The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Word coinage

Words and phrases are often created, or "coined," by combining existing words, or by giving words new and unique suffixes and/or prefixes. For example, the word "video" had been used to describe any visual image on a television screen, and "tape" to describe a thin strip; the word "videotape" was invented in 1953 as a combination of these two, named by combining the words for two of its key features. Further, the words "video" and "audio" themselves were not borrowed from Latin until the twentieth century, when new technology required words to define the two concepts. Words which are combined are often shortened or lengthened, such as "smoke" and "fog" becoming smog (1905). Words coined in such a way are called portmanteaus.

Words can also be created through abbreviation, acronym (such as laser), by intentionally rhyming with existing words, or simply through playing with sounds.

Another illustration of coinage is seen in the word dot-com (1994), denoting a company that relies on the Internet for most or all of its business, which arose due to the frequency of businesses including ".com" in their company name. As the Internet became a major market force, it required the creation of an easy term to describe these businesses. This is an easily pinpointed example of how a new idea can quickly become a new word, or neologism, usually based on a void in the then-current language or a need to expedite the expression of an idea which is gaining popularity. New words often enter the language through mass media, the Internet, or through word of mouth—especially, many linguists suspect, by younger people.

Words and phrases can also be created as an attempt to frame a political issue, in order to cause the listener of the word or phrase to interpret the issue as coiner intends. A contemporary example where two phrases have been coined to frame the same issue in opposite ways are "pro-life" and "pro-choice".

Examples of word coinage

See also

Last updated: 08-29-2005 13:37:25
The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy