A Lexicon of Neologisms


                             Mikhail Epstein (Emory University)


The word "lexicopoeia" is formed from the Greek roots lexis, "word, phrase, expression," (from legein, say) and poiein, "to make or compose".


Lexicopoeia literally means word-composition, word-formation.


Strangely enough, 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 billions of pages on the web.


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.


All coinages like lexicopoems or verbal otherisms have been checked on the web (Google) to make sure none has been used before, at least in the sense deployed below.


The lexicopoetic enterprise (abbreviated below as LPE) has a tripartite agenda – analytic, aesthetic, and pragmatic. 


1. Analytically, LPE searches for blank spaces and semantic voids in the lexical-conceptual systems of languages in order to fill them with new words designating would-be phenomena and made-up ideas for which no semantic markers currently exist.


2. Aesthetically, LPE aims to create new words as minimal works of verbal art, micropoems, lexipoems.  Filled with lyrical or dramatic intrigue, such fresh linguistic coins can open new avenues for expressiveness by provocatively juxtaposing the formative lexical elements in the existing words.


3. Pragmatically, LPE seeks to renew the language in use; it offers speakers and writers hailing from different linguistic universes a chance to bridge their incommensurable discourses and establish a common ground on which all the practitioners of verbal arts can stand.


It is my hope that most words in this experimental lexicon achieve the first task, and that at least some begin to approach the second goal.  As for the third part of the LPE agenda, it is probably unattainable.  Still, with hope once again triumphing over experience, I set out to achieve the unachievable.  Or as Fedor Tyutchev, 19th century Russian poet, put it:


         It is beyond our power to fathom

         Which way the word we utter resonates,

         Thus, like a sudden grace that comes upon us,

A gift of empathetic understanding emanates.


A few lexicopoetic coinages you find below are arranged in a thematic order.





ex (verb; from Latin ex, "out of," like in ex-president, ex-husband) – to render outdated, make obsolete, relegate to the past.


He exed his girlfriend and now feels lonely and almost desperate.


Those prone to exing others, must be ready to be exed.


                                    *   *   *


oneirogenic (from Greek oneiros,  "dream") –   having a propensity to appear in  somebody's dreams.


Some things are more likely to make their way into our dreams than

others. Do not you find that cats are more oneirogenic than dogs?


Some people are photogenic, others, oneirogenic, and these abilities don't need to coincide. A person may be plain and hardly noticeable in real life but somehow s/he succeeds to haunt our dreams and imagination.


To shock your friends at the party, ask them: "Do you find me "oneirogenic"?  If the answer is "yes," ask them next time to tell  about your adventures in their dreams.





ifnik (if + suffix nik) – someone whose life, habits and thinking are constructed conditionally.


Don't ask him what he's going to do. A typical ifnik, he will give you a dozen of "ifs."


*   *   *

meetnik (meet  + suffix nik) – a person who enjoys meetings and all sorts of administrative events and tries to attend as many of them as possible.


Being socially active is one thing, meeting for the sake of meeting is another.  I try to stay away from meetniks for whom getting together is an end in itself.  Meeting without meaning is worse than meaning without meeting. 


*   *   *


chairy (adj., chair + suffix y) – someone who likes to chair meetings, to preside, to be a master of ceremonies. 


Jimmy is every bit as chairy as Andrew, which spells trouble at a small institution like ours.


She is a wonderful person, but maybe just a touch too chairy to share a household with her. 





deadvertise (verb; dead + advertise)   to advertise and promote political causes by death.


dreadvertise (verb; dread + advertise)    to advertise by dread, to engage in military propaganda.


Terrorism is nothing but the art of deadvertising.


There are skilled dreadvertisers in our government.


*   *   *


videocracy (from Latin video, I see + Latin cratia, from Greek  kratos,  power, rule; cf. ideocracy) – the power of visual images in shaping contemporary societies; the crucial impact of television, cinema, internet, and advertising on public opinion, political affairs, market strategies, etc.


Ideocracy is dead, the so-called communist countries are communist no longer. Was it the power of democratic ideals or American videocracy that ended the communist utopia? Perhaps videocracy has become an indispensable part of democracy in the media age. 


Knowledge. Sciences


inventure (invention+adventure) – an adventure of mind, creative and engaging intellectual action.


This book is about the invention of radio, but it reads like a thriller, with one inventure piled upon another.  


By cutting reason down to size and establishing its “proper” limits, Kant encouraged  subsequent inventures, a never-ending quest to reach beyond the limits of rational thought.


Inventurers know how much they don’t know; like Socrates and Kant, they start their journey with the confessed “ignorance.”




slavior (to (en)slave + suffix ior, like in savior) – the prince of this world, the one who imitates the Savior.


For many old-believers, the Slavior is already here, in our very midst, and they refuse to serve this self-appointed sovereign.


*   *   *

relicious (adjective; relic + religious] – religiously devoted to relics, to the preservation of the past.


Nothing in contemporary life carries meaning for him. He is  a deeply relicious person, not simply nostalgic.


Some people think that Eastern Orthodox spirituality is more relicious than truly religious.





webbiage (web + suffix iage, like in verbiage) – excessive use of web tools and design beyond those needed to present a certain content or achieve a  certain goal.


Why do you need all this webbiage? Simplify, simplify!



Technology. Artificial life and intelligence



arty (abbreviation of artificial)  – an artificial creature, a representative of artificial life and/or intelligence.


arty is a positive colloquial name for robots, cyborgs, androids, in distinction from the contemptuous "mecho," as used in Spielberg's film Artificial Intelligence.


It’s an arty, man’s best friend.  


*  *  *

humy (abbreviation of human)  - a human being as an interlocutor and partner of  creatures with artificial intelligence.  The term also resonates with "humiliated," the role humans might assume in a technosociety dominated by the humanoid machines.


For somebody as smart as this humy, you have to wonder why it cannot conquer death.



*   *   *

virtonautics (virtual + nautics, from Greek nautikos, of ships, sailing, like in astronautics) – experimental exploration and development of virtual worlds.


Now virtonautics is still in embryo, but in the future it will become as common an occupation as aeronautics and astronautics today.




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                  Copyright © Mikhail Epstein (Epshtein)  2000, 2001, 2002


Mikhail Epstein is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor

of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature

at  Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Home page  http://www.emory.edu/INTELNET/Index.html