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Pejorativum ( Pl . : Pejorativa ) or Pejorativ (Pl .: Pejorative) (from Latin peior , an increase from malus , literally for "bad") is a linguistic expression in linguistics , especially in semantics , when it what it means "implicitly devalues". A pejorative is no grammatical therefore part of speech but indicates the intent of the speaker to present with such an expression something or someone intentionally erratic (negative). With regard to word formation , pejoratives are often characterized by certain prefixes or suffixes . Explicit pejoratives are swear words ; is similar to the pejorative Dysphemism .

Pejorative is the associated adjective and means “derogatory” or “derogatory”.

Pejorization or pejoration is the deterioration in meaning of a positive or neutral linguistic expression in the course of the change in meaning - in contrast to the improvement of meaning ( melioration or melioration ). Both processes of change are not based on individual evaluations, but on changes in social evaluations, which are reflected in the deterioration in meaning. The linguistic-historical prime example of the historical process of the deterioration of meaning is the devaluation of women's designations ( maid , woman , prostitute , Mamsell , Frauenzimmer etc.), in which the low social status of women and women-devaluing social attitude patterns (misogyny) is reflected.


Types and formation of pejorativa

Words with neutral or even positive connotations can function as pejoratives . Such expressions only have a pejorative function if it is expressly desired by the speaker and he consciously makes the appropriate choice of words. The neutral word shed for a building is given a derogatory function when it is used to describe a dance hall. The word talented , which is positive in itself , becomes a pejorative when one wants to denigrate an actually highly gifted person as merely "talented". The classification "posh restaurant" conveys culture and atmosphere, while the naming of the same establishment as "expensive shop" seems disparaging due to the emphasis on the profane-commercial aspect. The term natural people becomes pejorative if it - as happened in early ethnology - is used as an opposing term (dichotomy) to culture people and thus implies that some have culture and others do not.

Part of the value per se neutral expressions are those in a pictorial manner draw the characteristics or behavior of a person to ridicule or morbid, the faecal, animal or in a similar range. Examples are logorrhea for 'talkativeness', sleepyheads for a person with slow behavior, pig, monkey, donkey for animal comparisons. Such attributions (not only related to people) can become independent in the course of time and either with a predominantly derogatory meaning or even as unambiguous swear words can become established in the vocabulary ( lexicalization ). Examples of such words, in which the pejorative function is in the foreground and the original, "actual" meaning takes a back seat , are gang , mutt or blare . Such a process of word deterioration is called pejoration .

This group of expressions that are perceived as negative from the outset and marked as derogatory vocabulary also includes those words that have been newly created by means of word formation processes from words with neutral or positive connotations. These include

  • Derivations using so-called pejorative suffixes ; in German, however, there are few clear examples of this, cf. but: singing and talking (of singing or talking ).
  • Composition : z. B. Deonymisierungen , so training with personal names as -Hans (el) , -Fritz or -SUSE ( Polit Hansel , press Fritze , crybaby ), etc.

Pejorative, dysphemism and swear word

The three terms pejorative , dysphemism and swear word are often used synonymously, as their meanings partly overlap. While pejorative relates more to the investigation of the word with regard to its semantics and word formation, the pragmatic aspect, i.e. the perspective in relation to linguistic action, i.e. the act of devaluing itself, is in the foreground in a dysphemism . The proportion of swear words to pejoratives is that all swear words are pejoratives, but conversely not all pejoratives are swear words.

Dysphemisms and swear words differ in that swear words primarily relate to people, but dysphemisms also relate to things, events and conditions. In addition - in contrast to unequivocal swearwords - other pejoratively used expressions can also have a joking character (see example above, scales ), so that part of the devaluation expressed with the word is reversed at the same time. In the case of foul language, this can only occasionally with the use of a diminutive ( Diminutive be done (for example) Schweinderl / pig / piglet instead pig / piglet ).

The Chiriguano people were pejoratively referred to by the Quechua Indians, which means something like "cold dung".

Pejoration (pejoration, deterioration in meaning)

Pejorization , pejoration or the deterioration of meaning is the linguistic-historical change of a previously positive or neutral linguistic expression in the direction of a qualitatively negative evaluation. Pejorization is one of the established types of meaning change in linguistics . It describes the opposite of an improvement in meaning ( melioration or melioration) . Improvement and deterioration of meaning are not based on individual assessments, but on changes in social assessment, which are linguistically reflected in the qualitative appreciation and depreciation.


