Pretended refusal of something desired.
Acrolect: The variety of speech that is closest to a standard prestige language, especially in an area in which a creole is spoken. For example, Standard Jamaican English is the acrolect where Jamaican Creole is spoken.
Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a series of words; e.g. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). • Also called protogram, initialism.
Acrophony: The use of a word starting with a letter of the alphabet as the name of the letter.
Acrostic: A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence.
Adianoeta: An expression that carries both an obvious meaning and a second, subtler meaning.
Adnominatio: Assigning to a proper name its literal or homophonic meaning; also, paronomasia or polyptoton. Same as "prosonomasia."
Adynaton: A declaration of impossibility, usually expressed as an exaggerated comparison with a more obvious impossibility. "I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one of his cheek." -- William Shakespeare.
Alliteration: Repetition of the same sound beginning several words placed close together, usually adjacent. See also: assonance, consonance, parechesis, paroemion.
Allonym: The name of another person, especially that of a significant historical figure, assumed by somebody, especially a writer. Also, the name of another actual person assumed by one person in authorship of a work of art; e.g., when ghostwriting a book or play, or in parody, or when using a front such as by screenwriters blacklisted in Hollywood in the '50s, '60s, and '70s.
Ambigram: A word, phrase, or sentence written in such a way that it reads the same way upside down as right-side up.
Amphibology or amphiboly (from the Greek amphibolia): A verbal fallacy arising from ambiguity in the grammatical structure of a sentence, sometimes intentionally equivocal. E.g.: "At our drugstore, we dispense with accuracy!"
Amphigory: Nonsense writing, usually in verse.
Anacoluthon: A change in a grammatical construction within the same sentence. "And these socks -- are they mine also?" See also: synesis.
Anacronym: An acronym where few people remember what each letter stands for (anachronistic + acronym). Example Citation: "Words such as radar and laser began life as acronyms, but now they're 'anacronyms' because few people can recall what their letters originally represented."
Anadiplosis: Rhetorical repetition of one or more words, particularly a word at the end of a clause. "Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or state; servants of fame; and servants of business." -- Francis Bacon. See also: anaphora, epistrophe, symploce.
Anagram: A rearrangement of a group of letters, especially a word that can be formed by rearranging the letters in another word.
Ananym: A pseudonym that has the letters of the name arranged backwards (Salguod: Douglas).
Anaphora: The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France; we shall fight on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender." -- Winston Churchill. See also: anadiplosis, epistrophe, symploce.
Anastrophe: Transposition or inversion of normal word order; a type of hyperbaton. "Once upon a midnight dreary..." -- Edgar Allan Poe. "The helmsman steered; the ship moved on; yet never a breeze up blew." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge. See also: hyperbaton, synchysis.
Anatonym: A part of the body used as a verb (toe the line; face the music; foot the bill).
Anonym: A person whose name is not given, who remains nameless.
Antagonym: A single word that has meanings that contradict each other ("bad" for "good").
Antanaclasis: Repetition of a word whose meaning changes in the second instance. "Your argument is sound...all sound." -- Benjamin Franklin.
Anthroponym(ic): A person's name, especially a surname.
Anthimeria: Substitution of one part of speech for another, most often a noun used as a verb.
Antigram: An anagram in which the new word or phrase is the opposite of the original. Example Citation: "The converse of the aptagram is the antigram. In antigrams, a word or phrase gets rejuggled into another word or phrase that bears a meaning opposite to that of the base. Thus, astronomers/moon starers is an aptagram while astronomers/no more stars is an antigram." — Richard Lederer, "Looking at language; Check out this ever-changing parade of antigrams," The Patriot-Ledger, April 12, 1997
Antiphrasis: The use of a word or phrase contrary to its normal meaning for ironic or humorous effect. "A mere babe of 60 years."
Antisthecon: The substitution of one sound, syllable, or letter within a word for another, frequently to accomplish a pun; a type of metaplasm. See also: metaplasm.
Antistrophe: The repetition of words in an inverse order. "The master of the servant and the servant of the master."
Antonomasia: The substitution of a title or epithet for a proper name. "Yes, Your Majesty." Also, the substitution of a personal name for a common noun. "You're a Benedict Arnold." See also: honorific.
Antonym: Either of a pair of words that have opposite (or near-opposite) meanings; e.g. slow and fast are antonyms of one another, also dead and alive, wife and husband.
Aphaeresis: Loss of the initial portion of a word. For example, cause from because; specially from especially. See also: apocope.
Aphesis: Mispronouncing a word by dropping one or more initial, usually unstressed syllables. "'cept" instead of "except." See also: aphetic.
Aphorism: A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage; a brief statement of a principle.
Apocope: Loss of the final portion of a word. For example, info from information; cinema from cinematograph. See also: aphaeresis.
Apophasis: Mentioning something by declaring that it shall not be mentioned. Same as "paralepsis" and "preterition." "I need not remind you to get your Christmas shopping done early." See also: autoclesis, parasiopesis.
Aporia: Expression of doubt, usually feigned, about what the speaker should say, think, or do. "Oh no! Whatever shall I do now?"
