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Friday, March 04, 2011

Word of the Day: Retronym

I learned a new word today: retronym.  From Wikipedia:

A retronym is a new name for an object or concept to differentiate the original form or version of it from a more recent form or version. The original name is most often augmented with an adjective (rather than being completely displaced) to account for later developments of the object or concept itself. Much retronymy is driven by advances in technology.

Examples of retronyms are "acoustic guitar" (coined when electric guitars appeared),[1] World War I (called the "Great War" until World War II) and analog watch to distinguish from a digital watch.[2] Retronyms may also be applied to royal or religious personages when a namesake later arrives and a regnal number or similar numerical suffix is retrospectively added. For example, Queen Elizabeth, the English queen, acquired the retronym Queen Elizabeth I after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

Another example is “black licorice”, which actually contains licorice. This would have been redundant until the popularization of “red licorice”, which resembles black licorice in form but does not actually contain licorice. “Dial phone” and “land line phone” might be other examples of retronyms.