A neologism (play /nˈɒləɪzəm/; from Greek νέο- (néo-), meaning "new", and λόγος (lógos), meaning "speech, utterance") is a newly coined term, word, or phrase, 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. Neolexia (Greek: a "new word", or the act of creating a new word) is a fully equivalent term.

The term neologism is first attested in English in 1772, borrowed from French néologisme (1734).[1]

In psychiatry, the term neologism is used to describe the use of words that have meaning only to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning.[2] This is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia) in adults.[3] People with autism also may create neologisms.[4] Additionally, use of neologisms may be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.[5]

In theology, a neologism is a relatively new doctrine (for example, Transcendentalism). In this sense, a neologist is one who proposes either a new doctrine or a new interpretation of source material such as religious texts.[6]



A T-shirt parodying the political neologism "homeland security" argues that native Americans have been battling invasion since 1492.

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), and agitprop (1930).


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). Alternatively, 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). The word "sadistic" is derived from the cruel sexual practices Marquis de Sade described in his novels. 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 Oxford English Dictionary.

The children's book Frindle by Andrew Clements is a story about a neologism.

Neologisms List


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
  • laser (1960) from Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  • blackhole (1968)
  • meme (1976)
  • prion (1982)
  • beetle bank (early 1990s)
  • lidar (late 90s) 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.

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, draft revision Dec. 2009, s.v.
  2. ^ G E Berrios (2009) Neologisms. History of Psychiatry 20: 480-496
  3. ^ P. J. McKenna, Schizophrenia and Related Syndromes. Page 363.
  4. ^ Neologisms and idiosyncratic language in autistic speakers. J Autism Dev Disord. 1991 Jun;21(2):109-30.
  5. ^ B Butterworth, Hesitation and the production of verbal paraphasias and neologisms in jargon aphasia. Brain Lang, 1979
  6. ^ Wood, J., "The Nuttall Encyclopædia: Being a Concise and Comprehensive Dictionary of General Knowledge" (1907), [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^


  • Alego, John. Fifty Years among the New Words: A Dictionary of Neologisms, 1941-1991. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-521-41377-X.
  • Alego, John, et al. "Neology Forum." Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 16 (1995): 1-108.
  • Fontaine, M. Funny Words in Plautine Comedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Fowler, H.W., "The King's English", Chapter I. Vocabulary, Neologism, 2nd ed. 1908.
  • Wood, J., "The Nuttall Encyclopædia: Being a Concise and Comprehensive Dictionary of General Knowledge" (1907), [2]

External links

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  • neologism — NEOLOGÍSM, neologisme, s.n. Cuvânt împrumutat de curând din altă limbă sau creat recent într o limbă prin mijloace proprii. [pr.: ne o ] – Din fr. néologisme. Trimis de RACAI, 03.11.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  Neologism ≠ arhaism Trimis de siveco,… …   Dicționar Român

  • Neologism — Ne*ol o*gism, n. [Cf. F. n[ e]ologisme.] 1. The introduction of new words, or the use of old words in a new sense. Mrs. Browning. [1913 Webster] 2. A new word, phrase, or expression. [1913 Webster] 3. A new doctrine; specifically, rationalism.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • neologism — index jargon (technical language) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • neologism — (n.) practice of innovation in language, 1776, from Fr. néologisme, from neo (see NEO (Cf. neo )) + Gk. logos word (see LECTURE (Cf. lecture) (n.)). Meaning new word or expression is from 1803. Neological is attested from 1754 …   Etymology dictionary

  • neologism — [n] new word buzz word*, coinage, neology, new phrase, slang, synthetic word*, vogue word*; concept 275 Ant. time worn …   New thesaurus

  • neologism — ► NOUN ▪ a newly coined word or expression. ORIGIN from NEO (Cf. ↑neo ) + Greek logos word …   English terms dictionary

  • neologism — [nē äl′ə jiz΄əm] n. [Fr néologisme: see NEO , LOGY, & ISM] 1. a new word or a new meaning for an established word 2. the use of, or the practice of creating, new words or new meanings for established words neologist n. neologistic adj.… …   English World dictionary

  • Neologism — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Neologism >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 neology neology neologism Sgm: N 1 newfangled expression newfangled expression Sgm: N 1 caconym caconym Sgm: N 1 barbarism barbarism Sgm: N 1 archaism archaism …   English dictionary for students

  • neologism — n. to coin a neologism * * * [niː ɒlədʒɪz(ə)m] to coin a neologism …   Combinatory dictionary

  • neologism — [[t]ni͟ːələʤɪzəm, niɒ̱l [/t]] neologisms N COUNT A neologism is a new word or expression in a language, or a new meaning for an existing word or expression. [TECHNICAL] The newspaper used the neologism dinks , Double Income No Kids. Syn: new word …   English dictionary

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