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Is the word "versionize" a real word or is it a form of bastardization of English?

Additional Info: I came across this word in a software feature tracker. The feature called for something in the software to have the ability to save versions of it. It went something like "...Versionize feature X..."

Interestingly, a lot of spell checkers seem to complain about the word too.

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If weaponize is a real word, then so is versionize. It's just that nobody needed a verb for it until very recently. –  John Lawler Aug 22 at 16:50
@JohnLawler, if you're ok with "versionize", how about "editionize"? "Weaponize" is a word, but what about "shieldize"? No one's used it yet, of course, but does that mean we shouldn't recognize it as a "real word"? If you're fine with "shieldize", how about "shieldizeize"? "Shieldizeizeize"? Bottom line: OP asked "is versionize a word?", so how do we know when something is not a word? –  Dan Bron Aug 22 at 16:59
It becomes a real word when real people start to accept it and use it in the real world. Sometimes this is to the dismay of many people, but that's how real language works. –  Canis Lupus Aug 22 at 17:37
@Jim Agreed wholeheartedly; the question is "how much" use is enough to establish a word as "real"? It's more than once, and it's less than 17 trillion times. There is some threshold. Question is: has "versionize" crossed that threshold? This reporter says no. –  Dan Bron Aug 22 at 17:46
I've realised that a tChrist points out, the "many people are using it" aspect is irrelevant. Unfingered and fingerize are both, in fact, real words - end of story. They both have absolutely perfectly defined meanings, and are both in (via the prefix/suffix) the OED. It's likely both have never been typed or said before, but that does't matter. Prefix/Suffis use is like that. –  Joe Blow Aug 22 at 19:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Whateverize is always a word

Yes, of course versionize is a “real word” — and no disparaging remarks about its parentage should be made in polite company.

This is because ‑ize is a productive suffix in English that’s used to produce a new verb from various nouns and adjectives. That means that any word derived by combining an existing one of those using ‑ize is automatically also a “real word”.

This remains true under all conditions:

  • The result is still a “real word” even if you cannot find that word in any dictionary howsoever complete, abstruse, current, or hip said dictionary should happen to be.
  • The result is still a “real word” even if Google despite its omniscience cannot find that word anywhere.
  • The result is still a “real word” even if nobody but nobody in the entire world has ever before used that word. This particular sort of production is one that happens every day; it’s called making a nonce-word. They’re one-shot words that are used once only as the need arises and then put back in the cupboard, perhaps never to be seen again. The OED lists many such nonce-words, including pedestrianize, cricketize, Londonize, Klondykize, and even Joe-Millerize, plus many more besides. Indeed, it specifically states that such nonce-words are without limit; there are truly infinitely many of them.

In fact, given an ‑ize word, no matter whether of ancient provenance like baptize or a nonce-word like Joe-Millerize, a whole slew of other “real words” automatically derive from that. The OED specifically notes that this occurs when it says under its entry for ‑ize:

Verbs in -ize have the usual derivative adjs. and sbs., as ppl. adj. in -ed (often more used than the vb.) as ‘sensitized paper’; ppl. adj. in -ing, chiefly from the intrans. use, as ‘Judaizing Christians’, ‘a philosophizing writer’; vbl. sb. in -ing, as ‘the Bowdlerizing of Shakspere’; agent-noun in -izer (sometimes coexistent with a formation on the Greek type in -ist), as colonizer (colonist); noun of action in -ization (sometimes coexistent with one from Gr. in -ism), as civilization, organization (organism).


  • baptize, baptized, baptizing, baptizer,baptization
    That ‘†’ up there prefixing the last word on the previous line is how the OED erects a memorial cross over the grave of a word that has shuffled off this mortal coil: one that’s now considered obsolete. Baptization is an example of a “real word” that failed to remained current, probably due to competition with baptism. It is unlikely that many tears were shed at its funeral.

  • versionize, versionized, versionizing, versionizer, versionization

  • Londonize, Londonized, Londonizing, Londonizer, Londonization

  • Joe-Millerize, Joe-Millerized, Joe-Millerizing, Joe-Millerizer, Joe-Millerization

When duly applied to existing words of the applicable type, productive affixes always produce “real words”, for thus is the nature of productivity: it is inherently productive.

