5

After checking a few dictionaries like https://www.dictionary.com, I noticed that the only form of this word they recognize is the adjective form: multifunctional. The only noun form listed is "functionality." However in most spellchecking applications, no error is thrown when I type "multifunctionality." I tried investigating further and found that "multifunctionality" can have industry specific interpretations, especially for agriculture.

Intended Use

The way I intend to use the word "multifunctionality" is for things that can be used in more than one way. I.e. swiss army knives, gorilla tape, ect. Maybe I will have to reconsider if "multifunctionality" doesn't mean what I think it means. The danger is, I think its extremely easy to understand what I mean, however whether or not its actually the correct use of the word is another story. Consider this example:

Items like swiss army knives and gorilla tape have excellent multifunctionality.

Question: Does "multifunctionality" work for my intended use case? If it does, why is it not listed as a noun in some of the biggest dictionaries? If it doesn't work, is there a close substitute noun?

  • 7
    Being in a dictionary is not the definition of "being a word". When productive suffixes are used in a standard way (eg to derive a noun from an adjective or vice versa) then the meaning is usually pretty clear (apart, perhaps, from some specialist uses) and there is no need for a smaller dictionary to list it. – user184130 Jul 28 '18 at 8:47
  • 1
    I just went and checked how many dictionaries the word "Arash" is in. And "Howaida". Mate, bad news. These thingies you are trying to use as your name are not actual words. I don't know if they are numbers or paintings or notes or smells, no idea. But words they most certainly are not. I tried my best to at least construct them somehow from other English words using suffixes and stuff. It doesn't work. It's all utter nonsense. I strongly suggest you start using actual words to refer to yourself. Like, "Rocket Man" or something. – RegDwigнt Jul 29 '18 at 0:16
3

First and foremost, you can never say that something “is not a word” simply because some random dictionary doesn’t mention it. No dictionary contains all words, nor should they. As James Random justly wrote in a comment:

“Being in a dictionary is not the definition of "being a word". When productive suffixes are used in a standard way (eg to derive a noun from an adjective or vice versa) then the meaning is usually pretty clear (apart, perhaps, from some specialist uses) and there is no need for a smaller dictionary to list it.”

In this instance, your word has its own entry in the OED, which defines multifunctionality as:

The condition of being multifunctional; diversity of function.

The earliest citation is from 1953. Regarding its frequency, they write that

This word belongs in Frequency Band 3. Band 3 contains words which occur between 0.01 and 0.1 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These words are not commonly found in general text types like novels and newspapers, but at the same they are not overly opaque or obscure.

This word is not the least bit opaque or obscure. It’s perfectly straightforward in all ways:

    multi-
  + function
  + -al
  + -ity

is something anyone could decode without even thinking about it.

An earlier word with the same meaning is polyfunctionality, which is less common than multifunctionality is, falling into the OED’s Frequency Band 2, so it would “occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage”. It is specifically a term used in chemistry rather than being in general use. Their earliest provided citation for polyfunctionality is from 1936.

Anyone would know what either of these words means.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.