A Lexicon of Neologisms.

 Mikhail Epstein (Emory University)



Introduction. Lexicopoeia as a Literary Genre


What is the minimal unit of verbal creativity? Obviously,  a neologism--a single word as a "quantum" of creative energy. A new word exposes in the most concentrated form the same qualities of  invention and fantasy that  are present in longer literary texts, such as a poem or a novel.


There are many varieties of neologisms according to their discursive and social functions: scientific and technical terms, commercial trademarks and brand names,  political slogans,  expressive coinages in literature and journalism…  Many authors, such as Lewis Carrol or James Joyce, weave neologisms into the fabric of their  poetry or fiction. However, there should be recognition for a neologism as a self-sufficient literary text that is not intended for any pragmatic use and is not a part of any larger literary genre.


I will call this  genre of a single word creation "lexicopoeia." The word "lexicopoeia" is formed from the Greek roots lexis, "word,  expression"  (from legein, “say” and poiein, "to make or compose").  Lexicopoeia literally means word-composition, word-formation.


As the epigraph to this project, I have chosen Ralph Emerson's saying:


                           Every word was once a poem


Actually, lexicopoeia is nothing but an abbreviation of this aphorism: the whole sentence is condensed into a single word: lexico–poeia.


                  Every word [lexis] was once a poem [poiema]


                  and still IS at the moment of its coinage.


Lexicopoeia is the most concise genre of literature.  Even aphorism seems  obese and verbose as compared with neologism. If aphorism as a literary genre corresponds to the sentence as a linguistic unit, then a lexicopoem corresponds to the word as a minimal element of speech having  meaning as such.


The material for lexicopoeia is provided by formative units of words: roots, prefixes, suffixes and other morphemes. Not any arbitrary combination of morphemes can be regarded as a new word,  just as not any arbitrary combination of words can claim to be a poem or a story. A lexicopoem is a minimal literary text  that has its own idea, image, composition, plot, authorial intention and intertextual connections with other words.  This distinguishes lexicopoeia as a genre of verbal art from random  combinations of morphemes. The meaning of a lexicopoem cannot be mechanically derived from the separate meanings of its morphological components.


The word lexicopoeia  is an example of  the literary genre that it designates.  This word itself is  a fresh coinage: it has never been used before in English or any other language. It is absent not only from all dictionaries, but also from 3 billion pages of the world wide web.


In the process of assembling this lexicopoetic collection, all coinages were checked on the web (via Google) to make sure  none has been used before, at least in the sense deployed in this Predictionary.




Everyday Life

People. Characters

Relationships. Communication

Psychology. Emotions

Life. Health. Death

Love. Sex

Mind. Knowledge


Religion. Beliefs



Internet. Informational Technology

Language. Textuality

           Grammatical Words (pronouns, conjunctions…)




                           PreDictionary. A Lexicon of Neologisms


                  Copyright © Mikhail Epstein (Epstein)  2000-2003