Aesthetics, however, is something else altogether.

It is always still a word — even if you don’t like it!

In other words, it behaves exactly like how anything derived from existing words using productive affixes like ‑ly, ‑able, un-, and pre- is also automatically a “real word”.

Unlike little-known Greek affixes like achroö- or -dactyl but more like pseudo- or ‑cracy, the ‑ize suffix has been sufficiently naturalized in English that any native speaker can be expected to know exactly what is meant by any new word derived using it, not just specialists and Hellenists alone.

Mind you, just because anyone anywhere will automatically understand it does not necessarily mean that they will like it.

Indeed, words created in this way are often heavily stigmatized, especially if they are then subsequently nominalized using the ‑ation suffix. It might well be better to start over instead of going from a noun to a verb and back to a noun again.

One criticism of such words is that they tend to occur in documents produced by organizations known for impenetrably turgid prose.

These sorts of derived words are also criticized as being unnecessary when a simpler and perfectly suitable word or short phrase already exists, such as we see with incentivize being tut-tutted as a clumsy alternative for motivate or give an incentive.

Government documents and business jargon are both notorious for this sort of obfuscatory cant. That’s why so many of the entries on Forbes’ famous list of The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon are words created through these same processes. Refactor looks fancier and more self-important than rewrite or redesign, just as reify looks way more high-falutin’ than create, realize, or thingify ever can.

Or so the theory goes. Whatever the reason, we too often get a muddled mess out of such organizations instead of getting plain English. So complaints like those are not wholly ungrounded.

But that still has nothing to do with whether it is a “real word”. Of course it is. It has to be, because that’s how productive affixes work: they produce words.

Quoth the OED

Here is the OED’s unstigmaticized description of the ‑ize suffix:

-ize, also written -ise

suffix forming vbs. = F. -ise-r, It. -izare, Sp. -izar, ad. late L. -izāre, -īzāre, f. Gr. -ίζειν, formative derivative of vbs.

The Greek verbs were partly intrans., as βαρβαρίζειν to play the barbarian, act or speak as a barbarian, side with the barbarians, τυραννίζειν to side with the tyrants, partly trans. as καθαρίζειν to purify, clean, θήσαυρίζειν to treasure up.

Those formed on national, sectarian, or personal names were primarily intransitive, as Ἀττικίζειν to Atticize in manners, to speak Attic, Φιλιππίζειν to act or speak for Philip, to philippize, Ἑλληνίζειν to ‘do’ the Greek, act as a Greek, speak Greek, Hellenize; also, to make Greek. A few words of this form connected with or used in early Christianity, were latinized already in the 3rd or 4th c. by Christian writers: such were βαπτίζειν baptizāre, εὐαγγελίζειν euangelizāre, κατηχίζειν catechizāre, σκανδαλίζειν scandalizāre, ἀναθηματίζειν anathēmatizāre, χριστιανίζειν christiānizāre, ἰουδαίζειν iūdaizāre. Others continued to be formed both in ecclesiastical and philosophical use, e.g. canōnizāre, dæmonizāre, syllogizāre (Boethius Aristot. Anal.); and this became established as the normal form for the latinizing of Greek verbs, or the formation of verbs upon Greek analogies.

In med.L. and the mod. langs. these have been formed also on L. or modern national names, and the use has been extended to the formation of verbs from L. adjs. or sbs. This practice prob. began first in French; in mod.F. the suffix has become -iser, alike in words from Greek, as baptiser, évangéliser, organiser, and those formed after them from L., as civiliser, cicatriser, humaniser. Hence, some have used the spelling -ise in Eng., as in French, for all these words, and some prefer -ise in words formed in French or Eng. from L. elements, retaining -ize for those of Gr. composition.

But the suffix itself, whatever the element to which it is added, is in its origin the Gr. -ιζειν, L. -izāre; and, as the pronunciation is also with z, there is no reason why in English the special French spelling should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic. In this Dictionary the termination is uniformly written -ize. (In the Gr. -ιζ-, the i was short, so originally in L., but the double consonant z (= dz, ts) made the syllable long; when the z became a simple consonant, -idz became īz, whence Eng. /-aɪz/.)

