I know etymology refers to the origin of a word, especially in an historical sense, but what about the process in which a word enters into language in the modern day?

By way of example, "google": (to) google, (has) googled, (he) googles and (is) googling are words used in today's language, whether officially accepted or not.

In relation to the origins of a word and how a word enters language as a process, what would that process be called?

A friend made a comment that an item of food was "instagrammable" and I cringed just thinking about it. Not that I accept that as a word (I don't), I was trying to reply that such a word was a real bastardisation of language (my opinion only and I accept it may not be thought to be so by others). It just got me to thinking about modern words (especially in relation to the internet and technology), and I wanted to comment about that process.

  • It's still called "etymology," whether the word entered the language recently or not. For instance, Oxford English Dictionary lists an etymology for "google" in the sense that you mentioned: Google, v.2: Origin: From a proper name. Etymon: proper name Google. Etymology: < Google, a proprietary name for an Internet search engine launched in 1998. – RaceYouAnytime Jul 9 '17 at 2:39
  • Good question! It should set us thinking. The crucial thing would be how many people actually use the new word in that meaning.I can say 'I stackexchanged your query' to mean I asked it as a question at Stack Exchange, but a huge number of other people need to use the same word in the same meaning before it will actually enter the language.For example, Google has been operating for almost 20 years and now 'I googled, he googled, we googled' is accepted English, which reflects the widespread use of Google search, but also the stability & value of the company: will Instagram be here in 2025? – English Student Jul 9 '17 at 2:41
  • The "to google" example is a recent example of a product name that becomes a generic; another is "to xerox", meaning to photocopy. Other routes include foreign borrowing and noun-verb transformations. There must be others. It would make a good master's essay to look at current dictionary additions and their sources. – Xanne Jul 9 '17 at 5:02
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    In today's world, words come into being through people's creativity. In English, there is no such thing as officially accepted. Stuff pops up in the press, academia, social media, media etc. and it catches on or does not. This is not called etymology!! – Lambie Jul 9 '17 at 13:26
  • I'm sorry to be such a naysayer but, come on, people invent words and others propagate them because they like them or people don't repeat them in which case they "die". If a word persists long enough, it ends up in dictionaries. There ain't no science to this at all. – Lambie Jul 9 '17 at 14:17


“Lexicalize” is to accept into the lexicon, or vocabulary, of a language.

“Lexicography” is the writing or compilation of a lexicon or dictionary. Most lexicographers take a descriptive approach. They maintain a corpus of published works and when they judge that a new word or phrase, or a new meaning, has been used often enough it is incorporated in their dictionary.

As noted elsewhere in this question “etymology” relates to the origin of a word but has no direct bearing on its usage or acceptance. For many words the etymology is unknown.

The definitions I cite are from the OED but most dictionaries will have them.

  • Words do not enter a language through lexicalization. They enter dictionaries that way. – Lambie Jul 9 '17 at 13:26
  • @Lambie I posted that definition of lexicalize verbatim from the Oxford English Dictionary and it uses the word “language”. That in turn cites M. A. Pei & F. Gaynor A Dictionary Of Linguistics published in 1954 in New York. In English there is no one authoritative lexicon but dictionaries of various sizes allow us to agree (or disagree) on whether a word is official. – Pete Forman Jul 9 '17 at 14:02
  • I don't doubt you posted it from a good source. But this is not about acceptance into the language, which I agree is lexicalize. It is about how words come about. The OP talked about the process by which a word enters the language. For my money, it's invention. And then, it is picked up or not, as I explain in my answer. I can make up a word right here and then, in effect, it will have entered the language....:) – Lambie Jul 9 '17 at 14:15
  • @Lambie I was separating the coining of a new word or meaning with its entry into the language. You and MAA answered the former and I answered the latter. The third paragraph by the OP asks for a term to cover both origin and entry which I do not believe is achieved by any of our individual answers. The question in the title has “enters”. – Pete Forman Jul 9 '17 at 14:35


This Wikipedia page covers it pretty succinctly, but to summarize: new words enter the language either because of internal factors (native speakers use things already available in the language, but in new ways), or because of external factors (contact with other languages). Once a word becomes commonly recognized in its intended meaning, AND can take on grammatical markers (prefixes/suffixes) then it has been fully assimilated into the language.

  • Very simple and accurate explanation -- I upvote! Recent examples of this process: google, blog, selfie. – English Student Jul 10 '17 at 2:20

Question: In relation to the origins of a word and how a word enters language as a process, what would that process be called?

Answer: It is called word invention by people or verbal creativity.

Words come into a language through the creativity of human beings. People make up words based on their knowledge and/or imagination and the words then are propagated through the print and other media, academia, social media, songs, and books. And probably some I have not thought of....

A word can be created ex-nihilo because someone imagines it. Others are cleverly crafted by creative people based on what they already know or other languages.

The origins of words is called etymology and not all etymologies are known.

Words, therefore, enter a language through human verbal creativity. Not all words that are created are kept for long. Some disappear in a few years while others get into the dictionary.

Here is an interesting take on the term badaboom, or bada boom, which in a different form dates back, the author claims, to vaudeville: badaboom

Onamotopeic word invention is very common in American English.

  • Thanks for your advice on the deleted question I posted. Commenting here to thank you for that and the pointer for stc.org – halfbit Nov 26 '17 at 15:29
  • Glad to help. :) – Lambie Nov 26 '17 at 18:26

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