Aposiopesis: A halting or trailing off of speech caused by the speaker seemingly overcome by an emotion such as excitement, fear, or modesty; a form of brachylogy. "When your father finds out...." See also: brachylogy.
Appellation: 1. A name, title, or designation.
2. A protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district.
Aptagram: An anagram in which the new word or phrase has a similar meaning to the original word. Example Citation:
"But it is even more fascinating when we reconfigure words into other words that bear a meaningful relationship to the base. These significant tandems are called aptagrams—words that anagram into their own synonyms." — Richard Lederer, "Looking at language; Check out this ever-changing parade of antigrams," The Patriot-Ledger, March 22, 1997
Aptronym: A person's name that matches its owner's occupation or character very well (either in fiction or reality); e.g. arctic explorer Will Snow, hairdresser Dan Druff.
• From apt (=suitable); coined by Franklin P. Adams.
Archaism: The intentional use of a word or expression no longer in general use, for example, "thou mayst" is an archaism meaning "you may." Archaisms can evoke the sense of a bygone era. Sidelight: Spenser's The Faerie Queene contains a number of archaisms. Syntactic inversions such as the hyperbaton can also provide an archaic effect.
Aristonym: A surname used as, or derived from, a formal title of nobility, e.g. Thomas Harold Andre Le Duc
Assonance: Repetition of the same sound in multiple words placed close to each other, often adjacent. See also: alliteration, consonance, parechesis.
Asyndeton: Lack of conjuctions between coordinate words, phrases, or clauses; a form of brachylogy. "But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground." -- Abraham Lincoln. See also: brachylogy, polysyndeton.
Autoantonym: A word that can take two (or more) opposite meanings; e.g. fast means "moving quickly" or "fixed firmly in place", overlook means "to watch over carefully" or "to fail to notice". • Also called contranym, contronym, antilogy, enantiodrome, Janus word.
Autonym: 1. A word that describes itself; e.g. noun is a noun, polysyllabic is polysyllabic, abbrv. is an abbreviation, word is a word.
2. A person's real name; the opposite of pseudonym.
3. A name by which a social group or race refers to itself.
• Also called self-referential word, or autological.
Back formation: The creation of a new word from an existing form assumed, incorrectly, to be its derivative. For example, the word edit was actually formed by dropping the suffix "-or" from editor, not the other way around.
Bacronym: The reverse of producing an acronym; taking a word which already exists and creating a phrase (usually humorous) using the letters of the word as initials: e.g. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody (BANANA), Guaranteed Overnight Delivery (GOD). • From back(wards) + acronym.
Blurb: A short description of a product written for promotional purposes. Invented for a meeting of the American Booksellers Association in 1907 by the American illustrator and humorist Gelett Burgess.
Brachylogy: An abbreviated or condensed expression, often by omitting words that can be determined by the surrounding context. See also: aposiopesis, asyndeton, zeugma.
Bromide: Hackneyed phrases (such as “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”) uttered by boring and predictable people. Coined by the American illustrator and humorist Gelett Burgess after the then-familiar sedative, potassium bromide.
Cacemphaton: An expression that is deliberately foul or ill-sounding.
Calque: An expression introduced into one language by translating it from another language. Same as "loan translation." "Superman," from the German word "Ubermensch." See also: loan translation, loanword, Wanderwort.
Camouflanguage: Language that uses jargon, euphemisms, and other devices to hide the true meaning of what is being said.
Capitonym: A word which changes its meaning and pronunciation when capitalised; e.g. polish and Polish, august and August, concord and Concord.
Charactonym: The name of a literary character that is especially suited to his personality (Mr. Scrooge; Marcus Welby).
Chiasmus: A figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. "Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure" --Byron
Chronogram: An inscribed phrase in which certain letters can be read as Roman numerals. "ChrIstVs DVX; ergo trIVMphVs," which is the motto of a medal struck by Gustavus Adolphus; the capital letters, when added as numerals, indicate the year 1632.
Clerihew: A humorous verse, usually consisting of two unmatched rhyming couplets, about a person whose name generally serves as one of the rhymes. E.g., "Daniel Defoe / Lived a long time ago / He had nothing to do, so / He wrote Robinson Crusoe."
Clipping (or truncation): A process whereby an appreciable chunk of an existing word is omitted, leaving what is sometimes called a stump word. When it is the end of a word that is lopped off, the process is called back-clipping: thus examination was docked to create exam and gymnasium was shortened to form gym. Less common in English are fore-clippings, in which the beginning of a word is dropped: thus phone from telephone. Very occasionally, we see a sort of fore-and-aft clipping, such as flu, from influenza.
Cognomen: A name, especially a descriptive nickname or epithet acquired through usage over a period of time. E.g., Pope Gregory the Great, King Edward Longshanks, Emperor Charlemagne, King William the Conqueror. Originally, the third and usually last name of a citizen of ancient Rome, as Caesar in Gaius Julius Caesar.
Colloquialism: An expression not used in formal speech or writing. Colloquialisms can include words (such as "gonna" or "grouty"), phrases (such as "ain't nothin'" and "dead as a doornail"), or sometimes even an entire aphorism ("There's more than one way to skin a cat"). Colloquialisms are often used primarily within a limited geographical area.
