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In linguistics, a neologism is a recently-coined word, or the act of inventing a word or phrase. Additionally it can imply the use of old words in a new sense (i.e., giving new meanings to existing words or phrases). Neologisms are especially useful in identifying new inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The word "neologism" was coined around 1800 and was, at that time, a neologism itself. A person who develops a neologism is sometimes called a neologist; neology is the act of introducing a new word into a language.

Table of contents
1 Changing culture
2 Cultural acceptance
3 Versions of Neologism
4 Types of Neologism
5 Neologisms in Literature
6 Quote
7 External links, Resources, References

Changing culture

Neologisms tend to occur more often in cultures which are rapidly changing, and also in situations where there is easy and fast propagation of information. They are often created by combining existing words (see compound noun and adjective) or by giving words new and unique suffixes or prefixes. Those which are portmanteaus are shortened. Neologisms can also be created through abbreviation or acronym, by intentionally rhyming with existing words, or simply through playing with sounds.

Neologisms often become popular by way of mass media, the Internet, or word of mouth (see also Neologisms:unstable) — especially, many linguists suspect, by younger people. Virtually every word in a language was, at some time, a neologism, though most of these ceased to be such through time and acceptance.

Neologisms often become accepted parts of the language. Other times, however, they disappear from common usage. Whether or not a neologism continues as part of the language depends on many factors, probably the most important of which is acceptance by the public. Acceptance by linguistic experts and incorporation into dictionaries also plays a part, as does whether the phenomenon described by a neologism remains current, thus continuing to need a descriptor. It is unusual, however, for a word to enter common use if it does not resemble another word or words in an identifiable way. (In some cases however, strange new words succeed because the idea behind them is especially memorable or exciting). When a word or phrase is no longer "new," it is no longer a neologism. Neologisms may take decades to become "old", though. Opinions differ on exactly how old a word must be to no longer be considered a neologism; cultural acceptance probably plays a more important role than time in this regard.

Cultural acceptance

After being coined, neologisms invariably undergo scrutiny by the public and by linguists to determine their suitability to the language. Many are accepted very quickly; others attract opposition. Language experts sometimes object to a neologism on the grounds that a suitable term for the thing described already exists in the language. Non-experts who dislike the neologism sometimes also use this argument, deriding the neologism as "abuse and ignorance of the language."

Some neologisms, especially those dealing with sensitive subjects, are often objected to on the grounds that they obscure the issue being discussed, and that such a word's novelty often leads a discussion away from the root issue and onto a sidetrack about the meaning of the neologism itself.

Proponents of a neologism see it as being useful, and also helping the language to grow and change; often they perceive these words as being a fun and creative way to play with a language. Also, the semantic precision of most neologisms, along with what is usually a straightforward syntax, often makes them easier to grasp by people who are not native speakers of the language.

The outcome of these debates, when they occur, has a great deal of influence on whether a neologism eventually becomes an accepted part of the language. Linguists may sometimes delay acceptance, for instance by refusing to include the neologism in dictionaries; this can sometimes cause a neologism to die out over time. Nevertheless if the public continues to use the term, it always eventually sheds its status as a neologism and enters the language even over the objections of language experts.

Versions of Neologism

Types of Neologism

Neologisms in Literature

Many neologisms have come from popular literature. For instance, the title of
Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 has become part of the vocabulary of many English-speakers. Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture contained an assortment of neologisms, some of which, such as McJob and Generation X, have become part of the language.


"Yesterday's neologisms, like yesterday's jargon, are often today's essential vocabulary."
– Academic Instincts, 2001[1]

See also: buzzword, doublespeak, euphemism, jargon, newspeak, propaganda, word coinage

External links, Resources, References





In psychology, a neologism is a word invented by a person suffering from psychotic disorders; psychiatrists sometimes use these neologisms, which often have meaning only to the subject, as clues to determine the nature of the subject's disorder.

In theology, a neologism is a relatively new doctrine (for example, rationalism). In this sense, a neologist is an innovator in the area of a doctrine or belief system, and is often considered heretical or subversive by the mainstream church.