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A neologism is a linguistic re-coinage that has passed into general use within a linguistic community

  • a newly created word ( neologism ) or just one such expression or
  • a new meaning with which an already existing word or expression is given ( new meaning ), or the word or expression itself to which the new meaning is assigned.

As it spreads in the language community, it will be picked up by the dictionaries that codify the vocabulary of that language. It is characteristic of neologisms that the speakers perceive them as new for a certain period of time. Which words are (still) neologisms also depends on the point in time at which the vocabulary of a language is viewed or examined. In addition to the neologisms recorded in general-language standard dictionaries, there are also special dictionaries for many languages ​​that deal exclusively with this part of the vocabulary.

The expression neologism is based on the ancient Greek words νέος neos "new" and λόγος logos "word"; in German , the term could therefore also be called a new word or a new word .

On the problem of the term

The use of the term neologism is not entirely uniform in linguistics.

Hadumod Bußmann defines it as a "newly introduced or newly used linguistic expression". Such words come about through word formation , borrowing or the transfer of meaning . An understanding of the term in the sense of new creation or original creation is only granted for neurolinguistics .

Helmut Glück equates neologism with new creation and refers to neologism from the keyword “word new creation” ; however, the examples given are exclusively cases of word formation, borrowing or transferring meaning. However, since the end of the 19th century at the latest, the linguistic tradition has made a distinction between “word creation” on the one hand and “word formation” on the other.


Speakers of living languages ​​produce or invent new words every day, with which they fill in naming gaps that arise spontaneously. Most of these words are only used once. Their purpose is usually fulfilled with one naming situation. These formations of opportunity ( occassionalisms ) are neither viewed as neologisms nor recorded lexicographically. In languages ​​that allow the formation of complex compounds , for example the German language, such momentary new creations arise every day. Occasionally, repeated use revives words that have not been used for a long time and that are no longer lexicographically recorded ( archaisms ); they are also not neologisms.

Words that are borrowed from another language (for example, downloading from English) and that are used in general are often seen as neologisms and are accordingly lexicographically recorded; in the narrower sense, however, they are not new creations, and therefore not neologisms.

The lexicon of a living language is a complex structure of general, technical and group language words. General language dictionaries only cover the core area of ​​the lexicon used in everyday language. Occasionally it happens that long-used words of a technical language penetrate into everyday language. This applies, for example, to the technical language of key technical areas such as information technology and telecommunications. These words are not regarded as neologisms either, as they have been in use for a long time in the respective technical language. A particularly productive area is the group language of the young people. Many of the new words formed there are short-lived, however.

In the practice of lexicography, the distinction between neologisms on the one hand and occasionalisms, revived archaisms and technical terms on the other hand is very difficult. Text corpora in particular , which document the current language usage, provide useful services for the recording and description of neologisms.

The psychiatry measures neologisms (cf.. Paraphasia ) the collection of psychopathological symptoms associated with diseases such as schizophrenia specific important than the linguistic understanding .

Types of neologisms

The following types of neologisms can be distinguished:

New words

Expression and meaning are new. A more recent example is the verb texting from SMS for sending short messages .

New meanings

An old expression is only given a new (further) meaning. As a somewhat older example, the mouse also stands for a “technical device, part of the computer periphery”.

An expression with originally positive meaning receives a new, pejorative meaning and is used as a political-ideological battle term against various linguistic conventions and modes of behavior. Examples of this are do- gooder or political correctness .

New word combinations

Here the contraction of common words ( internet café , laptop bag , also as a retronym : analog clock ) must be distinguished from metaphorical new formations. In the case of the latter, the actual meaning is not decisive for the use, but a characteristic property. Examples include fashion guru , literary Pope , exchange dwarf , Wirtschaftsauguren or Erzeinwohner , but also comparison .

Neologisms and language norms

When a new word comes into use, speakers often have norm uncertainties.

  • The pronunciation is only saved in daily use. In the case of loan words in particular, an adaptation process often, but not always, occurs in which the pronunciation is adapted to the phoneme system of the borrowing language. An example is download , which evolves from / … loʊd / to / … loːt /.
  • The inflection can be adapted or original. Is it called the piercing or the piercing ? Is it called the PC or the PCs in the plural ?
  • It may ambiguity occur, then "download" is used both for charging and for downloaded or previously downloaded files.
  • The gender is often not clear. Is it called the blog or the blog ?
  • The spelling is unclear. Do you write a spin-off , spin-off or spin-off ?

