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Richard Nordquist

Six Ways to Create New Words

By August 25, 2008

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Most new words are actually old words in different forms or with fresh functions. This process of creating new words out of old ones is called derivation--and here are six of the most common varieties.

For the complete article, go to Where Do New Words Come From?


September 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm
(1) Parepidemos says:

Richard, I love the tidbits you unearth and dust off for us to enjoy! Simply becoming more aware of how language is being used, and growing– “morphing”– in delightful ways every day!

By the way, is the verb “morph” an example of both clipping and conversion (endomorph, ectomorph… just morph)? Or is it a back formation + conversion from a word like “morphology”?

Or might there be an obscure writer for children’s television whose etymology hobby brought a Latin etymon more than a thousand years into the future and into the hearts and minds of millions of children today?

September 5, 2008 at 12:34 am
(2) grammar says:

Thank you for your note. The noun “morph” (meaning “a skin disease” in the 17th century;
a morphine addict in the early 20th century; and more recently, in linguistics, a “discrete phonological unit”) has been around for some time, but the verb “to morph” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) made its first appearance only 25 years ago. So in that sense it could be a case of conversion. But I prefer your theory involving that obscure writer for children’s television. All the best!

April 4, 2009 at 5:26 pm
(3) Hayri Agun says:

Pretty well described. However I need a reference. Do you know anything scientific about creating new words like the ones above?

July 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm
(4) Clovenward says:

It is fascinating how languages evolve and adapt to territorial and generational dialects. I, for one, often adjust words to suit a moment or phrase…. examples…

Planetaries – actually a word, but not when used as a plural noun to refer to planets and things resembling planets, such as Pluto.

Observationists (new to me at the time, and not a dictionary word that I can find, but after a quick “google” I find that it used by many) used as a noun referring to those that observe.

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