An example:

To increment a variable makes an incrementation.

One language wiki says it does, while MS Word and several dictionaries say there is no such word.

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    That’s not the right question. The right question is why you shouldn’t use it. – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 5:18
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    I've yet to see a dictionary say of a specific white-space-bounded letter string 'there is no such word'. The latest estimates of the number of words in the English lexicon are over 1 000 000, and the most comprehensive English dictionary addresses fewer than half of these. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '14 at 6:39

Whether a word can be said to "exist" or not is a very difficult question whose answer depends on many things. Clearly, for example, the sequence of characters that "incrementation" comprises exists, or otherwise you couldn't have written it down in the first place!

So, instead, I will answer an easier and less philosophical question: are there a number of uses of "incrementation" in the wild with the meaning you suggested? The answer is decidedly yes.

Now, whether that's a good choice, of course, is something else entirely. Some people might say "incrementation" is too technical or constructivist of a word for regular, everyday usage. In that case, you should stick with just "increments" or "incrementing" instead of using the less common word.

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  • I'd say it's a matter of agreeing terms (and perhaps the collection and analysis of corpus data) rather than being 'philosophical' (unless you're using an uncommon sense). 'Academic' certainly, in both the 'debated by academic institutions, rather than being a problem the man on the Clapham omnibus worries about' and 'not practically achievable' senses. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '14 at 6:37
  • The philosophical question is "Do words exist by the fact that they can be constructed from letters, or by common cultural agreement, or by appeal to authority, or by ability to convey meaning?" – Timbo Oct 21 '15 at 18:55
  • It's exactly the kind of question pondered by Analytical Philosophers in the early 20th century. – Timbo Oct 21 '15 at 20:32

There are about 358,000 Google hits for "incrementation" (with upright quotes, to limit searches to pages with this exact word), so it surely exists as a word in actual usage—even though Google results are not an exact measure of anything and even though there are probably occurrences of the word in languages other than English, too.

The word “incrementation” appears to be used mostly in programming, mathematics, and natural sciences. For example, in some programming languages, according to established terminology for them, “the incrementation operator” means the “++” operator, which increments the value of its argument by one. There is apparent need for a word like “incrementation”. Even though we could say “the incrementing operator”, it’s not really a term-like expression, and when we need to discuss how the process of incrementing something actually happens, “incrementation” is more convenient and readable than “process of incrementing”.

Dictionaries like Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries do not contain it, but they often lack new words and words with limited scope of use. This particular word might be common enough to make its way to dictionaries, but this is not automatic; their editors need to do things, and they also exercise their judgment. Dictionaries also have normative aspects: words may be excluded since they are considered as “not correct” in some sense. Spelling dictionaries like those used by Microsoft Word tend to be more limited than large general dictionaries, since when a word is rare, its occurrence in text may well be unintentional, a “typo” or other mistake, so it is useful to inform the user about a potential problem.

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  • OED is an 'Oxford dictionary'; are you saying that OED doesn't list 'incrementation'? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '14 at 11:53
  • @EdwinAshworth, I was referring specifically to the dictionaries at the oxforddictionaries.com site. – Jukka K. Korpela Dec 17 '14 at 12:48
  • You cannot just search Google in general. You need to search Google Books specifically. – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 17:43
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    @tchrist, I actually did, and there is nothing you can do to stop me from doing it again! Searching Google Books might answer the question “Is this word used in printed books, more exactly those available as scanned at Google Books?” Interesting as that might be, it’s a different question. – Jukka K. Korpela Dec 17 '14 at 18:02

It's common in computer science to turn verbs into nouns simply because labelling processes is at the heart of what we do.

The verb for this is to reify (or to objectify), which itself has the noun form, reification.

Incrementation isn't a pretty word. Stylistically, I'd prefer to use increment as an adjective, 'the increment operator', or using 'incrementing' as a noun, where possible, but I certainly agree there are places where such a word could be valuable.

Is it a word or isn't it? There's no formal way to say, because there's no definitive source in English for what is a word and what isn't. Consider that many programming terms don't mean what their general English equivalents mean. Many terms don't appear in dictionaries at all.

It's understandable and it communicates a familiar idea. If you ask me, yes, it's a word.

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  • As an old (in more ways than one) computer guy, I'd generally try to make do with "incrementing". "Incrementation" is simply too hard to read, if nothing else (did that say "incineration"? "incremation"? "incrimination"?). Google, for instance, for how many times it was misspelled "incrematation". – Hot Licks Jan 25 '15 at 20:26

Yes. It means the act of incrementing: Incrementation of the counter occurs once a second. It could also mean the result of incrementing, though I doubt that that meaning is used often.

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  • Ick! You mean the counter increments every second, or incrementing the counter every second. The other smacks of gratuitous and tasteless nominalizationifying. – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 5:17
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    @tchrist: Why would it be any different from implementing and implementation? Implementation of a new version of program FooBar happens every summer during the Google Summer Of Code. You might prefer to say Joe implements... or Implementing a new version...happens... but the first is quite possible, regardless of what it might smack. – Drew Dec 17 '14 at 5:28
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    It’s different because you have the noun an increment for what happens when you increment something, but when you implement something, you don’t end up having an *implement. That’s why. – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 5:30
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    It is expected that answers be supported by authoritative references, or at the very least, a reasonable number of examples. If this is not the case, how can readers judge how subjective the answer is? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '14 at 6:19
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    One man's gratuitous and tasteless nominalizationifying is another man's useful word formation. Some might feel 'increment' is overworked: increment n. 1. The process of increasing in number, size, quantity, or extent. 2. Something added or gained: a force swelled by increments from allied armies. 3. A slight, often barely perceptible augmentation. 4. One of a series of regular additions or contributions... 5. Mathematics A small positive or negative change in the value of a variable. [AHDEL; I'd say sense (1) wasn't the most commonly used. 'Incrementation' strongly suggests the process.] – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '14 at 6:29

Although the word incrementation has been seen in print, it occurs only incredibly rarely according to this Google N-gram:

ngram of various incrementations

To control for verb use instead of noun use, I’ve put an in front of the singular noun and of after the plural one.

As you see, there is a frequency difference of 3 to 4 orders of magnitude. Moreover, if you look at actual specimens, you will find that most of them could have been far more felicitously worded had a different word been chosen.

I wouldn’t use it, but whether you choose to use this rare word this is entirely up to you.

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  • So? You have excluded occurences that are not preceded by an indefinite article. This is rather arbitrary. – Jukka K. Korpela Dec 17 '14 at 18:01
  • @JukkaK.Korpela Do you have a better suggestions for isolating noun uses from verb uses of increment and increments? I did the same to both, so it should not matter. – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 18:55
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    The question was “Does the word ‘incrementation’ exist?” I see no reason to distinguish between forms of some other words. I was pointing out that you restricted searches for “incrementation” to occurrences preceded by an indefinite article. – Jukka K. Korpela Dec 17 '14 at 19:11

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