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This has been rattling around in the back of my mind for many years (way before Stack Exchange came into existence), so it's a relief to finally ask the question.

There are words that can be "contracted" by removing one or more letter(s) (without changing the order of the letters) to form a shorter word with the same meaning, or one very close to it.

The two strongest examples I can think of right now are:

rapscallion -> rascal

and

satiate -> sate

This is a slightly weaker example:

rapine -> rape

Even though "rape" has come, in modern usage, to refer almost exclusively to a sexual crime, it can still be used in a more literary (and purposefully anachronistic) sense to mean "the plunder and pillage of a country or region". In that sense, "rape" can be used in a similar fashion to "rapine"; in any case, the two words are etymologically related to the Latin rapere which is tied to the archaic usage.

Another weaker example:

transliterate -> translate

These words are near-synonyms, but there is a definite difference in their meaning. Still, I guess this pair would qualify, albeit in a looser sense.

I wanted to exclude some relatively trivial examples, such as:

(inflammable -> flammable)

(perambulate -> ambulate)

and so forth. So I've imposed the additional rule (arbitrary though it may seem) that the "stripped" letters must not come from the start or the end of the word, but only from its middle.

Acronyms and portmanteaus are also excluded, as are "slangier" contractions e.g.:

(modulator-demodulator -> modem)

(motor-hotel -> motel)

(certitude or certainty or certificate -> cert)

I guess the long-short forms of the same word would form a linguistic doublet. I've coined the term "telescoping word" to describe the long form that "collapses" into the short form with letter deletion sans anagramming.

My question is: has this phenomenon already been studied? If so, what name have authorities given it? Is there already an existing reference or resource on it? Thanks in advance.

  • 3
    The pair of words "transliterate" and "translate" have distinctly different meanings and are not an example of the class of words you are referring to. Transliteration is when one takes a word written in Korean, for example, and writes the word in English letters in a way so as to maintain the sound of the word when spoken. So the Korean word for a certain popular Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables would be transliterated into English as "kimchi" (or a variant). Translation would be to render "kimchi" as "fermented vegetables". – brasshat Dec 19 '14 at 6:32
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    @brasshat Fair point. Which is why I mentioned that there is a definite difference in their meaning, making this a weaker example. But I still consider the words to be in the same "ballpark" meaning-wise, because both pertain to transforming text from one language to another. The difference is that one is transforming merely the written word (script) while preserving the original spoken sound, whereas the other is transforming the written word and spoken sound while preserving the meaning (at least as far as possible). The closeness in meaning is a subjective thing, and I don't insist on it. – Deepak Dec 19 '14 at 17:06
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I think kangaroo word is the closest term for this.

A playful term for a word that carries within it a synonym of itself--such as regulate (rule), indolent (idle), and encourage (urge).

It's generally believed that the synonym (called a joey) should be the same part of speech as the kangaroo word and its letters should appear in order.

http://grammar.about.com/od/il/g/kangaroowordterm.htm


There are also twin kangaroos and anti-kangaroo words.

Twin kangaroos are kangaroo words containing two joey words (for example: container features both tin and can). In contrast, an anti-kangaroo word is a word that contains its antonym; for example: covert carries overt, animosity carries amity.

[Wikipedia]

  • Thank you! This is exactly what I've been looking for. I knew this site wouldn't let me down! :) – Deepak Dec 19 '14 at 5:09
  • @Deepak: You are welcome. This is a great question also! – ermanen Dec 19 '14 at 5:14

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