Consonance: The repetition of consonants or consonant patterns, especially at the ends of words. Same as "consonant rhyme." See also: alliteration, assonance, parechesis.
Consonym: Words that have the same pattern of consonants (eTHNiC: THeNCe; SPoNGe: eSPioNaGe).
Contronym: A word which is its own opposite. "Cleave," meaning "adhere" and "separate." See also: autoantonym.
Cranberry morpheme: A word that exists only in one bound form, such as the "cran-" of "cranberry". It is unrelated to the word "cran" meaning a case of herrings, and though it actually comes from "crane" the bird, it is not at all clear why. Phonetically, the first morphemes of "gooseberry" and "raspberry" also count as cranberry morphemes, as they don't occur by themselves, but the spelling gives an obscure clue to their origin. Compare these to "blackberry", which has two obvious unbound morphemes.
Creole: A language that originates from two other languages and has features of both. See also: acrolect.
Cruciverbalist: A constructor of crossword puzzles; also, an enthusiast of word games, especially crossword puzzles.
Cryptogram: a short piece of text encrypted with a simple substitution cipher in which each letter is replaced by a different letter. To solve the puzzle, one must recover the original lettering.
Cryptolect: A secret language. Example Citation: "Unlike modern slang the ancient cant approaches the notion of a...'cryptolect,' as described by Ian Hancock. Altered by time, it retains a degree of currency in the British Isles and North America among Travelers, a traditionally itinerant people including the Roma (Gypsies) and other groups." — J. E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume I
Cryptonym: A private or secret name (Agent 007).
Deictic: Characteristic of a word whose reference depends on the circumstances of its use; also, a deictic word. "This," which means nothing outside of context.
Discourse particles; Elements of spontaneous spoken language that are not crucial to the referential meaning of the message, but that fulfill other important functions. Such functions may be called pragmatic functions, and are related to the relationship between the speaker and the listener in a dialogue, the relationship between the speaker and what she is saying, etc. Some of the elements in the language that carry these functions are often called pragmatic particles. Some English words and word-like elements may be said to function as discourse particles, e.g. well, actually, like, I mean, innit (BrEng., derived from the tag question isn't it).
Domunym: Literally "home name," is a word used to identify people from particular places (Philadelphians; Annapolitans).
Double entendre: a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so. Or when a word is used that has to menaings, and the statement can apply for either meaning.
Dysphemism: Substitution of a mild expression with a harsher one; opposite of "euphemism"; cacophemism. See also: euphemism.
Dystmesis: Inserting a word in the middle of another in an unlikely or unexpected place; a form of tmesis. "Unbe-freaking-lievable." See also: tmesis.
Ellipsis: a rhetorical figure of speech, the omission of a word or words required by strict grammatical rules but not by sense. The missing words are implied by the context.
Enallage: Substitution of one part of speech, gender, number case, person, tense, mode, or voice for another. The royal "we," as a substitute for "I." See also: nosism.
Enclitic: A word or syllable which is joined with the preceding word in such a way as to lose its own independent accent. "Prithee," which is a shortening of "pray thee," and "'em," in, "Get 'em!". See also: proclitic, synaloepha.
Epanorthosis: Immediate rephrasing for emphasis, intensification, or justification. "You, young lad, are most brave! Brave, did I say? No, heroic!"
Epigram: a brief, clever, and usually memorable statement
Epexegesis: When one interprets what one has just said, often signaled by "that is to say...."
Epistrophe: Repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. "In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo -- without warning. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia -- without warning. In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria -- without warning. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia -- without warning. Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland -- without warning. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand -- and the United States -- without warning." Franklin D. Roosevelt. See also: anadiplosis, anaphora, symploce.
Epithet: A descriptive word or phrase. "The Great Emancipator," as a substitute for Abraham Lincoln. Also, an abusive or contemptuous word or phrase; a slur.
Epizeuxis: Repetition of a word with vehemence or emphasis. "Alone, alone, all all alone. Alone on a wide wide sea." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge. See: palilogy, ploce.
Eponym: A name from which another name or word is derived; e.g. Romulus giving rise to Rome, the word sandwich coming from the Earl of Sandwich.
Ethnonym: A proper name by which a people or an ethnic group is known.
Euonym: Lucky or auspicious name (Celeste Holmes; Harry Truman).
Euphemism: The substitution of a harsh, offensive, or unpleasant word with one that is less so. "When the final news came, there would be a ring at the front door -- a wife in this situation finds herself staring at the front door as if she no longer owns it or controls it -- and outside the door would be a man...come to inform her that unfortunately something has happened out there, and her husband's body now lies incinerated in the swamps or the pines or the palmetto grass, 'burned beyond recognition,' which anyone who had been around an air base very long (fortunately Jane had not) realized was quite an artful euphemism to describe a human body that now looked like an enormous fowl that has burned up in a stove, burned a blackish brown all over, greasy and blistered, fried, in a word, with not only the entire face and all the hair and the ears burned off, not to mention all the clothing, but also the hands and feet, with what remains of the arms and legs bent at the knees and elbows and burned into absolutely rigid angles, burned a greasy blackish brown like the bursting body itself, so that this husband, father, officer, gentleman, this ornamentum of some mother's eye, His Majesty, the Baby of just twenty-odd years back, has been reduced to a charred hulk with wings and shanks sticking out of it." -- Tom Wolfe. See also: dysphemism, eusystolism.
