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I am not a native speaker. I wrote the following sentences:

Li et al. [5] proposed to compute relative entropy with Formula (7) and used it as a similarity metric. This metric was later re-termed “divergence”.

The reviewer comments on these sentences are as follows: was later re-termed? Please check the English writing.

So my question: is the word “re-term” strange? Do native speakers use another word rather than “re-term”?

Thank you in advance!

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    Is there any reason not to use an actual English word here? What's wrong with the word rename? – Peter Shor Jul 28 '18 at 10:14
  • Yes, "rename" is ok! Do you mean "re-term" is not an actual English word? – Lee Jul 28 '18 at 10:28
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    You can put re- before nearly any verb and get something understandable, and that many people might consider an English word. But if there's another word that means the same thing, that's in the dictionaries, and that's used hundreds of times as often, you should use that one instead. – Peter Shor Jul 28 '18 at 10:37
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    It's a perfectly legitimate usage. – Hot Licks Sep 28 '18 at 11:29
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There is nothing wrong with re-termed. (Although, as was mentioned in some comments, it might be better to say renamed instead.)

However, what struck me as odd about the sentence is there is no explicit mention of the metric being named anything in the first place. In order to re- something, it must be done at least once to start with.

As such, I would find this more natural:

Li et al. [5] proposed to compute relative entropy with Formula (7) and [termed it] a similarity metric. This metric was later re-termed “divergence”.

It's possible that it's this point the reviewer was raising.


Applying the suggestion for using renamed instead, and tweaking something else at the end which isn't directly relevant, I might also rephrase the sentence in this way:

Li et al. [5] proposed to compute relative entropy with Formula (7) and named it a "similarity metric." This was later renamed a “divergence metric.”

  • I believe that relative entropy was intended to be the first name, although this is not at all clear from the OP's sentence. – Peter Shor Jul 28 '18 at 17:52
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    @PeterShor You could well be right. (If so, it would need to be reworded differently.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 28 '18 at 17:55
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Even without the hyphen, "retermed" has been used in scientific publications.

For example in The Cell Surface of Paramecium International Review of Cytology (1959) volume 8, at page 122, is:

J. von Gelei (1934a) identified the "membranelles" as ventral and dorsal peniculus (brush) and Vierermembran, later retermed quadrulus (Hyman, 1940). He also recognized the Rippenjasern (retermed ribbed wall, Ehret and Powers, 1957a)...

So the word is strange in the sense that it is not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but legitimate enough that dozens of example can be found in publications going back to the 1940s.

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