I saw the word, outpander in the following sentence of Maureen Dowd’s article titled, “Liz: Cheney desist!” in March 6 New York Times:

Speaking by satellite to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference here, Romney outpandered himself.
“I will station multiple aircraft carriers and warships at Iran’s door,” he said as if he were playing Risk. Not afraid to employ “military might” (or alarming alliteration), Romney wrote a blank check to Bibi Netanyahu ---

I can guess what outpander means from the definition of a dictionary at hand –OAELD defines pander (to sb) as "to do what sb wants, or try to please them, especially when this is not acceptable or reasonable."

However, as far as I checked, no dictionary including Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, even urban dictionary registers outpander, nor does Google Ngram.

Is outpander a received English word, or usual Dowd’s coinage? Or, anyone can fix ‘out’ to any verb as a prefix as he or she likes just as we do with any verb+able, like outeat, outknow, outlaugh, outsex?

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    The four examples you gave would all work in the right context (I would prefer using a hyphen as 'out-'), but they are all pretty informal. Semantically it doesn't seem to work well with stative verbs.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 14:00
  • It's not exactly a "new coinage" by Dowd - there are maybe a dozen instances with the same meaning in Google Books. But I would say Dowd's usage is a pretty "ugly". As this chart shows, "pander" is normally followed by the word "to". The quirky "out-" prefix and following reflexive pronoun simply invite confusion - not least with "out-pampered himself". Trashy journalese, imho. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 19:15
  • @Mitch: Use your imagination. Out-be (be more than), out-have (have more than), out-like (like something more than), out-contain (contain more than), and so on are all pretty cromulent. At least they would be understood in context.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 20:39
  • @Jon: Yes, in concentrated circumstances, like reading Maureen Dowd, your out-be and out-have -might- work, but they'd would stretch the imagination quite a bit (which is what I meant by 'doesn't seem to work well').
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


Is it an accepted or received English word? No. Can out- be used as a prefix to anything? No. Is it used as a prefix to anything? Yes.

There is a tendency to prefix out- to all sorts of words, with a meaning of out-do in x, often hyphenated. They are understandable, as long as you realise how the word is made up - the hyphen helps - but that does not make them real words.

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    They're not "real words" in the sense of being in the dictionary. They certainly are "real words" in the sense of being a grammatical construction that conveys the intended meaning. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 9:43
  • Which is what I meant - do not expect to find them used in other places. As I said, they are comprehensible. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 9:48
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    Some people can out-coin new words prodigiously.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 17:06
  • 1
    @Jay - they are called Journalists Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 19:17

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