English Language


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The Evolution of English: How New Words Are Created Through Clipping

English is a constantly evolving language, and one of the ways new words are formed is through neologisms. This term refers to the invention of a completely new word, and many neologisms have since become mainstream in the English language. In this article, we will focus on one specific process of creating neologisms: clipping. We will define what this process entails, provide examples, and discuss its purpose. Ready to learn about the world of clipped words? Let's dive in!

Before we delve into the topic of clipping, it's important to understand the various other types of neologisms that exist. These include derivation, back-formation, compounding, repurposing, conversion, eponyms, loanwords, onomatopoeia, reduplication, occasionalism, error, blends, and abbreviations.

What Does Clipping Mean?

Clipping is the act of shortening an existing word by removing part of it, typically down to a single syllable, to create a new word. It's like how a hairdresser uses clippers to give someone a shorter haircut, but with words!

Unlike other methods of creating new words, clipping does not alter the original word's meaning.

The Two Types of Clipping

There are two main types of clipping:

  • Initial clipping (apheresis) - removing the first syllable(s) of a word.
  • Final clipping (apocope) - removing the last syllable(s) of a word.

Here are some examples of words that have been clipped and their original forms:

Existing WordClipped WordType of ClippingTelephonePhoneInitialMathematicsMathsFinalPhotographPhotoFinalAeroplanePlaneInitialUniversityUniFinalRobotBotInitial

Clipping can also be applied to names, as seen in the following examples:

  • Elizabeth - Liz
  • Robert - Rob
  • Charlotte - Charlie
  • Isabella - Bella
  • Christopher - Chris

The Purpose of Clipping

Why do we create clipped words? Here are some possible reasons:

  • To change the formality of spoken language - clipped words are often more informal and used among familiar individuals.
  • To change the formality of written language - clipped words are also used in informal writing, such as text messages or casual emails.
  • For simplicity and efficiency - clipped words are easier to pronounce, say, spell, and write, leading to more efficient communication.

It's important to note that clipping differs from abbreviations in that it creates a completely new word, whereas abbreviations simply shorten an existing word without creating a new term.

Clipping vs. Abbreviations: Understanding the Distinctions

Both clipping and abbreviations result in shorter versions of words than their originals, but there are some key differences between these two techniques. Let's start by defining abbreviations:

An abbreviation is when a word's length is shortened, such as "Doctor" becoming "Dr." and "Junior" becoming "Jr." These shortened words are primarily used in written language and not spoken. For example, when writing "Dr." or "Jr.", you would still pronounce them as "Doctor" and "Junior" when speaking. Abbreviations may or may not end with a period.

Clipping: A Guide

Abbreviations are commonly used in written communication to shorten words or phrases. In addition to the well-known acronyms, initialisms, and contractions, another form of abbreviation is clipping. Let's take a closer look at what clipping is and how it differs from other types of abbreviations.

Definition of Clipping

Clipping is a process in which part of a word is removed to form a shorter word with the same meaning. This can be seen in both written and spoken language, and the meaning of the word remains unchanged.

Types of Clipping

There are two main types of clipping: initial and final. Initial clipping, also known as apheresis, involves removing the first syllable(s) of a word. An example of this is the word "phone," formed from "telephone." Final clipping, or apocope, involves removing the last syllable(s) of a word. One example of this is the word "math," shortened from "mathematics."

Examples of Clipping

Clipping is commonly used in both spoken and written English. Some examples include "gym" from "gymnasium," "photo" from "photograph," and "fax" from "facsimile." Can you think of any other examples of clipping?

The Purpose of Clipping

Clipped words are primarily used for simplicity and efficiency in communication. They also have the ability to change the formality of language in both speech and writing. For example, "telephone" may be used in a formal setting, while "phone" is more commonly used in casual conversations.


In summary, clipping is a form of abbreviation in which part of a word is removed to create a shorter word with the same meaning. This is different from other types of abbreviations like acronyms and contractions. With its usage in both spoken and written language, clipping is a common and efficient way to communicate.

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