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Who starred in the 2007 "Transformers" film?

Johnny Depp
Hugh Grant
Shia Labeouf
Ewan McGregor

How Are New Words Born?


By Christine Lovatt

Have you ever asked yourself how new words are born?  Sometimes we are left wondering if the language has improved or been degraded by additions. Like everything, I suppose some are good and some bad.

Next time you read the newspaper have a look at specialist areas such as computer or business sections. I used to tell my children that one of the best ways of improving their vocabulary is to read the daily newspaper, and then to look up in the dictionary any unfamiliar words.

However, you may have noticed that journalists do not always limit themselves to dictionary words. For instance, in one morning paper the finance section has a feature on ‘demutualisation’, a word maybe familiar to accountants but not in any dictionary.

This is a possible reason why the English language has such a rich vocabulary. When a concept comes into being, a word is invented to describe it. It starts being used as jargon, in a specialised field, and eventually may become part of mainstream language. The very word ‘mainstream’ is such a word.

It’s not just journalists and jargon(ists) creating new words. The Youth Radio Project is an online forum where primary school students from all around the world can share stories and collaborate on projects. One recent task was to create a list of new words the students would like to see in the dictionary. Fascinating entries flooded in from Australia, Spain and the United States and included:

Hogglewoggle: a pig in a blanket

Bool: boring but cool

Wing-jitty: a jittery wing of a bird that can’t be controlled

Lunchamacation: The study of food to make sure it is edible

Jujuba: a giant piece of bacon used as a weapon (I had to include this one!)


All the student’s words are a lot more appealing than ‘demutualisation’, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Sometimes, I wish I could invent a word when stuck in a corner making a crossword for Lovatts or YouPlay. Fear not, solvers, I have never done it. All our words can be found in dictionaries or encyclopaedias.

Read more Youth Radio entries: or post a comment with your own dictionary definitions.


Happy Puzzling!



1 Response to

How Are New Words Born?

micbar said:
September 18, 2008 at 1:17 AM

I would like to thank you so much for your wonderful site.So many people are so happy here.You deserve a medal Christine,you must be some special lady .Thank you