Neologisms in the Modern English Language

Most frequently, neologism is explained and defined as ‘a new word' which seems quite clear and simple. However, when it is necessary to identify which words can be regarded as new ones and which not, there arises a problem. The problem lies in the relativity of the concept of novelty, newness as it depends on what period is taken into consideration, for how long the word has status of being new, etc. The Ukrainian philologist professor M.I. Mostovystates “there are no clear criteria of defining neologism as a linguistic phenomenon”. As a result, we face a kind of ambiguity at the very beginning of neologism investigation.

There, however, are a number of definitions of neologism offered by various linguists, which brings us some clarity in making out neologisms within the vocabulary of English.

The well-known “Dictionary of Linguistic Terms” by O.S. Akhmanova provides a more detailed definition, where there are distinguished two kinds of neologisms. The first definition runs as follows: “neologism is a word or phrase created for defining a new (unknown before) object or expressing a new notion”, the second one says that it is “a new word or expression that has not received the right for citizenship in the national language and thus is perceived as belonging to a specific, often substandard style of speech”

The linguistic encyclopaedia by V.N. Yartseva offers a broader definition, stating “neologisms are words, word meanings or collocations that appeared in a certain period in a language or that are once used (‘occasional' words) in a text or speech act”

The Dutch linguist M. Janssen offers five criteria for defining a neologism:

  • psychological - “a neologism is a word that is perceived as new by the language community”;
  • lexicographic - “any word that does not appear in the dictionary is considered a neologism”;
  • exclusive definition - “a word not appearing in a pre-determined exclusion lexicon[1] is a neologism”
  • diachronic definition - “any word-form that appears in a recent general language text, and was not previously part of that language is a neologism”;
  • reference corpora definition - “any word-form, which appears in a recent general language text, and does not appear in an established reference corpus of that language is a neologism”

In all the definitions, there is mentioned the fact of a novelty for some lexical units as a new word, phrase or expression. Some definitions add the facts of semantic novelty, e.g. new meaning, or even the syntactic one, e.g. new collocations.

The difference is chiefly in an extent of newness: either it concerns only the shift in meaning or in a structure too. Therefore, the sphere of difference is more or less clear[1].

The basic ways of forming words in word-derivationare affixation and conversion.Affixationis the formation of a new word with the help of affixes, e.g. heartless (from heart), to overdo (from to do). Conversionis the formation of a new word by bringing a stem of this word into a different formal paradigm, e.g. a fall (from to fall), to slave (from a slave).

Word-compositionis the formation of a new word by combining two or more stems which occurin the language as free forms, e.g. door-handle, house-keeper.

Shorteningis the formation of a new wordby cutting off a part of the word.

Blendingis the formation of a new word by combining parts of two words.

Acronymy (or graphical abbreviation) is the formation of a word from the initial letters of a word combination.

Back-formationis the formation of a new word by subtracting a real or supposed suffix from the existing words.

Coinageis the creation of entirely new words – quite unusual given the competition from all the other, perhaps easier ways ofcreating words.

Clipping is the shortening of a longer word, often reducing it to one syllable.

Borrowing as a means of replenishing the vocabulary of present-day English is of much lesser importance and is active mainly in the field of scientific terminology.

Proper namesenrich the vocabulary. The name of the Prime Minister Tony Blair became a common noun. Blairism(Blairist, Blairite, Blairification) - an economical and politicalprogram led by him.

Slang, argotand even certain euphemismshave also been a constant source of language enrichment, although some terms die out before they are admitted to the standard vocabulary [2].

One of the types of word building is compounding, which is a convenient and laconic way to express some ideas, comprised in one word.

E.g. set-jetting, noun, travelling to places because they have been the locations for films or TV programmes.

Set-jetting is the latest travel trend that puts you on the set of your favorite movies, TV shows or even book settings.

Blockchain,noun [C], UK /'Ыüк.ʧет/ÙŚ/'Ыɑ:к.ʧет/ an encrypted database of online transactions

Most have heard of bitcoin, fewer are familiar with blockchain. Bitcoin uses blockchain to form a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment system.

Sad rap, noun, a form of slow rap music with emotionally intense lyrics

Hopsin is a kind of new rapper who has great potential, but this song just doesn't cut it, there's plenty other sad rap songs that belong in this spot.

Ghost driver,noun [C],UK /'gəust ,drarvə/, US /'goʊst ,draι.va-/ a taxi driver who uses a frightening profile photograph to encourage the passenger to cancel the taxi ride.

The practice, which has been nicknamed the ghost driver issue, involves scam drivers using gruesome pictures that force users to hit “cancel” when they see who is coming to pick them up, and pay a cancellation fee.

Minor types of word building include shortening, acronymy, blending.

Shortening that consists in the reduction of a word to one of its parts, as a result the new form acquires some linguistic value of its own, blends that combine two words and include the letters or sounds they have in common as a connecting element. E.g. fab lab noun a fabrication laboratory; a science laboratory equipped with the latest digital technology in order to facilitate the learning of all the STEM subjects

The ‘Fab Lab' equips students with an array of tools in a small-scale workshop setting that offers personal digital fabrication -a project-based learning method that will allow students to create ‘almost anything.'

Freakshake, noun [C] /'fri:k,ʃeɪk/, a milkshake made with ice cream and other sweet foods including cream, chocolate and cake. Could there be a more epic drink (if you can call it a drink) than the freakshake? Originating in Australia, these monstrous concoctions promise to fix all your sugar cravings at once with their combo of milky goodness, rich, gooey cake, cookie chunks, lashings of cream and a carnival of colourful toppings.

Extreme phone pinching, noun, the practice of holding a mobile phone between the thumb and forefinger and dangling it over a perilous place while taking a selfie. Have you got what it takes to stomach the extreme phone pinching challenge? No, seriously.

Postmateriality, noun, in the digital age, after materials such as film and tape stopped being used to record sound and images. We have a generation now that's kind of coming to age postmateriality.

Midult, noun [C], /,mιd..∖lt/ someone, especially a woman, in the middle stage of adulthood who has interests more associated with those of younger people

Marketers and political pundits are fond of identifying new demographic groups [.] The latest is the Midult – a phrase coined by journalists Emilie McMeekan and Annabel Rivkin to describe a new tribe of women aged 35-55. The Midultis being described as more than just a demographic but a movement and a mindset[3].

So the simple definition of neologism is a new word or expression or a new meaning of a word, also there are three types of it: the first includes only those lexemes which have not existed up to a certain period of time; the second represents the words that have changed their meaning but retained their old form, with their old meaning lost or moved towards secondary importance; the third, circle contains those lexemes which have only added one or more new meanings without losing the significance of the old ones, they present the paradigmatic relations of polysemy. And, due to derivation with the help of affixes and compounding, which is a convenient and laconic way to express some ideas also shortening, acronymy, blending we build neologisms.



  1. english.
  2. A.Abdibekova, Ways of replenishment of the English vocabulary. P. 10-14. Kostanay, 2011.
Year: 2016
City: Kostanay
Category: Philology