Nonword of the Week: Nonword

Introducing a weekly feature!  Every Monday I’m going to post a new nonword and its definition on the blog.  What is a nonword?

Nonword: the combination of a real word with one or more prefixes or suffixes in order to express a concept that would otherwise take multiple words to describe.  A word that is not a word, but really should be.

Example: Chelsea’s presentation was so full of nonwords that it was well-received by the younger generation but perplexing to everyone over thirty.

Related nonwords: unword, portmanteauing

Nonwords have been cropping up all over the place, especially on the internet.  “Friended” comes to us courtesy of Facebook.  “Retweet” from Twitter.  “Fabulosity” was even trademarked by Kimora Lee Simmons. “Ridiculousness,” an arguable nonword, is a Rob Dyrdek-hosted MTV series.

Ideally, a nonword is not redundant – if there is an existing word to use, then a nonword is unnecessary. Nonwords may be officially recognized as words, but perhaps they have fallen out of common usage and have only recently become popular again (like “ridiculousness”) or are brand new dictionary additions.  Nonwords are closely related to portmanteaus – combinations of two or more words – but generally speaking they are constructed from just one root word and prefixes/suffixes.

Have a unique nonword of your own?  Post it in the comments!

Disclaimer: This is my own definition of “nonword” – it differs from the one in the dictionary.  I do not condone idle word-mangling.  Please mangle your words with care. Should not be attempted by the faint of heart or those with reading disorders.  Side-effects include peculiar looks, disapproving frowns, essay markdowns, and utter confusion.

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19 thoughts on “Nonword of the Week: Nonword

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