back-formation love


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A new word created by removing an affix from an already existing word, as vacuum clean from vacuum cleaner, or by removing what is mistakenly thought to be an affix, as pea from the earlier English plural pease.
  • n. The process of forming words in this way. See Note at baby-sit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The process by which a new word is formed by removing a morpheme (real or perceived) of an older word, such as the verb burgle, formed by removing -ar (perceived as a suffix forming an agent noun) from burglar.
  • n. A word created in this way.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a word invented (usually unwittingly by subtracting an affix) on the assumption that a familiar word derives from it, such as emote from emotion.
  • n. the process of inventing a back-formation{1}.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a word invented (usually unwittingly by subtracting an affix) on the assumption that a familiar word derives from it


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Coined by James Murray; back + formation


  • This process is also called back-formation, and almost any word can be broken down for parts, wherever there's a natural syllable break, whether it's etymologically justified or not.

    2011 in Words

  • The suffix -nomics is a back-formation from "economics," from a Greek word meaning "household management."

    Week in Words

  • That has to be a back-formation from “disbarred,” no?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Barred

  • Sometimes a back-formation arises through the assumption that it must already exist, and that its source word is the derivative term.

    April « 2009 « Sentence first

  • You might think it derives from donate, but the noun is several centuries older; donate is the back-formation.

    April « 2009 « Sentence first

  • English may be partly a result of its lowly origins as a back-formation, as well as its funny phonetic blend of burble and gurgle.

    April « 2009 « Sentence first

  • If affixation means forming a word by adding an affix (e.g. frosty from frost, refusal from refuse, instrumentation from instrument), then back-formation is essentially this process in reverse: it adapts an existing word by removing its affix, usually a suffix (e.g. sulk from sulky, proliferate from proliferation, back-form from back-formation).

    April « 2009 « Sentence first

  • Strictly speaking [* momentarily dons strict hat*], appoint would not be a back-formation, because it is the established root from which disappoint derived.

    Back-forming back-formations

  • When I wrote that back-formation was “essentially [affixation] in reverse”, I was simplifying matters somewhat.

    Back-forming back-formations

  • You are unlikely to recognise a back-formation just by looking at it.

    April « 2009 « Sentence first


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