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Neologism is the name for a term, word or phrase that has been in use, but that not yet been accepted into mainstream language.[1][2] Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. Νεολεξία (Greek: a "new word", or the act of creating a new word) is a synonym for it. The term neologism was first used in English in 1772, borrowed from French néologisme (1734).[3]

Using an existing word or phrase in a new context is also called neologism.[4][5] The process of using a word in such a new context is sometimes called a semantic extension.[6][7]

Use in psychiatry

In psychiatry, the term neologism is used to describe the use of words that have meaning only to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning.[8] This tendency is considered normal in children. In adults, it can be a symptom of psychopathy[9] or a thought disorder, such as a a psychotic mental illness,for example schizophrenia.[10] People with autism may also create neologisms.[11] Additionally, use of neologisms may be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.[12]

Use in theology

In theology, a neologism is a relatively new doctrine (for example, Transcendentalism). In this sense, a neologist is one who proposes either a new doctrine or a new interpretation of source material such as religious texts.[13]


  1. Malmkjaer, Kirsten. (Ed.) (2006) The Linguistics Encyclopedia. eBook edition. London & New York: Routledge, p. 601. ISBN 0-203-43286-X
  2. Levchenko (2010). Neologism in the Lexical System of Modern English: On the Mass Media Material. Hammer, Patrick, Tanja Hammer, Matthias Knoop, Julius Mittenzwei, Georg Steinbach u. Michael Teltscher. GRIN Verlag GbR. p. 11. ISBN 3640637313 .
  3. Oxford English Dictionary, draft revision Dec. 2009, s.v.
  4. Sally Barr Ebest Writing from A to Z: the easy-to-use reference handbook 1999– Page 449 "A neologism is a newly coined word or phrase or a new usage of an existing word or phrase."
  5. Lynne Bowker, Jennifer Pearson Working With Specialized Language 2002 Page 214 "Neologisms can also be formed in another way, however, by assigning a new meaning to an existing word."
  6. Ole Nedergaard Thomsen Competing models of linguistic change: evolution and beyond 2006 – Page 68 "Extensions, by contrast, are applications of extant means in new usage. Note that since individual speakers differ in their command of their shared tradition of speaking, one person's Extension may be experienced by another as a Neologism"
  7. Michael D. Picone Anglicisms, Neologisms and Dynamic French 1996 – Page 3 "Proceeding now to the task of defining terms, I will begin with the more general term 'neologism'. ...A neologism is any new word, morpheme or locution and any new meaning for a preexistent word, morpheme or locution that appears in a language. ... Likewise, any semantic extension of a preexistent word, morpheme or locution.. but is also, by accepted definition, a neologism."
  8. G E Berrios (2009) Neologisms. History of Psychiatry 20: 480–496
  9. "Most of us are able to combine ideas so that they are consistent with some underlying theme, but psychopaths seem to have difficulty doing so. This helps to explain the wild inconsistencies and contradictions that frequently characterize their speech. It may also account for their use of neologisms (combining the basic components of words – syllables – in ways that seem logical to them but inappropriate to others)." Robert D. Hare (1999), Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Guildford Press, p. 137
  10. P. J. McKenna, Schizophrenia and Related Syndromes. Page 363.
  11. Neologisms and idiosyncratic language in autistic speakers. J Autism Dev Disord. 1991 Jun;21(2):109-30.
  12. B Butterworth, Hesitation and the production of verbal paraphasias and neologisms in jargon aphasia. Brain Lang, 1979
  13. Wood, J., "The Nuttall Encyclopædia: Being a Concise and Comprehensive Dictionary of General Knowledge" (1907), [1]