In current English the following groups may be noted:

1. Words that have come down from Greek, or have been at some time adopted from Greek, or formed on Greek elements; a. with the trans. sense of ‘make or conform to, or treat in the way of, the thing expressed by the derivation’, as baptize (prob. the earliest -ize word in Eng.), anathematize, anatomize, apostrophize, canonize, catechize, cauterize, characterize, christianize, crystallize, diphthongize, harmonize, idolize, monopolize, organize, phlebotomize, stigmatize, symbolize,systematize, tantalize; b. with the intrans. sense ‘to act some person or character, do or follow some practice’, as agonize, apologize, apostatize, botanize, dogmatize, geologize, philosophize, syllogize, sympathize, theorize.

2. Words formed (in Fr. or Eng.) on Latin adjs. and sbs. (esp. on derivative adjs. in -al, -ar, -an, etc.), mostly with the trans. sense ‘to make (that which is expressed by the derivation)’, as actualize, authorize, brutalize, civilize, colonize, consonantize, devocalize, eternize, etherealize, familiarize, fertilize, formalize, fossilize, humanize, immortalize, legalize, memorize, nationalize, naturalize, neutralize, patronize, pulverize, realize, satirize, scrutinize, secularize, signalize, solemnize, spiritualize, sterilize, terrorize, vocalize; trans. or intrans., as cicatrize, extemporize, moralize, particularize; less frequently only intrans., as temporize.

3. Words from later sources, as bastardize, foreignize, jeopardize, villanize, womanize trans., gormandize, and such nonce-words as cricketize, pedestrianize, tandemize, intr.

4. Words formed on ethnic adjs., and the like, chiefly trans. but sometimes intrans., as Americanize, Anglicize, Gallicize, Germanize, Latinize, Romanize, Russianize.

5. Words formed on names of persons, sometimes with the intrans. Greek sense of ‘to act like, or in accordance with’, as in Calvinize, Coryatize, but usually in the trans. sense of ‘to treat like, or after the method of, or according to the (chemical or other) process of’; as in Boucherize, Bowdlerize, Burnettize, galvanize, Grangerize, macadamize, mesmerize, Rumfordize; with many technical and commercial terms, and nonce-words such as Gladstonize, Irvingize, Joe Millerize, Merry-Andrewize, without limit.

6. From names of substances, chemical and other; in the trans. sense of ‘to charge, impregnate, treat, affect, or influence with’; as alcoholize, alkalize, carbonize, de-oxidize, hydrogenize, oxidize, ozonize, silverize, etc.; so in nonce-words, as Londonize to make like London, etc.

Verbs in -ize have the usual derivative adjs. and sbs., as ppl. adj. in -ed (often more used than the vb.) as ‘sensitized paper’; ppl. adj. in -ing, chiefly from the intrans. use, as ‘Judaizing Christians’, ‘a philosophizing writer’; vbl. sb. in -ing, as ‘the Bowdlerizing of Shakspere’; agent-noun in -izer (sometimes coexistent with a formation on the Greek type in -ist), as colonizer (colonist); noun of action in -ization (sometimes coexistent with one from Gr. in -ism), as civilization, organization (organism).

Hey, if you think versionize is bad. . . .

Anyone who lifts a supercilious eyebrow at the notion of versionize as a “real word” should pay especial attention to the rich — some might say outlandish — examples provided by the OED in its citations for ‑ize, because quite frankly I think you will astonished at some of these:

The following are illustrations of some of the recent uses of the suffix:

  • 1591 Nashe Introd. Sidney’s Astr. & Stella in P. Penilesse (Shaks. Soc.) p. xxx, ― Reprehenders, that complain of my boystrous compound wordes, and ending my Italionate coyned verbes all in ize.
  • 1611 Florio, ― Inpetrarcato, Petrarchized.
  • 1618 J. Taylor (Water P.) Journ. Scotl., ― I haue a smacke of Coriatizing.
  • 1682 D’Urfey Butler’s Ghost II. 177 ― Ralpho··takes the Tongs··and snaps him by the Nose··surpriz’d, To be thus rudely dunstaniz’d.
  • 1796 Coleridge Lett. I. 209 ― We might Rumfordize one of the chimneys.
  • 1833 Blackw. Mag. XXXIV. 533 ― It is a taste that, to coin a word, insignificantizes everything-unpoetizes nature.
  • 1840 New Monthly Mag. LIX. 492 ― Tandemizing, cricketizing, boatizing, et omne quod exit in izing, is not to be carried on without a considerable expenditure.
  • 1858 Sat. Rev. V. 264/2 ― He has no fear of Tower-Hamletizing the land.
  • 1858 Sat. Rev. VI. 203/2 ― To Perkin-Warbeckize a pretender is the best, because not the most spirited, policy.
  • 1861 T. L. Peacock Gryll Gr. viii, ― Arch-quacks have taken to merry‐andrewizing in a new arena.
  • 1866 Sat. Rev. 10 Nov. (L.), ― If a man··is funny, and succeeds in Joe-Millerizing history, he pleases somebody or other.
  • 1876 Preece & Sivewright Telegraphy 164 ― Of the first class [Preservation of Timber] the three best known processes are: (a) Burnetising, (b) Kyanising, and (c) Boucherising.
  • 1881 Mahaffy in Academy 23 Apr. 295 ― She does not Irvingise Shylock.
  • 1885 Jeaffreson Real Shelley II. 192 ― The troop of nakedized children rushed downstairs.
  • 1894 Westm. Gaz. 21 Mar. 7/3 ― These instruments, before they are used, should always be strictly anti-septicized.
  • 1897 A. Lang in Blackw. Mag. Feb. 187 ― To do this is not to Celticise but to Macphersonise.
  • 1897 Westm. Gaz. 28 July 6/1 ― The word ‘Klondykised’ has been coined to express the conditions of persons who have caught the mania [for seeking gold at Klondyke]... The effect has been to ‘Klondykise’ nearly all the people of the town.
  • 1898 L. A. Tollemache Talks w. Gladstone 114 note, ― It [the passage] is, as it were, Canning Gladstonized.

Yup, that’s right; you really did just read about “nakedized children”.

As you can see, we’ve gone minting new words using this suffix for centuries and centuries, and little ol’ versionize is utterly unexceptionable compared with many you’ve just read above.

In fact, it’s downright boring, so much so that you might even say, as the citations suggest, that it has been insignificantized by all those others.
(And yes, I can hear you all groaning out there, but it’s right there in print ever since way back in 1833, for goodness’ sake!)

Nifty, eh? That’s productivity for you! Surely ‑ize is as fecund a suffix as you can imagine, maybe even more fecund than you want to imagine. :)


So yeah, versionize is a “real word” — and in fact, it has to be.

But you certainly don’t have to like it if you don’t want to. Just don’t go expecting everybody else in the whole world to share your own peculiar likes and dislikes.

Indeed, it’s probably better if you expect that they won’t share them. By setting your expectations appropriately, you will make life a great deal easier on yourself — and on others.

Post script

Although some folks may find certain combinations and applications ugly and perhaps even awkward, one should never accuse someone of making bastards: it is not only impolite, it might be downright dangerous.

In other words, if linguists don’t talk about “bastardizing” language, perhaps no one else should be doing that either.

For that matter, you might also want to tread lightly when it comes to “real words”.

share|improve this answer
@DanBron “Justifies”? I have no idea; that sounds like asking me whether it’s a good idea, and you have to make that decision for yourself. But makes it “a real word”? Yup, quite sure. As I explain at length and with references, that is the nature of derivational morphology as applied to productive affixes. But I have no expectation that all such derivationalizations will be well-loved. Certainly there is no love lost between me and many that I read. –  tchrist Aug 22 at 18:20
I realize you answerized and your contribution was well referencized, but I can't help but wonderfy whether a word must be well recognized to be legitimized or any string of letters -- properly morphologized, of course -- can be characterized as English. –  Dan Bron Aug 22 at 18:29
As @tchrist knows, the whole "is it a real word" question is tied up with prescriptivism. If you're a strict prescriptivist, it's not a real word. If you're not a strict prescriptivist, it is a real word as long as it conveys a meaning rather like what is intended by the user to the listener. –  outis nihil Aug 22 at 18:53
You tchristized the heck out of this answer. I'd give more pluses, but all I have is 1. –  BrianDHall Aug 22 at 19:32
If you want to discuss this answer, please take it to chat. –  KitFox Aug 23 at 12:30

This word appears to be jargon (ie technical terminology) in the computer programming and administration fields.

wordnik.com provides "To make a version of; translate." which it attributes to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia.

This 2012 blog is entitled "How Do You Versionize Your Code?" which uses versionize in context of keeping different versions of in progress work so that one can return to an earlier version if some error is found in the current version. It refers to versionizing tools as well as the ability to versionize without using these tools.

A Dec 2011 superuser question asks for help in "How to archive and versionize a filesystem for Windows and MacOSX?"

So, recognizing that the word is jargon, that leads us directly to the debate of whether we should consider jargon to be a "a real word or ... a ... bastardization". In framing that debate this article may be useful. Orwell and many others, it seems, would probably say "bastardization" while Judith Butler (who the article says won the annual 'Bad Writing Award' from the journal of Philosophy and Literature) and others would probably say it's a "real word".

Probably only the future knows if this particular word will one day become commonly accepted language (beyond it's current technical area), as many words that started as jargon have, or will eventually fade and be forgotten, as has been the fate of many other words that started as jargon.

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A largely beautiful answer. Anyone who writes "When framing the debate.." is a master of nuance. –  Joe Blow Aug 22 at 17:39
For those uses, the vastly more common usage is "Version" or "Version Control". Google Ngram viewer has no hits on "versionize" or "versionizing"; a Google web search for "versionize" has ~8,000 hits vs. 2 million for "version control". –  Andrew Medico Aug 22 at 18:38

Sure, "versionize" is utterly common in computing-marketing.

(Self-evidently, it just means, to convert a fairly undynamic, unsupported product (perhaps an app), to one that has supported regularly ongoing versions. It's just like "monetise."

Another similar trendy term today is "gamification" (or perhaps gamization).

Questions about "real words" are annoying. The concept "real word" is meaningless, and presupposes there is some authority or platonic .. decision .. about "words". There is no such authority or platonic, um, epistemological duality.

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"Epistemological duality", Joe, really? ;) In re: your answer, I've personally never heard "versionize" before, and I've been in computers (and, sadly, marketing) my whole career. Can you dig up a good swath of quotes or references? I'd +1 if you can support that the word really is widespread. –  Dan Bron Aug 22 at 17:39
I'm sorry; I could't be bothered. (If you assert I'm wrong and it is not widespread in <whatever it is you check that in>, I completely believe you.) You know, do you work with, as they say "apps" -- perhaps it's a bit of an "appized" thing. (Like monetize, you know?) I just found eleven hits in my email for instance. (Tragically some of my concerns work with "apps", but don't shoot me.) –  Joe Blow Aug 22 at 17:42
Maybe it's a UK thing. Anyway, if you've found 11 instances in your actual email, that's good enough for me. –  Dan Bron Aug 22 at 17:43
Never heard that "self-evident" meaning in ~15 years. Most of the hits found by Google show it being used to refer to version control (and that was my first thought on seeing the question). –  Andrew Medico Aug 22 at 18:41
@DanBron As a UK person in a technological field, I've never heard "versionize". –  David Richerby Aug 22 at 22:00

The only source available seems to be the following , versionize:

  • To make a version of; translate.

Source: The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

I think that to make a version is the expression to use.

Considering the additional information in your question, a check with google shows a very limited use of 'versionize' ( or versionise) compared to 'save a version'. Maybe the neologism will gain currency in the future.

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@JoeBlow If you want to retract a comment, delete it. There's a little `x' icon after the posting time of your own comments. –  David Richerby Aug 23 at 9:19
Hi David! Funny you mention that: it drives me nuts when people "fail to" delete comments or edit posts. I always just delete any comments I have made, which proved to be Totally Wrong or I was drunk at the time. In this case I just didn't want to make your comment confusing. Cheers –  Joe Blow Aug 23 at 12:33

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