Short notes on backformation


Backformation in etymology, is the process by which a new word form from extracting or removing suffix from the actual word. This term is also called as ‘back-derivation’. Also, back-formation itself is an example of it. The term backformation term was introduced by Scottish Lexicographer and editor, James Murray in 1889.

In other words, backformation could be like the root word or a shorten version of word created from a longer word by removing affixes.

It changes its form and function. In backformation, word of one type which is usually a noun- reduced and used as a verb.

For example; ‘rove’ from ‘rover’ is obtained from removing suffix ‘r’ from the word.

Same like; ‘diagnose’ form ‘diagnosis’, ‘burgle’ form ‘burglar’, ‘peeve’ form ‘peevish’, ‘jell’ from ‘jelly’, ‘edit’ from ‘editor’, ‘beg’ from ‘begger’, ‘vaccine’ from ‘vaccination’ etc. are the few examples of backformation.

Back-formations frequently begin in colloquial use and only gradually become accepted. For example;  ‘enthuse’ from ‘enthusiasm’ is gaining popularity, though today it is still generally considered nonstandard.

Therefore, backformation may be particularly common in English given that many English words are borrowed from Latin, French and Greek, which together provide English a large range of common affixes.

Many words with affixes have entered into English, such as ‘dismantle’ and disheveled, so it may be easy to believe that these are formed from roots such as ‘mantle’ and ‘sheveled’, although these words have no history of existing in English.

Not only that but many words came into English by this route: ‘pease’ was once a mass noun but was reinterpreted as plural, making to the back-formation ‘pea’.

Also, Back-formation varies from clipping, back-formation may change the word’s class or meaning, whereas clipping creates shortened words from longer words, but does not change the class or meaning of the word.

3 thoughts on “Short notes on backformation

  1. Priti 26 Jul 2022 / 7:09 am

    Good notes ! Very halpful. Well shared thanks 😊👍

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s