Prime example: the deterioration in the meaning of women's designations

In linguistic history introductions to the changing meaning of the historical process of degradation importance of women's names as a prime example of pejoration serves ( maid , wife , whore , lady , females , etc.). It can be observed in many languages. The historical change in the meaning of names for women and men turns out to be asymmetrical. While women's names are being devalued, this is not the case with men's names. Reasons for this have not been sought for a long time or have remained scientifically inconsistent.

In terms of linguistic history, three paths of negative quality change in women's designations can be identified:

  1. Social degradation or downgrading
  2. Functionalization, especially in the lower service sector
  3. Biologization and sexualization

An examination of historical dictionaries from the 15th to the 19th century shows that 72.5 percent of the names of women are described using negative qualities. In contrast, 75 percent of the men’s names are described using positive qualities.

Studies of the history of language show today that the deterioration in the meaning of women's designations “directly reflects the historically low status of women, their low social position and esteem”. Like other semantic developments, these deteriorations in meaning are “a mirror of cultural-historical realities” and the depreciating realities, values ​​and attitudes of a society (misogyny) embedded therein .

Examples of the historical process of the deterioration in the meaning of German women's designations (including the classification of changes in quality):
Old High German Middle High German New High German
wīb: ( marriage ) wife wîp: (wife) wife Woman :

sloppy, dissolute woman ( swear word ) ( social degradation )

"(Young) woman as an object of sexual desire as a (potential) sexual partner" ( colloquial ) ( sexualization )


Mistress, noble woman


married, socially superior woman

Woman :

Wife (functionalization related to marriage);

Woman (social devaluation)


young mistress, mistress, lady, woman of state

vröu (we) lîn:

Lower class girls (social degradation);

file whore, whore ( sexualization )

Miss :

unmarried woman (functionalization related to marriage);

also waitress / service (functionalization);

later loss of Fräulein (from around 1975 through feminist language criticism )


young, unmarried woman ( Virgin Mary )


young, unmarried woman (Virgin Mary)

Maid :

House / yard workers for rough, simple work (functionalization)


young girl


young servant, maid (functionalization)

Whore :

Prostitutes (from the 16th century) (sexualization)

Mademoiselle (French):

high, venerable, young unmarried woman

Mademoiselle (early New High German):

high standing young woman

Mamsell :
  1. simple kitchen worker (social degradation)
  2. Prostitute (sexualization)

Examples of the asymmetry of the change in the meaning of women's and men's designations: secretary vs. Secretary, Governor vs. Governess , hairdresser vs. Hairdresser, masseur vs. Masseuse.

Further examples

  • Social roles:
    • Pfaffe (to pastor ) was a neutral term for priests in Middle High German .
    • Regime , which used to be a general term for a government or a form of government, is used today as the expression for a “government caste” that is not legitimized by the population; originated from the post-revolutionary expression ancien régime .
    • In common : In the past, the term "usually" used in the sense of how today in terms of "Common People", "general", jointly can see. Today the word is used synonymously for "mean" or "malicious".
    • Stupid used to mean frail, weak or tender.
  • Ethnophaulisms (Pejorative Ethnonyms) and other ethnic group names:
    • Mohammedans , originally a neutral term for followers of the teachings of Mohammed . Since it was superseded by the word Muslim or Muslim , however, it has mostly assumed a derogatory or negative character. The older Muselmann is also pejorative. Nowadays the term Muslim ispreferred as a self-designation.
    • Neger , as Germanism to Latin niger : "black", since the 18th century, was used freely in scholarly and everyday language until the 1970s. Through the use of the extremely offensive word nigger in English as well as the agreement of racial theories in ethnology, the word is nowperceivedas politically incorrect or discriminatory.
    • Sect , formerly general for a religious minority; In the final report of the Enquête Commission so -called sects and psycho-groups , it is recommended that this term no longer be used in dealing with new religious movements , as it is historically too burdened.
  • Economic-social terms:
    • Cheap , earlier with the meaning of fair rather positive connotation (cf. approve : "approve", or the phrase "That is only right and cheap "), for example for a price that was perceived as fair and does not require trade, Still used in legal language today in this sense (cf. Equity ). With industrialization , inferior and short-lived items were often offered and advertised at cheap (fair) prices, which gave cheap a negative rating - and was later replaced by inexpensive .
    • Moneten (lat. Moneta : "coin money") functions colloquially in German today as a term for money in the sense of a target of criminal acts. The Latin origin, however, is value-free preserved in the word monetary .
  • References to physicality:
    • fuck , original meaning: move back and forth, rub.
    • Feces , originally simply a synonym for “loam”, “dirt” (cf. fender ), today with the meaning of faeces .
    • Visage , taken from French, there completely neutral for 'face' (original use preserved by Visagist ), used in German colloquial language nowadays disparagingly.
  • Others:
    • Gift , originally synonymous with "gift", "gift" (cf. dowry or Dutch or English gift ) was already used euphemistically in Old High German (for example in Notker ) for "deadly gift". Both meanings existed in parallel until the 18th century, with the gender for the meaning of “harmful substance” changing from masculine to neuter in the 15th and 16th centuries. The starting point for pejoration was the euphemistic use of the term. It finally takes on the meaning of what it is supposed to be concealing. The etymology of French poison (also the origin of English poison ), which is derived from the Latin potio : drink, is also a similar development of the term poison .

