A neologism (/niːˈɒlədʒɪzəm/; from Greek νέο- néo-, "new" and λόγος lógos, "speech, utterance") describes a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language.[1] Neologisms are often driven by changes in culture and technology,[2][3] and may be directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. In the process of language formation, neologisms are more mature than protologisms.[4]


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 are sometimes used commonly. "Brunch" is an example of a portmanteau word (breakfast + lunch). Lewis Carroll's "snark" (snake + shark) is also a portmanteau. Neologisms also can be created through abbreviation or acronym, by intentionally rhyming with existing words or simply through playing with sounds.

Neologisms can 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.


Popular examples of neologism can be found in science, fiction, branding, literature, linguistic and popular culture. Examples include laser (1960) from Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, robotics (1941), agitprop (1930).

History and meaning

The term neologism is first attested in English in 1772, borrowed from French néologisme (1734).[5] A proponent of a new word or doctrine may be called a neologist. Neologists might study cultural and ethnic vernacular.

The term neologism has a broader meaning that includes not only "an entirely new lexical item" but also an existing word whose meaning has been altered.[6][7][8] Sometimes, the latter process is called semantic shifting,[6] or semantic extension.[9][10] Neologisms are distinct from a person's idiolect, one's unique patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

Neologisms are usually introduced when an individual or individuals find that a specific notion is lacking a term in a language, or when the existing vocabulary is insufficiently detailed, or when the neologist is unaware of the existing vocabulary.[11] The law, governmental bodies, and technology have a relatively high frequency of acquiring neologisms.[12][13] Another trigger that motivates neologists and protologists to coin a neologism is in order to disambiguate a previously existing term that may have been obscure or vague due to having multiple senses.[14]


Neologisms may come from a word used in the narrative of a book. Examples include "grok" 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[15] and "quark" from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

The title of a book may become a neologism, for instance, Catch-22 (from the title of Joseph Heller's novel). Alternatively, the author's name may give rise to 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 "Kafkaesque" (from Franz Kafka).

Names of famous characters are another source of literary neologisms, e.g. quixotic (referring to the title character in Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes), scrooge (from the main character in Dickens's A Christmas Carol) and pollyanna (from Eleanor H. Porter's book of the same name).

Popular culture

Neologism development may be spurred, or at least spread, by popular culture. Examples of recent pop-culture neologisms include the American Alt-right/Alt-left false equivalence, the Canadian portmanteau "Snowmageddon", and the Russian parody "Monstration".

Principally, neologisms propagate through their exposure in mass media. The genericizing of brand names, such as "coke" for Coca-Cola, "kleenex" for Kleenex facial tissue, and "xerox" for Xerox photocopying, all spread through their popular use becoming enhanced by mass media.[16]

However, in some limited cases words are used or developed in small communities then spread through the use of social media. "Doggo-Lingo", term still below the threshhold of a neologism according to Merriam-Webster,[17] is an example of the latter which has specifically spread primarily through Facebook group and Twitter account use.[17] The suspected origin of this way of referring to dogs stems from a Facebook group created in 2008 and gaining popularity in 2014 in Australia. In Australian English it is common to use diminutives, often ending in –o, which could be where doggo-lingo was first used.[17] The term has grown so that Merriam-Webster has acknowledged its use but notes the term needs to be found in published, edited work for a longer period of time before it can be deemed a new word making it the perfect example of a neologism.[17]


Because neologisms originate in one language, translations between languages can be difficult.