Eusystolism: Use of initials, instead of full words, as a euphemism, often to avoid speaking harsh words. E.g., "S.O.B." for "son of a bitch." See also: euphemism.
Exergasia: Repeating a point by using different figures of speech to give the impression of saying something new.
Exonym: A place name used by foreigners that differs from the name used by natives; e.g. Londres is the French exonym for London, Germany is an exonym because Germans call it Deutschland.
Filionym(ic): A name derived from that of a son.
Fillers: Words and phrases commonly used in conversational English to give the speaker time to think or to modify what he/she is saying. These "padding" words and expressions can be divided into two groups. The first group is made up of "meaningless fillers." They do not add anything to the meaning, and people often use them to give themselves time to think or if they can't express themselves clearly. The most common are the following: well, um, er, I mean, sort of, really, actually, you know how it is, you know, or something, basically. The second group of fillers are padding words and expressions that show the speaker's attitude, so these are words which we often throw in to reinforce and indicate our attitude to what we are saying (i.e. if we feel it strongly or we're not sure). E.g., "the fact is," "I mean let's face it," "if you ask me," "that's how I see it," "let me see", "as far as I remember," "to be honest," "I was just thinking," "one possible idea might be," "or something like that," "what do you think?"
Genericized trademark: A trademark or brand name which has become synonymous with a particular type of product or service, to the extent that it often replaces the formal term for the product or service in colloquial usage. E.g., Allen wrench, aspirin, bikini, cellophane, escalator.
Glyph: A symbol, such as on a public sign, that imparts information without words, especially a figure or character incised or in relief.
Hendiadys: The use of a conjunction rather than the subordination of one word to another. "I will try and arrive promptly this time," instead of "I will try to arrive promptly this time." Also "nice and warm" instead of "nicely warm."
Heteronym: One of two (or more) words that have the same spelling, but different meaning, and sometimes different pronunciation too. (Heteronyms that are pronounced differently are also heterophones.) E.g. sewer, row, entrance, wind. A heteronym is a kind of homonym. • Also called heterograph.
Hieronym: A surname that is based on a sacred name; e.g., Joseph Saint John
Hinky-pinky: A clue, definition, or riddle, the answer to which is a pair of rhyming words. For instance, the clue "a Norseman on wheels" could be answered "biking Viking." The phrase "hinky-pinky" is part of the clue; it declares that the words of the answer are each two syllables. Other phrases are used for other lengths: "hink-pink" indicates one-syllable rhyming words, "hinkety-pinkety" is for three-syllable rhymes, and "hinketius-pinketius" denotes the rare four-syllable rhyming phrase. (But the game is generically known as "hinky-pinky.") Answers usually comprise an adjective followed by a noun, but not always.
Holalphabetic: A phrase, clause, sentence, or other sequence of letters which contains every letter of the alphabet at least once. See also: pangram.
Holograph: A document written wholly in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears.
Holonym: A concept that has another concept as a part. A house is a holonym of a room. See also: meronym.
Holorime (or holorhyme): A form of rhyme in which the rhyme encompasses an entire line or phrase. A holorime may be a couplet or short poem made up entirely of homophonous verses. E.g.: "In Ayrshire hill areas, a cruise, eh, lass? / Inertia, hilarious accrues, he'las!"
Homonym: One of two (or more) words that have the same pronunciation or spelling, but are different in meaning. (Homonyms which have the same spelling are also heteronyms; homonyms that have the same pronunciation, but different spelling and meaning, are also homophones; and homonyms that have the same spelling but are different in origin, meaning, and pronunciation are also homographs); e.g. sewer, row, write and right, way and weigh.
Honorific: A title or phrase conferring respect, especially when used in addressing a social superior. See also: autonomasia.
Humpty Dumpty language: An idiosyncratic or eccentric use of language in which the meaning of particular words is determined by the speaker. From Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass."
Hydronym(y): Names of bodies of water.
Hyperbaton: Deviation from normal or logical word order. See also: anastrophe, hysteron proteron, synchysis.
Hyperbole: Exaggeration for emphasis or rhetorical or dramatic effect. See also: meiosis.
Hypercorrect: Characteristic of an incorrect linguistic construction in which the error is produced from a mistaken effort to be correct. "Between you and I," which should be "between you and me." See also: hyponym.
Hyperlect: Accent intended to differentiate the speaker from the lower social classes.
Hypernym: A word that has a more general meaning than another; e.g. in the relationship between chair and furniture, furniture is a hypernym; in the relationship between horse and animal, animal is a hypernym. • Also called superordinate term, generic term. Also, hyperonym.
Hypocorism: Use of pet names, diminutives, baby talk, or terms of endearment. "Comfy" instead of "comfortable."
Hyponym: A word that has a more specific meaning than another; e.g. in the relationship between chair and furniture, chair is a hyponym; in the relationship between horse and animal, horse is a hyponym. • Also called subordinate term.
Hypophora: Asking a question, often one it is anticipated readers or listeners will have, and subsequently answering it. See also: procatalepsis.
Hysteron proteron: Reversal of the normal order of terms; a type of hyperbaton. "Gentlemen and ladies." See also: hyperbaton.
Iatronym: A medical term or medical nomenclature.
Idiolect: The speech of an individual, considered as a linguistic pattern unique among speakers of his or her language or dialect.
Illeism: The practice of referring to oneself in the third person. See also: illeist.
Informalism: A word that is meant to reproduce improper spoken English. E.g., "yeah," "dunno," "dammit," "gonna," "uh-huh," "gotta," gimme," betcha." See elision.
Initialism: An abbreviation formed by using the first letters, or initials, of a series of words, for example "BBC", or "IBM". The term initialism is often used by those who make a sharp distinction between an initialism and an acronym; they reserve the term acronym for cases when the letters form a pronounceable word, like "NATO" or "AIDS", and use the term initialism when they do not, being pronounced instead by sounding out the name of each constituent letter. (Thus, by this definition, BBC ("Bee Bee See") is an initialism, while NATO ("Naytow") is an acronym.) Others do not make this distinction, and use the terms interchangeably (though the term acronym is used much more frequently in this case).
Inner-capped: Describes a word that includes one or more uppercase letters within the body of the word. (The word "intercapped" is also sometimes used.) Example Citation: "I used to think this trend started with companies that affected computer lingo—CompuServe, DigiCash, WordPerfect, HotJava—but lexicographer Richard Weiner, who I suspect coined inner-capped on the analogy of the mafia's knee-capping, reminds me of the 1959 TelePrompTer." —William Safire
Interjection: A phrase consisting of exclamatory words such as oh, alas, and ouch. They are marked by a feature of intonation that is usually shown in writing by an exclamation point.
Invariant tags: Discourse markers, interactional in nature, involving some sort of hearer-orientation. They serve to involve the hearer in some way or other although they do not always ask for or even allow for his contribution in the discourse. E.g., "eh," "okay," "right," "yeah," "you know," and "innit."
Isogloss: A geographic boundary line delimiting the area in which a given linguistic feature occurs.
Kenning: Replacement of a common noun by a colorful compound. "Information superhighway" instead of "Internet."
Lipogram: Writing composed of words lacking a certain specific letter or letters. See also: univocalic.
Litotes: Understatement by negating the opposite; a type of meiosis. "I was not disappointed with the news." See also: meiosis.
Logogram: A written symbol that represents an entire word without expressing its pronunciation. Same as "ideogram" and "logograph." The numerals 0-9 are each logograms.
Malapropism: (from French mal à propos, "ill to purpose") An incorrect usage of a word, usually with comic effect. The term comes from the name of Mrs Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy, The Rivals (1775), whose name was in turn derived from the existing English word malapropos, meaning "inappropriately". Here are some examples from her dialogue: "He's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile." (i.e., alligator); "He is the very pineapple of politeness." (i.e., pinnacle); "If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!" (i.e., apprehend; vernacular; arrangement; epithets)
Malonym: A humorous homophone or sound-alike mistake: "Our menu is guaranteed to wet (whet) your appetite."
Meiosis: Understatement for emphasis or rhetorical or dramatic effect. "When my wife left me because I'd been fired and crippled in an accident on my way home, I was a little saddened." See also: hyperbole, litotes.
Merism: A grouping of words that means something other than the combined meanings of each of the words individually. In rhetoric, a merism is a figure of speech by which a single thing is referred to by a conventional phrase that enumerates several of its parts, or which lists several synonyms for the same thing. Merisms also figure in a number of familiar English expressions. When we mean to say that someone searched thoroughly, everywhere, we often say that someone searched high and low. The phrase lock, stock, and barrel originally referred to the parts of a gun, by counting off several of its more conspicuous parts; we use it to refer to the whole of anything that has constituent parts.
Meronym: 1. A word that refers to a part of what another word refers to; e.g. in the relationship between leg and ankle, ankle is a meronym; in the relationship between brim and hat, brim is a meronym.
2. A term midway between two opposites; e.g. flat between convex and concave, present between past and future.
Metallage: A word or phrase treated as an object within another expression. "A lady's 'verily' is as potent as a lord's." -- William Shakespeare.
Metanalysis: The act of breaking down a word or phrase into segments or meanings not original to it. The term was coined by the linguist Otto Jespersen, from Greek elements meaning "a change of breakdown". Examples: Metanalysis across words: "an adder" was originally "a nadder," and "an apron" "a napron," but the initial n was metanalyzed as belonging to the article instead of the noun. This appears to be the most common popular use of the term. Metanalysis of words: Folk etymology: reading history as his story (and coining herstory in reaction) is an example of metanalysis. Similarly, asparagus is sometimes metanalyzed as sparrow-grass. Back-formation, such as taking -holic from alcoholic and forming compounds such as workaholic. Junctural metanalysis: confusion over boundaries of words produces new words. Some examples of clipping, such as alum from alumnus (whereas in Latin the original morpheme division is alumn-us).
Metaphasis: Transposing sounds or letters in a word or phrase (e.g., "stits and farts" instead of "fits and starts"). A.k.a. a spoonerism.
Metaphor: Implied comparison between two things by calling or implying that one is the other. See also: catachresis, simile.
Metonym: A word designates something by the name of something associated with it; e.g. "the Crown" referring to the monarchy, "the bottle" referring to alcohol, "the White House" for the US executive branch.
Metronym: A name derived from the name of one's mother, or another female ancestor. Also, matronym.
Mondegreen: A series of words, often humorous, that result from mishearing a statement or song lyric. Also, holorime. See also, oronym.
Monepic: Comprising of one word, or of single word sentences.
Mononym: A term consisting of one word only.
Mononymous: Describes a person who uses only one name. E.g., Madonna, Pelé, Cher. Also, uninomial.
Neologism: A recently created (or coined) word, phrase or usage which can sometimes be attributed to a specific individual, publication, period or event. The term was itself coined around 1800.
Netcronym: An abbreviation that consists of the first letters of each word in a phrase and which is used when discussing a subject in a chat room or when writing an e-mail. Netcronyms are a quick way of telling people what you think; for example, IMO is a netcronym for “in my opinion”.
Nickname: A short, clever, cute, derogatory, or otherwise substitute name for a person or thing's real name (for example, Nick is short for Nicholas). See sobriquet, epithet.
Noa word: A word free of any taboo in the languages under consideration, usually signifying that it may be employed without reservation in the creation of an international commercial name.
Nonce word: A word coined “for the nonce”—made up for one occasion and not likely to be encountered again.
Nosism: The practice of referring to oneself as "we"; a type of enallage. See also: enallage.
Numeronym: The name of a number or names of numbers.
Numeronymous: Describes a phone number where the numbers also spell out a word or phrase (e.g., 1-800-GO-FEDEX).
Nymrod: A person who insists on turning every multi-word term into an acronym.
Onomastic: Of, relating to, or explaining one or more names.
Onomastician: A person who studies the origins and forms of proper names.
Onomatopoeia: A word that refers to a specific sound and whose pronunciation mimics the sound. "Bang! Zoom!" -- Jackie Gleason.
Onymous: Having or bearing a name; of a writing. Bearing the name of the author; of an author who gives his/her name. The opposite of anonymous, and usually explicitly contrasted with it.
Organonym: The technical name of an organ.
Oronym: A string of words which is homophonic with another string of words; e.g. ice cream and I scream, mint spy and mince pie. More examples here. See also, mondegreen.
Orthography: The study of correct spelling according to established usage. See also: heterography, homography.
Oxymoron: The juxtaposition of incongruous or contradictory terms.
Paedonym(ic): A name derived from one's child (Althea Meleagris, mother of Meleager).
Palilogy: The repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, for emphasis. See also: epizeuxis, ploce.
Palindrome: A word, phrase, clause, or sentence that reads the same regularly as it does when its letters are reversed; a type of palingram. "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama." See also: palingram.
Palingram: A word, phrase, clause, or sentence that reads the same backwards after rearranging segments. "Workmate did teamwork," is a palingram, because the sentence can be rearranged into four four-letter segments, with one three-letter segment in the middle; by reversing the order of the segments and, when necessary, rearranging the letters within each segment, the sentence reads the same backwards. See also: palindrome.
Pangram: A sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet; a holalphabetic sentence. See also: holalphabetic.
Paradiastole: A figure of speech in which a vice is portrayed as a virtue. "He is confident," said of a proud man.
Paragram: A pun. See also: antisthecon, equivoque, paronomasia.
Parechesis: The repetition of the same sound in words in close or immediate succession. "Veni, vidi, vici." -- Julius Caesar. See also: alliteration, assonance, consonance.
Paronomasia: Wordplay involving the juxtaposition of similar sounding words; also, punning. See also: adnominatio, paragram, polyptoton.
Paronym: A word from the same root, and usually a similar pronunciation, as another; e.g. beautiful and beauteous.
Patronym: A name derived from the name of one's father, or another male ancestor.
Periphrasis: Roundabout wording. "The person to whom I am married," instead of "my spouse." See also: circumlocution.
Phonaestheme: A word with a phonetic likeness to other words of similar meaning. Crush, crash, clash, bash, mash, smash, and smoosh are phonaesthemes of each other. See also: phonaesthesia.
Phonaesthesia: The phenomenon by which associations arise among groups of similar sounding words, which may have close, distant, or no etymological relations to each other. Same as "klang association." See also: phonaestheme.
Phytonym: The name of a plant, e.g. rosebush
Plastic words: Words or phrases with meanings that shift depending on the person hearing or reading them. Example Citation: "The core is that words like 'process', 'development', 'system', 'information', and 'communication' are now often used without real meaning, without substance, but nonetheless to lay claim to authority — the authority of science and expertise, the appearance of competence. ... Plastic words are extremely general." — Gerald Owen, "Plastic words: the tyranny of a modular language," Books In Canada, May 1996. Also, amoeba words.