Often a standard first has to be established. This applies, for example, to the use of loan words from English , where the pleasure system is only weakly developed. Speakers using a new word sometimes signal that they do not yet accept the word in question as part of the language norm. Frequently used means are quotation marks or delimiting expressions: "The ' break-even ' has not yet been reached", "the so-called break-even" or "as they say nowadays, the break-even".

About the value of neologisms

The main function of a neologism is not always to designate a new state of affairs. With the use of neologisms one often wants to clarify something: belonging to a certain group, modernity or simply attracting attention (example: “decelerating” instead of “slowing down”). These pragmatic functions are the reason why the language of advertising in particular uses new words. The signaling function of new words is exhausted to such an extent that one violates grammatical rules ( indestructible , here you will be helped ).

In 1966, Rudolf Merta made a distinction between “real neologisms” and “fashion and catchphrases”, which do violence to language and gradually lose their expressiveness.

The linguist Wilhelm Bondzio put forward the thesis that neologisms are most useful if they offer memory aids through their word stem.

Neologisms also have cultural value. By creating new words, food for thought and new associations can be encouraged. The contemporary art movement expressive neologism (also referred to as neologism for short ) deals critically with language as a mass medium and an instrument of influence.

Neologisms are also used as a substitute designation if the designated person is to be given a different rating or a different reputation. An example of such a language policy is Deutsche Bahn AG : a conductor becomes a train attendant , the counter becomes a service point and, more recently, a counter .

At the same time, neologisms as a symptom often spark a discourse critical of language . Conservative language critics attach to neologisms, and above all to loanwords, what they claim to be a decline in language. On the other hand, the neologisms also demonstrate the versatility of a language and its ability to meet the constantly changing naming requirements.

Neologisms are also a common tool of propaganda . An example of this, the 1942 name first used lawless fighters ( unlawful combatant ) to introduce a classification of prisoners of war , which the law treats. Further examples are international financial Jewry , Islamo-fascism , socially disabled young migrants .

Origin of new words

One source of neologisms is borrowing from other languages. A language system provides a number of other means for the formation of new words .


The combination of new words from existing ones is the most productive word formation process in German and accordingly also a rich source for neologisms ( can deposit , genetic maize ).


The derivation by means of affixes (especially prefixes or suffixes ) is also a rich source. Affixes can themselves be newly coined (e.g. cyber ) and coined a larger group of new words ( cyberpunk , cyber crime ).


are an important means of linguistic economy. If their use solidifies, then they can also be viewed as neologisms ( SMS , student assistant , trainee ).


Portmanteau words are formed by contraction of the first part of a word and the second part of a second word, example: education + entertainmentEdutainment . Contractions are rare in German, they are usually borrowed from other languages.


In the case of corruptions , new words are formed through conscious distortion. Example: “Nervous costume” instead of “nervous system”, “nonetheless” instead of “nonetheless”.


A typical case for a newly emerging word is that one word is replaced by another. Often this happens for reasons of marketing or political correctness - especially as a euphemism , i.e. to suppress a negative word ( pejorative ).

Some words are also subject to “linguistic inflation” ( wear and tear , compare with euphemism treadmill ), and new creations or the use of unusual terms serve to increase the sensational value and attract attention. Examples from advertising: Technology , which actually refers to technology or method / procedure , toothpaste instead of ordinary toothpaste or exclusive spelling of cigarettes .

The reason is often that new trends and developments - nowadays mostly from the English-speaking world - come to us ( cultural dominance ), and the scene or the specialist audience unreflectively uses the associated terms ( xenisms ) in the German context or carries out a less successful transfer. This happens even when a synonymous term already exists, possibly with the intention of identifying the user of New German words as an insider by using the language of the scene ( jargon ) .

The word Neudeutsch itself can serve as an example: There is a new creation by analogy with Newspeak (English: Newspeak ) from the novel 1984 by George Orwell . The use of the word implies at least a critical distance on the part of the user to neologisms and the awareness of the “power of language”, so it should distinguish him as belonging to an educated and attentive, value-conscious class.

In contrast, there are foreign words that prevail because no suitable German term is available. They often initially serve as a precise way of expressing themselves in specialist circles, then in some cases spread into upscale general knowledge until some finally arrive in everyday language and are no longer perceived as foreign.

Not only foreign, also regional differences can use the jargon of the mass media in the standard German received. One example are autochthonous varieties that developed differently during the years that Germany separated in the mid-20th century, such as gold broilers and roast chickens .