In the scientific community, where English is the predominant language for published research and studies, like-sounding translations (referred to as 'naturalization') are sometimes used.[18] Alternatively, the English word is used along with a brief explanation of meaning.[18] The four translation methods are emphasized in order to translate neologisms: transliteration and transcription, the use of analogues, calque and loan translation.[19]

When translating from English to other languages, the naturalization method is most often used.[20] The most common way that professional translators translate neologisms is through the Think aloud protocol (TAP), wherein translators find the most appropriate and natural sounding new word through speech.[21] This way, translators are able to use potential translated neologisms in sentences and test them with different structures and syntax. Correct translations from English for specific purposes into other languages is crucial in various industries and legal systems.[22][23] Inaccurate translations can lead to 'translation asymmetry' or conceptual misunderstandings which can lead to miscommunication.[23] Many technical glossaries of English translations exist to combat this issue in the medical, judicial, and technological fields.[24]

Other uses

In psychiatry and neuroscience, the term neologism is used to describe words that have meaning only to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning.[25] The use of neologisms may also be due to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.[26]

In theology, a neologism refers to a relatively new doctrine (for example, Transcendentalism).[27]

See also


  1. ^ Anderson, James M. (2006). Malmkjær, Kirsten, ed. The Linguistics encyclopedia (Ebook ed.). London: Routledge. p. 601. ISBN 0-203-43286-X.
  2. ^ McDonald, L. J. (2005). The meaning of e- : neologisms as markers of culture and technology /.
  3. ^ Forgue, Guy (1979). "American Neologisms as a Reflection of Cultural Change since 1945". Proceedings of a Symposium on American Literature: 199–211.
  4. ^ Gryniuk, D (2015). On Institutionalization and De-Institutionalization of Late 1990s Neologisms. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 150. This process [of lexicalization] does not seem to be coincidental because neologisms themselves are prone to go through certain stages of transformation. They began as unstable creations (otherwise called protologisms), that is, they are extremely new, being proposed, or being used only by a small subculture
  5. ^ "Neologism" (draft revision). Oxford English Dictionary. December 2009.
  6. ^ a b Zuckermann, Ghilʻad (2003). Language contact and lexical enrichment in Israeli Hebrew (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 3. ISBN 978-1403917232.
  7. ^ Sally Barr Ebest Writing from A to Z: the easy-to-use reference handbook 1999– p. 449 "A neologism is a newly coined word or phrase or a new usage of an existing word or phrase."
  8. ^ Lynne Bowker, Jennifer Pearson Working With Specialized Language 2002 p. 214 "Neologisms can also be formed in another way, however, by assigning a new meaning to an existing word."
  9. ^ Ole Nedergaard Thomsen Competing models of linguistic change: evolution and beyond 2006 – p. 68 "Extensions, by contrast, are applications of extant means in new usage. Note that since individual speakers differ in their command of their shared tradition of speaking, one person's Extension may be experienced by another as a Neologism"
  10. ^ Michael D. Picone Anglicisms, Neologisms and Dynamic French 1996 – p. 3 "Proceeding now to the task of defining terms, I will begin with the more general term 'neologism'. ...A neologism is any new word, morpheme or locution and any new meaning for a pre-existent word, morpheme or locution that appears in a language. ... Likewise, any semantic extension of a pre-existent word, morpheme or locution.. but is also, by accepted definition, a neologism."
  11. ^ Mesthrie, Rajend (1995). Language and Social History: Studies in South African Sociolinguistics. p. 225.
  12. ^ Solan, Lawrence (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law. p. 36.
  13. ^ Greiffenstern, Sandra (2010). The Influence of Computers, the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication on Everyday English. p. 125.
  14. ^ Cowan, Robert. "Shadow of a Doubt: A Phantom Caesura in Horace Odes 4.14." Classical Journal, The 109.4 (2014): 407-417.
  15. ^ Dunn, Robin. 2003: "The Generative Edge." Foundation 87 (2003): 73–93.
  16. ^ Sayadi, Forough (April 2011). "The Translation of Neologisms". Translation Journal.
  17. ^ a b c d Boddy, Jessica (April 23, 2017). "Dogs Are Doggos: An Internet Language Built Around Love For The Puppers". National Public Radio.
  18. ^ a b Linder, Daniel (2016). "Non-native scientists, research dissemination and English neologisms: What happens in the early stages of reception and re-production?". Iberica. 32: 35–58.
  19. ^ "The Translation of English Neologisms". Terminology Coordination Unit [DGTRAD]. European Parliament. 22 June 2015.
  20. ^ Lindblad, Jonathan. 2017. "Translation strategies of H.P. Lovecraft’s neologisms into Japanese." Networked Digital Library of Theses & Dissertations
  21. ^ Moghadas, Seyed (2014). "A Model for Cognitive Process of Neologisms Translation". International Journal of English Language and Translation Studies. 2 (1): 4–19.
  22. ^ Liu, Hui (2014). "A Probe Into Translation Strategies of Tech English Neologism in Petroleum Engineering Field". Studies in Literature and Language. 9 (1): 33–37.
  23. ^ a b Kerremans, Koen (2014). "Studying the Dynamics of Understanding and Legal Neologisms within a Linguistically Diverse Judicial Space: The Case of Motherhood in Belgium". International Conference; Meaning in Translation: Illusion of Precision''. 231: 46–52.
  24. ^ Navarro, F (2008). "Controversies in dermatology: One-Hundred Fifty English Words and Expressions in Dermatology That Present Difficulties or Pitfalls for Translation Into Spanish". Actas dermosifiliográficas (English Edition). 99 (5): 349–362. doi:10.1016/s1578-2190(08)70268-3.
  25. ^ Berrios, G. E. (2009). "Neologisms". History of Psychiatry. 20 (4): 480–496. doi:10.1177/0957154x08348532.
  26. ^ B Butterworth, Hesitation and the production of verbal paraphasias and neologisms in jargon aphasia. Brain Lang, 1979
  27. ^ Schreiter, Robert J. (15 September 2015). "1". Constructing Local Theologies (30th Anniversary ed.). Orbis Books. ISBN 9781608336111. Retrieved 20 November 2016.

