. Porter's book of the same name). James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, composed in a uniquely complex linguistic style, coined the words monomyth and quark.

Lewis Carroll has been called "the king of neologistic poems" because of his poem, "Jabberwocky", which incorporated dozens of invented words. The early modern English prose writings of Sir Thomas Browne are the source of many neologisms as recorded by the OED.


"Yesterday's neologisms, like yesterday's jargon, are often today's essential vocabulary."
– Academic Instincts, 2001[8]

See also


  1. ^ G E Berrios (2009) Neologisms. History of Psychiatry 20: 480-496
  2. ^ P. J. McKenna, Schizophrenia and Related Syndromes. Page 363.
  3. ^ Neologisms and idiosyncratic language in autistic speakers. J Autism Dev Disord. 1991 Jun;21(2):109-30.
  4. ^ B Butterworth, Hesitation and the production of verbal paraphasias and neologisms in jargon aphasia. Brain Lang, 1979
  5. ^ "Wiktionary:List of protologisms - Wiktionary". 2003-11-02. Retrieved 2009-07-29.  
  6. ^ Paul McFedries (2007-01-12). "fauxtography". Word Spy. Retrieved 2009-07-29.  
  7. ^ Robert Lemos (2009-01-04). "Second Life Figures Get a Life". Retrieved 2009-07-29.  
  8. ^ "Word Spy". Word Spy. Retrieved 2009-07-29.  


  • Fowler, H.W., "The King's English", Chapter I. Vocabulary, Neologism, 2nd ed. 1908.

External links

General information


  • Wiktionary: Neologisms unstable
  • Wiktionary: Neologisms diffused
  • Wiktionary: Neologisms stable
  • protologism


Foreign languages


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to neologism article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Wiktionary:Neologisms and Category:Neologisms



Wikipedia has an article on:



From French néologisme, from Ancient Greek νέο- (neo-), new) + λόγος (logos), word)



countable and uncountable; plural neologisms

neologism (countable and uncountable; plural neologisms)

  1. (linguistics) A word or phrase which has recently been coined; a new word or phrase.
  2. (linguistics) (uncountable) The act or instance of coining, or uttering a new word.
  3. (linguistics) The newly coined, meaningless words or phrases of someone with a psychosis, usually schizophrenia.

Usage notes

For a word to be no longer considered new, it needs to be understood by a significant portion of the population as having always been a valid word. For that to occur the word must have been in common use for approximately one generation — fifteen to twenty years — but there is no universally accepted measure.



Derived terms

  • diffused neologism
  • stable neologism

Related terms



  • The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. Bryan A. Garner. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. 21 June 2006
  • The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

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