New words

English is a living language, which means it changes over time. New words are constantly entering the language, evidenced by the Oxford English Dictionary’s policy of adding English words to their lexicon quarterly. There are many avenues for a word to enter into use.

New words may be coined from existing words. Compound words are words constructed from two existing words that when put together, form a new meaning. Portmanteaus are words constructed from the blending of two existing words. Back-formations are words that are derived by changing or omitting a prefix or suffix.

New words may be loaned or borrowed from other languages or dialects. Sometimes these new words are anglicized, sometimes they retain their original spelling. The exact meaning may or may not survive the transition from the source language to the English language.

New words are often incorporated into the main body of the English language from regional English or dialects. Words and phrases that were peculiar to a certain place are more and more often used by those who hail from outside the region, due to the global effect of mass media and the internet.

When new technologies enter society, new words to describe that technology accompany them.
This has been especially true with the advent of the internet. A related situation is the rise of the use of acronyms. Many acronyms are pronounced as a word, and as the acronym is repeatedly used, it may evolve into the form of an actual word.

Another interesting linguistic phenomenon is the functional shift, which occurs when the majority of people using a word define it in a new way. This may occur when a large group of English speakers don’t quite understand the original meaning of a word or prefer one definition to another by a great margin.

Finally, some new words are pure inventions. Writers often invent words to suit their purposes. If these words are coined by a famous writer, or if the invention strikes the fancy of the public, the word may enter general usage. In the end, whether or not a new word is added to the English language depends on its use by average English speakers.

6 thoughts on “New words”

  1. Ginormous, guesstimate and irregardless are not words, let alone “new” words. The actual words are gigantic or enormous, guess or estimate (which aren’t even close to the same thing). For those who’ve seen the episode of American Dad “Irregarding Steve”, the correct word is REGARDLESS: “Irregardless of what you think of me, I’m still your father. “Irregardless”? That’s not even a real word. You’re affixing the negative prefix “ir” to “regardless,” but as “regardless” is already negative, it’s a logical absurdity.

    • Ginormous … is no longer marked in red undersquiggs by my spell-bot. The democracy of the masses at work! Its a word, lady.

      Guesstimate … no red squiggles. Irregardless … again, no red squiggles.

      My pappy tol’ me not to use irregardless because it is a double negative. Seemed like a good reason. But when a colloquialism that isn’t particularly wrong in its genesis comes about, I say let us revel in the flexibility of English! And I like ginormous. Its like bazillion (another now-accepted word by my spell-checker.). Gazillion. Bailout (used to be 2 words, indicating to remove water from a boat or trough.) Texting. Sexting. Truthiness. Bollywood. Selfie. Frankenstorm. Fat-finger.

      There are hundreds of new words in the last 10 years, and thousands in the last 30. I’m OK with it. English rocks.


  2. Irregardless of what y’all think, our ginormous government is not controlling us through Svengali. Gimme a break. The gobbledygook I read on the web page makes me want to beeline to the nearest bar. D’oh. Kudos to those who police our verbiage of our wonky language.


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