Made-up Words from Authors
Let's face it. There just aren't enough words in the English language.
The human experience is infinitely complex, and we're always discovering (or rediscovering) phenomena that we don't quite have the words for. Plus, sometimes the right words just elude us. And when you can't find the word, sometimes you just have to make it up!
At Brilliant Books, we have our fair share of made-up words. For instance, we refer to some of our smaller items (like pens, pins, or bookmarks) as "walkoffable".
walkoffable / ˌwȯk-ˈȯf-ə-bəl / adjective : capable of walking away (of an object); easily disorganized or misplaced.
On some days, our booksellers (or other staff members) find themselves "regooglying" merchandise or artwork.
regoogly / ˌrē-ˈgüglē, -li / verb (transitive or intransitive) : to reapply googly eyes to an object from which said googly eyes have fallen off.
We could go on about our made-up words, but we'd rather share the work of some of our favorite linguistic innovators. We've curated a list of literary figures who crafted brilliant works out of existing words, while adding a few of their own to the mix. Check out the list below for words you never knew were coined by authors!
This word was first coined by Lewis Carroll in his novel Through the Looking Glass. It's one of the made-up words he used in his nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" - and while we're glad this one has caught on, we'd love to hear more people using this other words like frabjous, burble, and galumph.
The word "cyberspace" was invented in 1982 by William Gibson in his short story Burning Chrome, which is available in a collection of the same name. However, Gibson is perhaps best known for his first novel (and seminal science fiction piece) Neuromancer, which also takes place in and around cyberspace.
Derived from the old Slavonic word "robota," meaning servitude or drudgery, the word "robot" first appeared in Karl Čapek's 1920 play Rossum's Universal Robots, or R. U. R. Čapek credits his brother Josef for the invention of the word. While the modern conception of robots generally includes automatic machines, the robots in R. U. R. more closely resemble the modern conception of androids, since they are described as enslaved creatures made up of synthetic organic material who may or may not rise up against human oppression over the course of the play.
While Tolkien didn't invent either of the definitions listed above (the first predating him, and the second emerging much later, potentially as a reduction of the word "tweenager"), he did create his own meaning for the word, which foreshadowed the second of these definitions. The word appears in both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, with a proper definition coming in Book 2 of LOtR: "At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three."
freelance / ˈfrē-ˌlan(t)s / 1. adjective : not sponsored by or affiliated with an organization or authority. 2. verb : to act or work as a freelancer. 3. noun : freelancer; a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.
The word "freelance" first appeared in 1819 in Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. It first referred specifically to knights who were not employed by a specific army, but who worked as independent mercenaries (hence free - lance!).
John Milton is credited with coining the most new words in the English language (according to TIME, he coined 630 new words). His neologisms include "emblazonry," "horrent," "loveborn," and of course "pandemonium." In Paradise Lost, Milton's epic poem exploring the origins of man's existence, Pandemonium is the capital of Hell (literally, the place of all devils).
Okay, so you knew Shakespeare was going to be on this list. He's one of the most famous word-creators. Estimates of his original words have been as high as 1700, but the truth is likely in the 400's. And even for the words he did create, his linguistic creations were almost already combinations or existing words - or a new use of an old word. For instance, since the 14th century "jade" had been used in England as a noun denoting a tired-out horse, and in the mid 16th century (right around Shakespeare's birth), it expanded into an insult - primarily for women, but also referring to mean or worthless men. The word "jaded" appears in three of Shakespeare's works: first in Henry VI, Part 2, and also in Antony and Cleopatra and Henry VIII as an adjective (meaning lowly) and a past participle (meaning beaten down or overcome).
Those are some of our favorite neologisms by authors! We hope you learned something new—we certainly did.