External links

"And" theory of conservatism

The "And" theory of conservatism is a political neologism that was coined in the 2000s conservatism for the notion of holistic policy, bringing together traditional conservativism with some aspects of liberalism (right-libertarianism) and combining policies like low taxation with traditionally liberal solutions to issues such as poverty and global warming. Examples of the politics of "And" include:

A commitment to opposing same-sex marriages and to securing fair pension and inheritance arrangements for gay people.

A bigger budget for the armed forces and an end to the sale of arms to despotic regimes.

Faster, longer imprisonment of repeat offenders and more care for the vulnerable children of prisoners.

A willingness to confront the Islamic roots of global terrorism and more opportunities for mainstream Muslims to set up state-funded schools.

Controlled immigration policies and a commitment to international development.

Campaign for the neologism "santorum"

The campaign for the neologism "santorum" started with a contest held in May 2003 by Dan Savage, a sex columnist and LGBT rights activist. Savage asked his readers to create a definition for the word "santorum" in response to then-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's views on homosexuality, and comments about same sex marriage. In his comments, Santorum had stated that "[i]n every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." Savage announced the winning entry, which defined "santorum" as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex". He created a web site, (and, to promote the definition, which became a top internet search result, displacing the senator's official website on many search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, and Bing.In 2010, Savage said he would take the site down if Santorum donated US$5 million plus interest to Freedom to Marry, a group advocating legal recognition of same-sex marriages. In September 2011, Santorum asked Google to remove the definition from its search engine index. Google refused, responding that the company does not remove content from search results except in very limited circumstances.


The Estrie (French pronunciation: ​[ɛstʁi]) is an administrative region of Quebec that mostly overlaps the Eastern Townships (though not entirely). Estrie, a French neologism, was coined as a derivative of est, "east".

The region has a land area of 10,214.34 km² (3 943.78 sq mi) and a 2011 census population of 310,733 inhabitants. Its largest population centre is the city of Sherbrooke. Estrie also has numerous natural parks.

Google (verb)

As a result of the increasing popularity and dominance of the Google search engine, usage of the transitive verb to google (also spelled Google) grew ubiquitously. The neologism commonly refers to searching for information on the World Wide Web, regardless of which search engine is used. The American Dialect Society chose it as the "most useful word of 2002." It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on June 15, 2006, and to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in July 2006.