See also


Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. a b pejorative - Duden , Bibliographisches Institut ; 2017
  2. Helmut Rehbock: Pejorative. In: Helmut Glück (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexikon Sprache. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2000, ISBN 3-476-01519-X , p. 515.
  3. Peter von Polenz: German language history from the late Middle Ages to the present: Introduction, basic concepts, 14th to 16th centuries . 2nd Edition. Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-11-016478-7 , pp. 52 .
  4. ^ A b Gerd Fritz: Historical Semantics . Stuttgart 2006, p. 52 .
  5. ^ A b c Damaris Nübling, Antje Dammel, Janet Duke, Renata Szczepaniak: Historical Linguistics of German: An Introduction to the Principles of Language Change . 4th edition. Tübingen 2013, p. 123 .
  6. a b c d e Damaris Nübling: From the 'maiden' to the 'maid', from the 'girl' to the 'prostitute': the pejoration of women's designations as a distorting mirror of culture and as an effect of male gallantry? In: Yearbook for German Language History . 2011, p. 344-362 .
  7. a b Eugenio R. Luján: Semantic Change . In: Silvia Luraghi, Vit Bubenik (Ed.): The Bloomsbury Companion to Historical Linguistics . New York 2010, p. 296 .
  8. These and other examples mainly from Rehbock 2000 and Bußmann 1990.
  9. Jörg Kilian, Leevke Schiwek: History of language in the school book. A critical inventory from a linguistic and language didactic point of view . In: Jana Kiesendahl, Christine Ott (Hrsg.): Linguistics and textbook research: Objects - Methods - Perspectives . Göttingen 2015, p. 276 .
  10. ^ Helmut Glück: Metzler Lexicon Language . Stuttgart 1993, p. 86 .
  11. Peter von Polenz: German language history from the late Middle Ages to the present. Volume 1: Introduction, Basic Concepts, 14th - 16th Century . 2nd revised and expanded edition. Berlin 2000, p. 52 .
  12. Duden editorial office: Duden. The dictionary of origin: Etymology of the German language . 5th edition. Berlin 2014, p. 300 .
  13. ^ Georg Stötzel, Klaus-Hinrich Roth: The image of the history of language in German language textbooks . In: Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger (eds.): History of language. A handbook on the history of the German language and its research. 1st subband . 2nd Edition. Berlin 1998, p. 364 .
  14. ^ Wilfried Kürschner: Grammatical Compendium: Systematic index of basic grammatical terms . 7th edition. Tübingen 2017, p. 29 .
  15. Heinz Drügh, Susanne comfort Hein, Andreas Kraß, Cécile Meier, Gabriele Rohowski, Robert Seidel, Helmut Weiss: German: Linguistics - Literary Studies - key skills . Stuttgart 2012, p. 151 .
  16. Muriel Schulz: The Semantic Derogation of Woman . New York 1975.
  17. a b Muriel Schulz: Women: Terms for women . In: Cheris Kramarae, Dale Spender (Eds.): Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge . New York 2000, pp. 2131 .
  18. Stefan Blankenberger: The image of man and woman in historical dictionaries of the 15th – 19th centuries. Century . Mainz 2003.
  19. Woman. In: Duden. Retrieved January 5, 2018 .