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An emerging colloquialism that is trending at the moment is "unalive", used, for example, in the sentence:

The police officer who was sued has a tendency to unalive someone he stops for a traffic violation.

In this context, of course, "unalive" means "to kill". In other contexts, it means "to kill oneself."

According to one slang dictionary reference:

Unalive is a slang term used on social media as a replacement for the verb kill or other death-related terms, often in the context of suicide. Unalive is typically used as a way of circumventing social media platform rules that prohibit, remove, censor, or demonetize content that explicitly mentions killing or suicide.

It is also clear that "unalive" does not have a meaning, in its trending sense, parallel to "undead" (which means dead, but having been restored to some semblance of life, as in the case of a zombie or vampire), despite the fact that this would seemingly make sense.

But, I'm unclear if this colloquialism is also used as a noun meaning simply "dead." I can't recall seeing the term used in that sense. My question is whether this emerging term is used in that sense.

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2 Answers 2

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Wiktionary does list "unalive" as a noun, apparently derived from an adjective "unalive" meaning "not alive."

However, that sense of "unalive" appears to long precede the word's usage in contemporary slang with the new meaning of "to kill." So one can reasonably wonder if the noun can be extended to cover the new sense of "unalive" as a verb. The question amounts to whether the trendy folks who use "unalive" in the new sense of "to kill" will understand it being used as a noun.

I'm genuinely not sure if EL&U can answer that, since the slang term is new and its usage is in constant flux; I doubt that there is much of an established consensus on the valid forms of "unalive."

Know Your Meme claims that it can be used as an adjective to mean "dead" (not just "killed"). Personally, I've never heard it used that way; I've only heard it as a verb. So I'm not sure how well-established the adjectival use is in contemporary slang. I suspect that using it as a noun would be even less idiomatic.

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  • "I'm genuinely not sure if EL&U can answer that, since the slang term is new and its usage is in constant flux; I doubt that there is much of an established consensus on the valid forms of "unalive." If the answer is that a noun is an accepted usage, I think EL&U could establish that this is the case by examples from sources that are credible evidence of current usage. If the answer is that it is not, probably a time restricted N-gram type analysis could determine that this was the case, but it would indeed be cumbersome. But so far there seems to be little evidence of the noun form.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:08
  • @ohwilleke Finding examples isn't necessarily sufficient. You can find isolated examples without knowing if most slang users will consider them idiomatic.
    – alphabet
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:11
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Wiktionary has unalive as a noun, but it doesn’t appear to be an emerging usage.

unalive (plural unalives)

One who is unalive.

1967, Helen Bevington, “Speaking of Books: Hellgazers and Rejoicers”, in The New York Times Book Review, volume 72, page 2: Most people are the unalives the notalives, the impersons, existing in an unworld of unlove and unbeing.

2009, Jirí Flajšar, ‎Zénó Vernyik, Words into Pictures: E. E. Cummings’ Art Across Borders, page 83: The very latest of Mr. Cummings's new poems are fixed in rigid attitudes of youth, which now seem to show signs of weariness, caused by the strain of a prolonged defiance against "the sweet&aged people who rule this world," against the “unhearts,” the “unminds,” the “unalives."

From www.cyberdefinitions.com:

Unalive is an example of algospeak, the abbreviation, deliberate misspelling, or substitution of words in order to bypass automated content moderation systems. Social media platforms such as TikTok usually remove content that refer to death, dying, or suicide, so users use terms such as unalive to avoid censorship.

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  • The second point is certainly a helpful contribution to the context of the ultimate answer. The first part seems to refer to a different sense of the word than the one in the question.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:03
  • @ohwilleke - yes that’s the only usage example I could find, implying that unalive is not used as a verb, in whatever sense, certainly not as an emerging trend.
    – user 66974
    Feb 15, 2023 at 9:06
  • It is definitely used as a verb. I've provided examples in the comments in addition to my original post and a slang dictionary notes its use as a verb.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2023 at 14:58
  • @ohwilleke - well, if you feel sure about that, what’s your question for?
    – user 66974
    Feb 15, 2023 at 18:29
  • I am asking if it is used as a noun. I have no doubt that it is used as a verb.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2023 at 19:19

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