Sir Thomas Browne’s successful and failed neologisms

Words he successfully introduced into the English language:





According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Browne ranks 25th for the number of new words introduced into English, ahead of both Milton and Spenser.

Failed attempts:

tollutation [ambling]

axungious [lard-like]

deuteroscopy [the business of taking a second look]


I would someday like to read a Big Data paper on what predicts which neologisms will fail.  In any case, that information is from Hugh Aldersey-Williams’s new book The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century, for fans of Browne only but yes I am one.


Deuteroscopy deserves taking a second look, IMO. It appears to be an unridiculously useful term.

It's not as good as the retrospectoscope.

I just spent half a minute pondering what would a retrospectroscope do? Most people don't even have a use for an ordinary spectroscope.

Now that I think about it, what would a spectoscope do? Would that be like a 1X magnifying glass?

Do people really not have uses for a spectroscope? Better to say that they would not be worth the bother.

We already have a crude spectroscope, i.e. colour vision which is very useful. We also have very fine chemical anlysis tools in our toungs and noses. A high resoultion spectroscope combines them: look at something and learns much of what a dog learns by smelling.

Evolution would have favoured that if she had found a way to build a high resolution spectrscope out of meat.

Retrospectoscope? Is that what a proctologist uses?

That's an upbumoscope.

For many years the Atlantic Monthly's back page was a contest in which readers were challenged to invent useful neologisms. Over the years, readers concocted thousands of clever and sometime brilliant new terms, many of them self-explanatory. As far as I can recall, however, virtually none of them ever caught on.

In contrast, "jump the shark" caught on quickly and stayed caught.

Perhaps for the same reason that "dumbing down" caught on.

"Urinoir," which the first link cites as a neologism that failed, is the french word for "urinal" as it appears on Men's bathroom signs on the Highway 401 rest stops in Ontario.

Very interesting post.

I would be surprised were "Big Data" ever to prove useful in predicting which neologisms fail/succeed. Perhaps Big Data could show what success paths look like. But I'd be surprised if could really predict anything from inception.

tollutation [ambling]

Tollutation looks hard (and very Germanic!) and sounds nothing like ambling or perambulate.

Tollutation might have worked for "leisurely climbing the Alps."

No, it sounds like some kind of unusual obscene activity.

In chess, neologisms were invented by Johann "Hans" Joseph Kmoch (July 25, 1894, Vienna – February 13, 1973, New York City), an Austrian-Dutch-American chess International Master, in his classic book "Pawn Power in Chess".

Brazilian Professor Castro Lopes was one of the biggest neologisms inventors manking has ever seen. Even today his book "Neologismos Indispensáveis e Barbarismos Dispensáveis" remains an indispensable reading, maybe the definitive take on the matter.

Who came up with the word neologism?

I know you're being ironic, but the earlier reference in the OED has:

1772 J.-N. de Sauseuil "Anal. French Orthogr. 163 " Observations on this Neologism... I thought indeed I was intirely done with this Canon when I came to the explication of the last word Hecaterogenosem.

Thank you. I was curious.

I like "unridiculous." I will do my part to make it an accepted word.

You'ld be surprised to find out how many words Al Capp andLil Abner--if anyone remembers-- added to the language.

Skunk Works is the one I remember.

It's funny how Al Capp has disappeared from cultural memory. Here's Wikipedia on his neologisms:

"Sadie Hawkins Day and double whammy are two terms attributed to Al Capp that have entered the English language. Other, less ubiquitous Cappisms include skunk works and Lower Slobbovia. The term shmoo has also entered the lexicon, defining highly technical concepts in no less than four separate fields of science, including the variations shmooing (a microbiological term for the "budding" process in yeast reproduction), and shmoo plot (a technical term in the field of electrical engineering). In socioeconomics, a "shmoo" refers to any generic kind of good that reproduces itself, (as opposed to "widgets" which require resources and active production.) In the field of particle physics, "shmoo" refers to a high energy survey instrument, as utilized at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to capture subatomic cosmic ray particles emitted from the Cygnus X-3 constellation. Capp also had a knack for popularizing certain uncommon terms, such as druthers, schmooze and nogoodnik, neatnik, etc. In his book The American Language, H.L. Mencken credits the postwar mania for adding "-nik" to the ends of adjectives to create nouns as beginning—not with beatnik or Sputnik—but earlier, in the pages of Li'l Abner."

'Retromingent' and 'chyllifactive' are 2 neologisms of Browne's which did not catch on.Here's a few you may have missed -'ambidextrous', 'analogous', 'approximate, 'ascetic', 'anomalous', 'carnivorous', 'coexistence' 'coma', 'compensate', 'computer', 'cryptography', 'cylindrical', 'disruption', 'electricity', 'exhaustion', 'ferocious', 'follicle', 'generator', 'gymnastic', 'herbaceous', 'insecurity', 'indigenous', 'jocularity', 'literary', 'locomotion', 'medical', 'migrant', 'mucous', 'prairie', 'prostate', 'polarity', 'precocious', 'pubescent', 'therapeutic', 'suicide', 'ulterior', 'ultimate' and 'veterinarian'.

"I would someday like to read a Big Data paper on what predicts which neologisms will fail."
The ones that are hard to pronounce?

"Unridiculous" is easy to pronounce and should be a perfectly cromulent word.

"Serious" is a good enough substitute for unridiculous, and easier to pronounce. It's also quite cromulent.

A quick google search did not reveal the reference for list of most new words for OED by author -- anyone able to find the list?

Brian Aldiss used the word "deuteroscopist" in his Helliconia books. I don't know if he got it from Sir Thomas Browne.

There are so much one can describe as part of success or failure, but it’s crucial that we do not give up at any cost, if we leave then someone else will succeed. I am always given 100% to my work and that’s why I found success. I am doing Forex trading with an epic company OctaFX, it has mouth-watering facilities which include the tiny spread of 0.2 pips for all major pairs while also they have got super smooth platform to work with.

I'm sure there are a WHOLE lot of financial engineering terms we're sorry ever took off..

Unridiculous is so fetch.

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