Pleonasm: The use of a superfluity of words, often deliberately, for emphasis. "I've never seen anything more obscene in all my 80 years on this Earth."
Polyonym: Each of a number of different words having the same meaning (Jupiter: Zeus: Oden).
Polysemous: Characterized by having many meanings. See also: polysemy.
Portmanteau word: (Also called a blend, portmanteau or frankenword.) A word that is formed by combining two or more words. This meaning of the word was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. An example of a portmanteau is "smog", a combination of the words "smoke" and "fog."
Protonym: The first person or thing of the name; that from which another is named (the space shuttle Enterprise's protonym hangs in the museum).
Pseudoantonym: A word that appears to mean the opposite of what it actually means (unloosen; inflammable; ingenious; despoil; impassive).
Pseudonym: An assumed name, especially by an author; e.g. Eric Arthur Blair wrote the novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" under the pseudonym George Orwell. There are many kinds of pseudonyms, taken for a variety of reasons.
Alias is a term used in legal proceedings to connect the different names of any one who has gone by two or more, and whose true name is for any cause doubtful; as, Smith, alias Simpson. This term is often associated with criminals who assume different names to avoid exposure and capture.
The pen name, or nom de plume, is a pseudonym used by authors. Authors may use pen names to experiment with a new genre without the risk of upsetting regular readers. This use of pseudonyms is especially common if the new genre is of a somewhat risqué nature. Occasionally, a pseudonym avoids overexposure. Robert Heinlein often had two and sometimes three short stories in one issue of a magazine; the editor created several fictitious authors so that readers would not realize this. In other cases, a pseudonym protects its user from persecution for publishing unpopular opinions.
The nom de guerre is a pseudonym adopted by resistance fighters, terrorists and guerrillas for various reasons: to make enquiries more difficult, to seek and create an aura of mystery, to protect their families from reprisal, etc. Noms de guerre were frequently adopted by recruits in the French Foreign Legion as part of the break with their past lives. Pseudonyms used by some members of the French resistance were integrated into their last names after World War II; for instance, Jacques Delmas, alias Chaban, became Jacques Chaban-Delmas. Some of the more famous noms de guerre include: Che Guevara, Mata Hari, and Carlos the Jackal.
Stage names, screen names or professional names are pseudonyms used by an actor, performer, or model. Actors—and others in show business—rarely use a pseudonym to disguise themselves. The new name is intended to build a distinct, visible, and improved persona, in most cases. In some, it will help to separate the public persona from the private life. John Wayne, building a reputation as a tough guy, felt that his given name, Marion Morrison, did not connote the image he sought to assume. In many cases, a screen name was constructed simply because a studio executive did not like the actor's real name. Today, the most common reason for a performer to adopt a pseudonym is that someone else has already achieved fame with that name. Most hip hop artists prefer to use a pseudonym that represents some variation of their name, personality, or interests. Prime examples include Ol' Dirty Bastard (who is known under at least 6 aliases), Ludacris, LL Cool J, and Chingy.
"Nom de art" is sometimes used when referring to visual artists better known by their pseudonyms. E.g., El Greco (Domenico Theotocopoulos), Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret), Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti).
On the internet, pseudonymous remailers utilising cryptography can be used to achieve persistent pseudonymity, so that two-way communication can be achieved, and reputations can be established without linking a physical identity to a pseudonym.
Pubilect noun. A dialect unique to teenagers (puberty + dialect). Coined by Marcel Danesi, a professor of linguistics and semiotics at the University of Toronto.
Purr word: A word with positive connotations and therefore desirable to use in building and sustaining good public relations. See also: snarl word.
Rebus: A representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, especially when presented as a puzzle.
Recursive acronym: A hackish (and especially MIT) tradition is to choose acronyms and abbreviations that refer humorously to themselves or to other acronyms or abbreviations. The classic examples were two MIT editors called EINE ("EINE Is Not Emacs") and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially").
Reduplicative: A word or phrase formed by the doubling of a syllable or other part of a word, sometimes with modifications. E.g., "so-so," "helter-skelter," or "beriberi." Many languages use reduplication for grammatical purposes or to form more complex words from less complex ones. Sometimes a reduplicated root is so modified that it is no longer recognizable. Hunky-dory is one of these drastically modified reduplications. If the repeated elements are modified, they're called ricochet words; if the repeated elements are the same, they're called tautonyms.
Reification: To regard or treat an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence.
Retronym: An adjective-noun pairing generated by a change in the meaning of the base noun, usually as a result of technological advance; e.g. watch became pocket watch due to introduction of wrist watch, pen became fountain pen due to introduction of ball-point pen; coined by Frank Mankiewicz.
Rhinestone vocabulary: Words or phrases chosen only because they appeal to a particular person or group. Example Citation: "Politicians employ a rhinestone vocabulary in which key phrases such as 'family values', 'equal rights', and 'lower taxes' are substituted freely according to the audience." The rhinestone's chief quality, that of being an imitation stone, gives this phrase its underlying meaning.
Rhyme: Correspondence of terminal sounds of words or of lines of verse. "No more rhyming now, I mean it! / Anybody want a peanut?" -- "The Princess Bride."