Greek military ranks

Modern Greek military ranks are based on Ancient Greek and Byzantine terminology, even though the ranks correspond to those of other Western armies. For example, ancient hoplite unit of approximately 100 men, the lochos, is today the name for a company of soldiers; its commander, as in ancient times, is a lochagos, while his lieutenants are called ypolochagoi — literally, "sub-captains" — a modern neologism. A sergeant is known as a lochias. A tagmatarchis (major) commands a tagma (battalion) and so forth. Thus, every officer or non-commissioned officer is in the land and air forces is generally named after the type of unit he commands, with the suffix -agos (from agein, "to lead") or -archos / arches (from archein, "to rule").


McRefugees is a neologism and McWord referring to those who stay overnight in a 24-hour McDonald's fast food restaurant.The term was first created in Japanese language: マック難民 (makku nanmin). That term had been largely replaced by ネットカフェ難民 (nettokafe nanmin), literally "net cafe refugee". In Japan, most McDonald's restaurants are operated around the clock. Due to unemployment and high rents and transportation costs in Japan, McRefugees choose to stay at a McDonald's overnight.

The phenomenon and word spread to Hong Kong as 麥難民 (mahk naahn màhn), where some McRefugees play video games and are known as McGamers. McDonald's opened 24-hour branches in mainland China in September 2006, which quickly attracted McRefugees.In early October 2015, the death of a woman in a 24-hour Hong Kong McDonald's restaurant in Kowloon Bay brought attention to the problem of McRefugees. McRefugees can be found in other 24-hour branches as well. Among the more than 1,600 homeless people in Hong Kong in 2015, about 250 were McRefugees.In 2018, A study conducted by the Society for Community Organization found that there were 384 McRefugees in Hong Kong. In August of the same year, a movie concerning about this topic started to film in Hong Kong, with the title "I'm living it", mimicing the slogan of the restaurant "I'm loving it".


Moombahton (, MOOM-bə-ton) is a fusion genre of house music and reggaeton that was created by American DJ and producer Dave Nada in Washington, D.C., in 2009. Nada coined the name as a portmanteau of Moombah (a track by Dutch house DJ Chuckie and producer/DJ Silvio Ecomo), and reggaeton (itself a neologism combining reggae with the Spanish suffix -ton, signifying big).

Pegging (sexual practice)

Pegging is a sexual practice in which a woman performs anal sex on a man by penetrating the man's anus with a strap-on dildo. This practice may also involve stimulating the male genitalia.

The neologism "pegging" was popularized when it became the winning entry in a contest in Dan Savage's "Savage Love" sex advice column, held after an observation was made that there was no common name or dictionary definition for the act in the English language.


In critical theory and deconstruction, phallogocentrism is a neologism coined by Jacques Derrida to refer to the privileging of the masculine (phallus) in the construction of meaning. The word is a portmanteau of the older terms phallocentrism (focusing on the masculine point of view) and logocentrism (focusing on language in assigning meaning to the world).

Derrida and others identified phonocentrism, or the prioritizing of speech over writing, as an integral part of phallogocentrism. Derrida explored this idea in his essay "Plato's Pharmacy".

Philicon Valley

Philicon Valley is a neologism for Philadelphia's version of Silicon Valley. Forbes Magazine coined the term on November 17, 1999 to refer specifically to the suburbs of Valley Forge and Wayne, Pennsylvania, which was also referred to as "Silicon Valley Forge" and "E-Valley Forge." In the Delaware Valley, many "... new-economy companies have located themselves in the suburbs along Route 202..." due to the high tax base in the city of Philadelphia. From a marketing perspective, the term has been used by Internet companies to lure potential employees in the tech sector, that markets the firm as part of a large community of like companies in a suburb of Philadelphia. "Pennsylvania Dutch Country is only about a 90 minute drive away..." noting that the area is home to "... large high-tech companies..." The lure in the region has many Penn graduates, as well as other graduates do not consider Philadelphia to be the "hot spot" and some have chosen this region as an alternative. A briefing on the region, says the area contributes to Pennsylvania being ranked eighth in hi tech employing more than 170,000 according to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, WHYY-TV, and the Council for Urban Economic Development.