  • Blog , vlog , derived from web-log or video-log (English for internet / video diary ) - frequently updated website.
  • Folksonomy , collaborative practice and (self-) organization form of people (e.g. in the work of Wikipedia).
  • Gender asterisk , denotes a method of gender equitable language in the written form of German.
  • Islamophobia , hostility to and categorical devaluation and disadvantage of Muslims.
  • Listicle , a journalistic text in bulleted form.
  • Mansplaining is a substantive portmanteau word from man (English: man) and -splaining (from explaining = 'to explain'), which found its way into the German language in 2015.
  • Human material , coupling of the living-human and the dead thing.
  • Podcast , made up of Apple's iPod ” and broadcast : a program that can be listened to afterwards by downloading it from the Internet.
  • sitt , as a reference to satt : no longer thirsty. Invented as part of a competition to search for a corresponding word.

Neologisms in social and political changes

Social changes that require political legitimation often led to the creation of new words. Examples of this are neologisms from the time of colonialism , the development of race theories and a so-called “African terminology”. Here language was an important medium for producing and conveying the myth of legitimation that Africa was the homogeneous and inferior "other" and therefore needed "civilization" by Europe. This approach was reflected in a colonial naming practice that ignored African self-names and avoided transferring terms valid for contemporary European societies to the African context.

See also


  • John Algeo: Fifty years among the new words: a dictionary of neologisms, 1941-1991 . CUP, Cambridge 1991, ISBN 0-521-41377-X .
  • Alfred Heberth: New words. Neologisms in the German language since 1945 , Verlag der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1977.
  • Dieter Herberg, Michael Kinne, Doris Steffens: New vocabulary. Neologisms of the 90s in German. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-11-017751-X .
  • Susan Arndt and Antje Hornscheidt (eds.): Africa and the German language. A critical reference work. Unrast Verlag, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-89771-424-8 .
  • Uwe Quasthoff (ed.): German dictionary of neologisms. New words and meanings in contemporary language. De Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-018868-4 .
  • Doris Steffens, Doris al-Wadi: New vocabulary. Neologisms in German 2001–2010. 2 volumes. Institute for the German Language, Mannheim 2013, ISBN 978-3-937241-43-2 .
  • Doris Steffens, Olga Nikitina: German-Russian neologism dictionary. New vocabulary in German 1991–2010. 2 volumes. Institute for the German Language, Mannheim 2014, ISBN 978-3-937241-47-0 .
  • Robert Barnhart, Clarence Barnhart: The Dictionary of Neologisms. In: Franz J. Hausmann (Ed.): Dictionaries, Dictionaries, Dictionnaires. An international handbook on lexicography , Berlin, De Gruyter,
  • Sandra Innerwinkler: Neologisms. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8253-7511-9 .
  • 1975 to 1983: New words and their meanings, in: Meyers Großes Jahreslexikon (each under the keyword “word”).
  • Wolfgang Müller: New words and new meanings in contemporary German. In: Universitas 8/1976, pp. 867-873.
  • 1994 to 2005: "New words", in: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie Jahrbuch (each under the keyword "Word").
  • Wolfgang Müller: "Mud Battle". Heard already A desideratum: the German dictionary of neologisms. In: Language and Literature in Science and Education 60/1987, pp. 82–90.
  • Doris Steffens: From “aqua jogging” to “Zickenalarm”. New vocabulary in German since the 1990s reflected in the first larger neologism dictionary. In: Der Sprachdienst 51, No. 4, 2007, pp. 146–159.
  • Wolfgang Teubert (Ed.): Neology and Corpus. Narr, Tübingen 1990, ISBN 3-8233-5141-9 (Studies on the German language 11)

Web links

Wiktionary: Neologism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Helmut Glück (ed.), With the assistance of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 (keyword neologism ).
  2. Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 .
  3. ^ Helmut Glück (ed.), With the assistance of Friederike Schmöe: Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 (keyword neologism ).
  4. Wolfgang Fleischer, Irmhild Barz: Word formation of the German contemporary language. With the collaboration of Marianne Schröder. 2nd, revised and supplemented edition, Niemeyer, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-484-10682-4 , p. 264.
  5. a b Rudolf Merta: East German and West German? In: Sborník prací Filozofické fakulty brněnské univerzity . tape 15 , A14, 1966, pp. 163-167 ( Masaryk University ).
  6. ^ Susan Arndt (2004): Colonialism, Racism and Language. Critical considerations of German African terminology. Article in the dossier of the website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education .
  7. Susan Arndt and Antje Hornscheidt (ed.) (2004): Africa and the German language. A critical reference work. Unrast Verlag, p. 18.