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What is it called when an interjection is inserted inside another word?

Is there a term used to describe words such as un-fucking-believable or a-whole-nother? These words have other words inserted inside of the original word, creating a sort of compound word.


2 Answers 2


Tmesis is also used to describe this construction, when a lexical word is inserted as an intensifier. And yes, expletives are very often used as intensifiers in these cases.

It's also originally found in words like whatsoever/what-so-ever, howsoever/how-so-ever, etc., which are now words in their own right.

There are rules about where we stick the intensifier, based on prosody in English. We don't find *unbe-fucking-lievable but we do find abso-fucking-lutely. An interesting thing about a-whole-nother is where another is divided; it's not *an-whole-other as one would expect.

  • I know I, and other people I know, have used "unbe-fucking-lievable". It's even used differently semantically from "un-fucking-believable". The latter is pronounced as three distinct words, like in a shocked manner ("Un. Fucking. Believable."); the former is a single word and is used more often in anger ("That's some unbefuckinglievable bullshit!").
    – Zemyla
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 1:51

Yes, it's called an infix. Its use in English is confined to such examples, but it is a normal feature of some other languages.

  • Abso-bleedin'-lutely.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 9:17

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