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A neologism (/nˈɒləɪzəm/;

  1. REDIRECT Template:Etymology) 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.[1] Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. Νεολεξία (Greek: a "new word", or the act of creating a new word) is a synonym for it. The term neologism is first attested in English in 1772, borrowed from French néologisme (1734).[2]

A neologism may also be a new usage of an existing word,[3][4] sometimes called a semantic extension.[5][6] Cf. idiolect.

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.[7] This tendency is considered normal in children, but in adults can be a symptom of psychopathy[8] or a thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia).[9] People with autism also may create neologisms.[10] Additionally, use of neologisms may be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.[11]

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.[12]

From literature

Neologisms may come from popular literature in different forms. Sometimes, 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.

Other times 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), "Kafkaesque" (from Franz Kafka, author and philosopher most renowned for The Metamorphosis) 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.

List of neologisms

Science and technology

Science fiction



Popular culture

These may be considered a variety of slang.

Commerce and advertising

These neologisms are genericised trademarks.



  • Thanksgivukkah, a portmanteau neologism given to the convergence of the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah on Thursday, November 28, 2013.[13][14]
  • nonce words, words coined and used only for a particular occasion, usually for a special literary effect.

See also



  • 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

General information
  • Root knowledge : The need for neologisms
  • Neologism History & Evaluation
  • International Dictionary of Literary Terms : Neologisms
  • The Urban Dictionary
  •, a regularly updated directory of over 1,100 invented languages and neographies.
  • Wordnik A dictionary which novelty is that it searches the social media for neologisms.
  • Neologisms in Journalistic Text
  • Internet Neologisms
  • Rice University Neologisms Database
  • Neologisms from the Internet - with Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales and more...
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