Ricochet word: A word or phrase formed by the doubling of a syllable or other part of a word, which involves modification of the initial or middle or final element of the root. E.g., mish-mash, higgledy-piggledy (probably a reduplication of "pig"), "hanky-panky," "honky tonk," "criss-cross." See reduplicative.
Sesquipedalian: Of a word, having many syllables; of a person, tending to use long words.
Shibboleth: A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another.
Sideronym: A pseudonym consisting of the name of a celestial body (Madam Altaira).
Simile: An explicit comparison between two things using the word like or as. See also: metaphor.
Slanguist: A linguist who specializes in slang words and phrases.
Slurvian: A variant of English that is characterized by slurred pronunciation. Examples include "gimme" instead of "give me," "d'jo" instead of "did you," and "Tronno" instead of "Toronto."
Snarl word: A word with negative connotations and therefore not desirable to use lest good public relations be undermined. See also: purr word.
Soubriquet: A nickname or a fancy name, usually a familiar name given by others as distinct from a pseudonym assumed as a disguise. Also, moniker.
Solecism: A mistake in the use of language; also, an offense against good manners or etiquette.
Spoonerism: The interchange of the initial letters of two words, usually as a slip of the tongue. "I think I'll go outside and get a freth of bresh air." Also, metaphasis.
Sprachgefühl: A feeling for language; an instinctive appreciation for words and idioms that are linguistically appropriate. (From the German word sprachgefühl, "language feeling.")
Stump-word: A word formed by shortening (clipping) another word. E.g., "math" from "mathematics," "gym" from "gymnasium," or "ad" from "advertisement."
Stylometrician: A person who uses statistical analysis to study the style and content of text or speech.
Syllepsis: Use of a single word that applies to two or more others in different senses. "He was deep in thought and in debt." Also, "We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately." -- Benjamin Franklin. See also: zeugma.
Synecdoche: Referring to something by just a part of it. "New York won the World Series," instead of "The New York Yankees won the World Series." See also: metonymy.
Synonym: One of two (or more) words that have the same (or very similar) meaning; e.g. big and large, error and mistake, run and sprint.
Tautology: Repetition of an idea in different words. "With malice toward none, with charity for all." -- Abraham Lincoln.
Tautonym: 1. A word composed of two identical parts; e.g. pawpaw, yo-yo, tutu, bye-bye.
2. In biological nomenclature, a taxonomic name in which the genus and species names are identical; e.g. puffinus puffinus (manx shearwater), apus apus (common swift).
Technopropism: A technical malapropism. The humorous misuse of a technical word or phrase (e.g., "We'll release the product once it passes the fault infection test.").
Teknonym: The practice among certain primitive peoples of giving to the parent the name of the child. Naming a thing by substituting one of its attributes or a term it suggests (Chief Sitting Bull)
Theophorous: Having the name of a god; derived from the name of a deity.
Tmesis: Inserting a word in the middle of another. "Hoo-bloody-ray" and "un-freaking-believable." See also: dystmesis.
Toponym: 1. A place name; e.g. London, Mount Everest.
2. A word derived from a place name; e.g. champagne from Champagne in France, cashmere from Kashmir in India.
Trope: The figurative use of a word or expression.
Univocalic: Writing that contains just one vowel. "Left rebel 'Red Ken' elected." See also: lipogram.
Unpaired word: A word which is the negative of a word whose positive form is now obsolete or rare. E.g., "He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled." -- P.G. Wodehouse. We can say someone is unkempt, unruly, disconsolate or uncouth, but we can’t normally say that he is kempt, ruly, consolate or couth unless we are exploiting the unfamiliar word for humorous effect. Also, we can say ineffable, unscathed, indomitable, innocent or innocuous but not the inverse. Another group of unpaired words are those ending in the negative suffix -less for which the corresponding antonym in -ful do not exist. Examples are ageless, countless, hapless (formed from the obsolete Old English term hap, “fortune; chance”), leafless, peerless (based on the old sense of peer as “one’s equal in standing or rank”), toothless and voiceless.
Verbicide: The destruction of the sense or value of a word.
Vernacular: The language or dialect of a country; the everyday language of ordinary people.
Wanderwort: A word that is similar in several presumably unrelated or distantly related languages yet whose origins are unknown. "Wine." See also: calque, etymon, loanword.
Weblish: A form of English peculiar to some online documents and communication, the characteristics of which include the use of all-lowercase letters, infrequent punctuation, errors in spelling and grammar, and an informal tone. Also, netspeak.
Word burst: A rapid rise in both the frequency with which a word is used in a particular context, and the rate at which the word's usage increases over time.
Wordfact: A label that, when applied often enough to a particular group, eventually becomes accepted as fact. "The perception that Generation Xers are 'slackers' is inaccurate; it is a mere wordfact."
Wordnap: To apply a new meaning or usage to an existing word. (Word + kidnap; coined by Richard Lederer.)
Wordrobe: The words and phrases that comprise a person's vocabulary.
Xenoepist: One with a foreign accent.
Zeugma: Two words linked to another, which only applies to one of them; also, a syllepsis. See also: syllepsis.