What Is A Neologism? (+Examples!)
Every year, tens of thousands of words pop into existence.
Sometimes we invent new things and need words for them. Other times we decide something is important and that it needs a name. Or we simply get bored of old words and update them.
Generally, if the public takes a liking to a word, it begins to enter general usage. These words are called neologisms.
If you go mad for language facts, listen up. A neologism is a newly developed or coined word that has started to fall into mainstream usage. When the word is fully accepted into everyday usage, it typically gets picked up by dictionaries and is technically no longer a neologism.
Neologisms can take many forms, and may be entirely new, or formed of existing words. To give you an example, “mansplain” combines the words “man” and “explain”.
However, neologisms don’t have to be constructed language. They can also be an existing word that has developed. The word “influencer” was initially used as “a person or thing that influences another”, but has taken on a new meaning. In modern times, an “influencer” typically refers to someone who promotes products or services on social media in order to influence people to buy them.
How do neologisms come about?
Everyday we can speak anywhere from 4,000 to 20,000 words. Whilst most of these will be words we already know, we often pick up neologisms without realising. So, where do words come from?
In general, neologisms arise out of mass media, the Internet, cultural changes or simply word of mouth. They usually come about when new situations emerge, or on the back of trends and societal developments. This can sometimes result in unusual words with beautiful meanings, or words that quickly disappear after a limited lifespan.
Though all neologisms are technically “new”, we’ve put together some of the most recent ones you may or not be using yet.
“A human being with an innate fear of missing out”
A combination of “homosapien” and “FOMO” (fear of missing out), a fomosapien is someone that doesn’t want to miss any opportunity. A fomosapien may be considered someone with a form of anxiety, believing that they will miss a significant experience if they don’t attend an event or experience.
“Someone who is out of date, or trying too hard.”
Brought to popularity through social media app, TikTok, “cheugy” is often used to describe members of older generations who try to keep up with trends, but unfortunately miss the mark. The NY Times described “cheugy” as “Golden Goose sneakers… Rae Dunn pottery, and anything chevron’.
“A holiday where work and play is mixed to extend the vacation, without using up additional paid time off.”
With more individuals working from home than ever, it’s no surprise that budding holidayers are looking at ways for this to extend their vacation. Working part time or allocated days whilst on vacation means longer holidays, and the chance to take breaks at different times of the year whilst maintaining your work schedule.
By definition neologisms are newly coined words, but it’s easy to forget that words were ever new once they become part of our everyday vocabulary.
We’ve listed some of the top “old” neologisms to grow in popularity.
“The practice of soliciting financial contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community.”
Crowdfunding in its simplest form is thousands of years old. However, with the global connectivity of the modern world, crowdfunding suddenly exploded. Instead of soliciting financial contributions from an isolated village or town, entrepreneurs can tap into the global community using the Internet.
“A person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”
The catfish concept was made famous by the 2010 American documentary of the same name. It followed a young photographer named Nev and his long-distance relationships with the family of an eight-year-old child prodigy artist. Eventually he finds out that the whole family is the fictive construction of a woman named Angela. The film spawned a TV show which investigates other catfishes and their relationships with gullible Internet users.
“Post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place.”
Social networks have connected us like never before and live-tweeting is an intriguing part of this. By dually interacting with an event and a community, live-tweeting creates a shared experience of communal viewership. The Internet is a lonely place no more.
“Website content that is aimed at generating advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs.”
The Internet is a crowded place and it’s hard to get your voice heard above the cacophony. Clickbait is the Internet’s equivalent of the tabloid headline. It shouts, shocks and coerces your attention, even though the content might not deserve it.
“Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.”
Hangry has become such an integrated part of our language that it really needs no explanation. A portmanteau of hungry and angry, “hangry” was first used in a 1992 novel, but wasn’t popularised until it began to appear on the Internet.
“A short break spent together by a newly married couple, typically in advance of a longer holiday to be taken at a later date.”
Happy events though they may be, weddings and all their preparation can take a huge toll. Mini-moons grew in popularity to let couples have a pre-wedding break, or take a short trip after the wedding to save for a longer (or more lavish) vacation down the line.
“An overly sensitive or easily offended person, or one who believes they are entitled to special treatment on account of their supposedly unique characteristics.”
If you’re familiar with how to speak Internet, you’ll no doubt have heard the term “snowflake” bandied around social media platforms when political or differentiating topics come up. The Guardian even named “snowflake” the defining insult of 2016.
Neologisms in translation
Neologisms typically form from popular culture, trends or need for a word, and this is almost always in one language.
When the neologism is associated with a large brand, product or item, often the neologism will continue to be used in the original language. For example, “Coke” used in replace of “Coca-cola” has continued across the world.
But what happens when a neologism needs to be translated?
Whether it’s words that don’t exist in English or another language, getting it right can be tricky. If the neologism is used for legal purposes, science, research, or business, a translator will typically find the closest word. If this isn’t possible, they may use the neologism alongside an explanation of what the word means.
If you’re concerned about finding the right translation whether for an event, marketing campaign, or other, Global Language Services can help.
When you’re dealing with tricky language like neologisms, it’s best to work with a professional. Machine translation may be quick, but the outcome won’t compare to working with a translator familiar with subtle nuances and variations. At Global Language Services, we work with companies and clients in the UK and abroad, providing the best service with fully trained translators and interpreters.
Need a translator now? Get in touch with us and we’ll find a bespoke solution to suit your needs.