Definition of back-formation in English:



  • 1A word that is formed from an already existing word from which it appears to be a derivative, often by removal of a suffix (e.g., laze from lazy and edit from editor)

    • ‘Since this use of 'ginger' is considered obsolete by the OED, these instances suggest a re-invention via back-formation rather than a survival of the old word.’
    • ‘The name ‘Troynovant’ is a back-formation from ‘Trinovantes’, the name of the powerful British tribe that lived north and east of London.’
    • ‘It was re-introduced in 1896 by Max Beerbohm as a deliberate and humorous back-formation from uncouth but has never really become established again in mainstream English.’
    • ‘The verb ‘to wrong’ is more common than the noun, and indeed the noun probably gets its enclitic meaning by back-formation from the verb.’
    • ‘It was evidently a back-formation of gullibility, which in turn was an alteration of cullibility, ultimately from cull, meaning ‘a dupe’.’
    1. 1.1The process by which back-formations are formed.
      • ‘Rather, he says, ‘semi-auto’ is short for ‘semi-auto-loader,’ a translation from the German, and ‘semi-auto’ was lengthened by back-formation to ‘semi-automatic.’’
      • ‘By a curious process of back-formation, a number of brand names, products and logos - Aeroplane jelly, Arnott's biscuits, Holden cars, Vegemite, the Qantas kangaroo - became national symbols in their own right.’