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NEOLOGISM, A new WORD or sense of a word and the coining or use of new words and senses. Most neologisms in English belong in the following categories: (1) Compounding: couch potato, someone constantly slumped on a couch watching television: video-conferencing, a number of people taking part in a conference or conferences by means of video equipment rather than all meeting in one place. (2) DERIVATION: yuppie, formed from yup, the initial letters of the phrase ‘young urban professional’ by adding the suffix -ie; yuppiedom, the condition of being a yuppie, formed from yuppie by adding the further suffix -dom. (3) Shifting meaning: spin, a journalist's term for a special bias or slant given to a piece of writing. (4) Extension in grammatical function: the nouns quest and host used as verbs. (5) ABBREVIATION: in Stock Exchange usage, arb from arbitrager or arbitrageur, one who sells securities or commodities simultaneously in different markets to benefit from unequal prices; the computer acronym GIGO, meaning garbage in, garbage out. (6) BACK-FORMATION: disinform formed from disinformation (and not the reverse). (7) Blending: harmolodic mixing harmony and melodic. (8) BORROWING: loanwords such as glasnost from Russian; CALQUES or LOAN TRANSLATIONS such as found object from French objet trouvé. (9) Very rarely, ROOT-CREATION, or COINAGE from sounds with no previous known meaning whatever: googol, Kodak (both apparently formed ex nihilo). See BARBARISM, BLEND, COMPOUND, JOURNALESE, NONCE WORD, SEMANTIC CHANGE, TIMESPEAK, WORD-FORMATION.


New words are often the subject of scorn because they are new, because they are perceived as unaesthetically or improperly formed, or because they are considered to be unnecessary. They are, however, a normal part of language change; with frequent use and the passage of time they become unremarked items in everyday use, as can be seen from many of the items in the following representative decade-by-decade lists of neologisms:


acronym, airlift, apartheid, atomic age, automation, baby-sit, bikini, blockbuster, call girl, circuitry, cold war, crash landing, debrief, declassify, doublethink, flying saucer, freeze-dry, genocide, gobbledygook, gremlin, guided missile, hydrogen bomb, nerve gas, petrochemical, quisling, radar, snorkel, spaceship, starlet, tape recorder, task force, vegan, VIP, xerography, zero in.


A-OK, automate, beatnik, brainwashing, common market, cosmonaut, countdown, desegregation, discotheque, do-it-yourself, egghead, hard sell, H-bomb, hotline, Kremlinology, LSD McCarthyism, moonlighting, moonshot, Ms, name-dropping, nuke, overkill, panelist, paramedic, parenting, sci-fi, scuba, senior citizen, sex kitten, shopping mall, soft sell, space medicine, sputnik.


affirmative action, biodegradable, bionics, brain drain, cable television, counter-productive, cryonics, cybernation, disco, Eurocrat, Eurodollar, fastfood, genetic engineering, jet lag, microelectronics, microwave oven, pleabargaining, pop art, postcode/postal code (BrE), quasar, reverse discrimination, sitcom, space shuttle, theme park, tokenism, underachiever, uptight, ZIP Code (AmE).


boat people, bottom line, condo, corn row, downsize, ecocatastrophe, ecofreak, empty nester, flextime, gas guzzler, gasohol, hit list, junk food, Legionnaire's Disease, Mediagate, miniseries, nouvelle cuisine, petrodollars, shuttle diplomacy, supply-side economics, Watergate, Watergatology.


cash point, channelling, couch potato, Filofax, glasnost, golden handcuffs, golden handshake, golden parachute, gridlock, home shopping, kiss-and-tell book, necklacing, New Agers, perestroika, personal organizer, power breakfast, silent majority, telemarketing, wholefoodie, whoopie, yuppie, yuppiedom.


New words which may become established include: Britpop, carjacking, charm offensive, ethnic cleansing, European Union, home page, intranet (source: The Oxford Dictionary of New Words, 1997).

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ne·ol·o·gism / nēˈäləˌjizəm/ • n. a newly coined word or expression. ∎  the coining or use of new words. DERIVATIVES: ne·ol·o·gist / -jist/ n. ne·ol·o·gize / -ˌjīz/ v.

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neologism (ni-ol-ŏ-jizm) n. (in psychiatry) the invention of words to which meanings are attached. It may be a symptom of a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.

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neologism a newly coined word or expression. Recorded from the early 19th century, the word comes from French néologisme.

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