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Sometimes, when I read essays, I see that writers make up words and by using them, they bring those words into existence.

For example:

In her article "Juban America", Ruth Behar uses the term "Juban", which is just the Jewish-Cuban identity, and though we know this term doesn't exist, she uses it. We know this word doesn't exist but after using it, it is brought into existence.

Is there a single word to name this strategy or phenomenon?

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I wish someone could actually help instead of disliking my question. – Node.JS Apr 29 '13 at 21:45
See also: rqna.net/qna/… – Kris Apr 30 '13 at 6:10
This question might imply a belief that only certain authorities or institutions can bring a new word "into existence", after which it becomes useable. The truth is the opposite: Only usage, initiated by a sometimes unsung coiner, can create a new word; commentators, scholars, and dictionaries merely respond to these usages, whether approvingly or not, and they survive, or not, only as a result of continued usage, or not. – H Stephen Straight Apr 30 '13 at 22:11
up vote 17 down vote accepted

It's called a neologism:


  1. a new word, meaning, usage, or phrase.
  2. the introduction or use of new words or new senses of existing words.
  3. a new doctrine, especially a new interpretation of sacred writings.
  4. Psychiatry. a new word, often consisting of a combination of other words, that is understood only by the speaker: occurring most often in the speech of schizophrenics.

— source: Dictionary.com

The practice or art of creating new words is called neology or neologizing—although both terms are fairly obscure.

The precise construction of this word in particular makes it a portmanteau.

A related term is nonce word.

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OP is technically asking for the action, not the result -- when you create a neologism, we would say that you have coined a new word. – starwed Apr 30 '13 at 3:47
@starwed FWIW the Dictionary.com reference in my answer listed "the practice of using or introducing neologisms" as one definition, but I added a note on alternate forms of neologism which more precisely fit as a "strategy or phenomenon". Coining a word is good but it's not a one-word answer (coined would sound very odd if used out of context with a word) and there was one answer here to that effect--not sure why it was deleted. – p.s.w.g Apr 30 '13 at 4:25
How about neologized? – Wayne Werner Apr 30 '13 at 12:36
Here's a Neologism for you: Chekov's Neologism: When a Fantasy or SF author excessively creates new words, not for story purposes but merely to show how fantastical and creative the story is. ... from Chekov's Gun. – aslum Apr 30 '13 at 13:13

Or simply "to coin a new word".

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If the word isn't used ever again, it is also a Hapax Legomenon:

a word which occurs only once within a context, either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or in a single text. The term is sometimes incorrectly used to describe a word that occurs in just one of an author's works, even though it occurs more than once in that work. Hapax legomenon is a transliteration of Greek ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, meaning "(something) said (only) once"

Please note though, as noted in the comments, that:

hapax legomenon refers to a word's appearance in a body of text and to neither its origin nor its prevalence in speech

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I could be wrong, but my understanding was that a hapax legomenon is not necessarily an invented word. E.g. if an author used the word dandelion only once in all of his/her works, that would qualify as a hapax legomenon. – p.s.w.g May 8 '13 at 21:18
you are absolutely right, the Wikipedia article I linked is pretty clear in that respect too. Thank you, I just learned that I've always misunderstood the concept – UncleZeiv May 9 '13 at 9:37

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