Children's, Intermediate and Advanced Online English Dictionary & Thesaurus

  • Word of the Day
    shyster

    shaI st@r

    noun
    a person, usu. a lawyer, who uses underhanded, unethical methods.
    That shyster accepted her fee for his services but did almost nothing for her.

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  • Vocabulary of the Day
    naysayer

    neI seI @r

    noun
    a person who refuses, denies, or opposes, esp. because of cynicism or pessimism.
    They went ahead with their ambitious plan despite the arguments of the naysayers.

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Apr
26
2013

back formation

Posted in Word of the Day by admin

baek for meI shen
noun
definition: in linguistics, a word that appears to be the base of, but was actually formed from, another word, as “trivia” from “trivial.”

Other examples of back formations

injure (from injury), liaise (from liaison), enthuse (from enthusiasm), euthanase or euthanize (from euthanasia), edit from editor

Explanation

As a kind of word formation in English, back formation is a bit like derivation in reverse.  The process of derivation adds a prefix or suffix to an existing word to form a new word. “National” is a derivation of  “nation” (nation + -al), “nationalism” is a derivation of “national” (national + -ism), and “international” is a derivation of … “national” (inter- + national). Back formation removes an affix, commonly a suffix, from an existing word (“-ia” from “euthanasia”) to form a word wrongly assumed to be the base of the first word: “euthanase” or “euthanize.”