Protologism is a term invented in the early 2000s by Mikhail Epstein, an American literary theorist, to refer to a new word which has not gained wide acceptance in the language. A protologism becomes a neologism as soon as it appears in published press, on a website or book independent from the coiner.

Reboot (fiction)

In serial fiction, a reboot is a new start to an established fictional universe, work, or series that discards all continuity to re-create its characters, plotlines and backstory from the beginning. It has been described as a way to "rebrand" or "restart an entertainment universe that has already been established". The term has been criticised for being a vague and "confusing" "buzzword", and a neologism for remake, a concept which has been losing popularity in the 2010s.


Sadcore is a subgenre occasionally identified by music journalists to describe examples of alternative rock characterised by bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies and slower tempos, or alternatively, songs with deceivingly upbeat melodies that are simultaneously characterised by depressive lyrical undertones or imagery. It is a loose definition and does not describe a specific movement or scene. It is categorised by AllMusic's reference guide as music "by and for the depressed". Sadcore is synonymous with the term slowcore, and both share the distinction of often being dismissed as a label by the bands they would describe.

LA Weekly called Charlyn Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) the "Queen of Sadcore". In 2006, The News Record used the term to refer to Arab Strap, describing their sound as "a lot like the band's native Scotland: dark, cold, rainy and depressing" as well as "aggressive and somber." Coming from the hardcore punk scene, solo artist Harm Wülf put out his album "Hijrah" August 26, 2016 on Deathwish Inc and has been referenced as being within the genre.

The term is still current in pop culture. Lana Del Rey's musical style has been described as "Hollywood sadcore". In regard to her song, "Blue Jeans", MTV journalist Nicole James noted the neologism is a "music buzz word" floating around the music blogosphere.

Spy-Fi (subgenre)

Spy-Fi is a subgenre of spy fiction that includes elements of science fiction, and is often associated with the Cold War. Features of Spy-Fi include the effects of technology on the espionage trade and the technological gadgets used by the characters, even though the technologies and gadgets portrayed are well beyond current scientific reality.


Teh is an Internet slang neologism most frequently used as an English article, based on a common typographical error of "the". Teh has subsequently developed grammatical usages distinct from the. It is not common in spoken or written English outside technical or leetspeak circles, but when spoken, it is pronounced or .


Walmarting is a neologism referring to U.S. discount department store Walmart with three meanings. The first use is similar to the concept of globalization and is used pejoratively by critics and neutrally by businesses seeking to emulate Walmart's success. The second, pejorative, use refers to the homogenization of the retail sector because of those practices. The third, neutral use refers to the act of actually shopping at Walmart.


Were-hyena is a neologism coined in analogy to werewolf for therianthropy involving hyenas. It is common in the folklore of North Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Near East, as well as some adjacent territories. Unlike werewolves and other therianthropes, which are usually portrayed as being originally human, some werehyena lore tells of how they can also be hyenas disguised as humans.

Word formation

In linguistics, word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning. The boundary between word formation and semantic change can be difficult to define: a new use of an old word can be seen as a new word derived from an old one and identical to it in form. See 'conversion'.

Zone to Defend

The expression Zone to Defend or ZAD (French: zone à défendre) is a French neologism used to refer to a militant occupation that is intended to physically blockade a development project. The ZADs are organized particularly in areas with an ecological or agricultural dimension, notably in the permanent blockade village against an airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes. However the name has also been used by occupations in urban areas, e.g.: in Rouen, in Décines-Charpieu. One of the movement's first slogans was "ZADs everywhere" and though there are no official figures, in early 2016 there were estimated to have been between 10 and 15 ZADs across France.

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