Five Ways To Invent A Word
Have you ever heard of Squornshellous Zeta? Or have you jumped in any puddle-wonderful puddles?
These are some terrific words made up by Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and e.e.cummings, a poet famous for his beautifully rhymed poetry.
Inventing words is fun and interesting to do. You can use made up words in poetry, Valentine’s Day cards, novel writing, slang and in social media conversations. You can name businesses or pets with them or even make a lovely poem to make your heart sing. Most of all, if they’re delicious enough, you can use them to stun and kill your audience (just kidding!)
In this hub, I will share a few methods to coax some new words from you using wordplay. You might like to try some of these with your children or friends as some of them can be quite amusing. I learned many of these techniques through a writing course and the exercises seem to stimulate the creative mind and make you feel poetic. I even used one of my invented words to name a business of mine – Inkfluence.
Just think, if the author of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy couldn’t make up new words, how much less rewarding the book would be to read. Or if e.e.cummings couldn’t make up his own words, his poetry probably wouldn’t be famous for its beautiful rhymes and enchanting reasons.
So, let’s invent some new words!
Method 1: Paper Columns
- Take a piece of paper and fold it into 2 columns.
- In the first column, write a list of 15 emotions, adjectives (describing words) or other objects that are special to you. There should be 1-2 words for each item.
- Fold over the paper so you can’t see the first column.
- Go away for 10 minutes and have a cup of coffee.
- In the second column, write a list of 15 objects that are special to you. There should be 1-2 words for each item.
- Open up the paper and see if any of the words sound good when put together.
Here are the words I used:
Method 1 Type Words
Other words I have created using this method:
And here are the words/ideas I was able to invent:
Guinea Pig Massage
I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s some creative ones in there! If you work with a friend and do one column each and then swap for the second column, you’ll get even better words.
Method 2: Adding Two Words Together
- Pick a word, any word. For example, I picked the word “magic”.
- Find a couple of letters you can work with within that word, either at the front or end of the word. For example “ic” from “magic”.
- Find new words with either the front or the end bit matching. A dictionary might help! For example, in this case I found “icon”.
- If using the front of the word, you want the end of the second word to match. If using the end of the word, you want the front of the second word to match.
- Put the two words together to create the new word. Try some variations to see what you can come up with!
magic + icon = magicon
gnome + omelette = gnomelette
bread + adenoids = breadenoids
cat + attract = cattract (yes I was thinking of you, FlourishAnyway!)
Method 3: Adding Two Words Together Using Syllables
- Pick a word with two or more syllables in it. For example, I picked “shoestring”.
- Split the word into its component syllables, eg “shoe” + “string”.
- Substitute another word with the same amount of syllables as the removed word. “Shoe” has one syllable, so “boot” is a good fit too, as it also has one syllable. “Boot” + “string” = “bootstring”.
- Try a few! It helps if you can find rhyming words too.
When writing a blog post, if I find I’m using boring, common words, I can liven it up a bit. For example, the name of a new article with the word “shoestring” in it could now be “Buying Shoes On A Bootstring Budget”.
ice + cream (-ice, + mice) = micecream
chip + munk (-chip, +slip) = slipmunk
con +fi+ den + tial (-con, +lock) = lockfidential
hel + i + cop + ter (-heli, + smelly) = smellycopter
A collection of trendy slang words – some of which I have read elsewhere and some I made up:
For when things get sticky.
A big drama.
Lots of explosions going on.
Menstruation in a confident manner.
Telling someone to get lost.
When all the karma happens at once.
When you feel sick from eating too many lollies.
Enough said about these people.
Rest In Pieces
The opposite of rest in peace.
For all those selfies that have gone off.
To get an older partner than the last one.
Cool German sounds.
Method 4: Inserting Letters Of The Alphabet
- Pick a word. For example, I pick “polenta”.
- Choose a letter from the word to replace. In this case, I pick the “l” in polenta.
- Substitute every letter of the alphabet to see what you can create. I’ve bolded the good sounding ones in my example.
As you can see, there are a good couple of potential business names in here. I can imagine pokenta covering any modern gadget or potenta being an internet startup of some sort. Pozenta could be selling flowers or cards, while popenta could be a fabric or jewellery business. Not bad for 5 minutes work!
Suzanne’s Made Up Words
A collection of words I invented. I’ve used these words a lot in my writing and my life.
Method 5: Random Playing & Polishing
OK, so now you have some unusual words to use as a starting point.
Let's get out the spit and polish, be creative and push it further to make the words even better!
Change letters around, add endings to the words or just do whatever comes to mind. Sometimes changes here can just come to you out of nowhere, especially if a word looks vaguely like another word.
Grab a piece of paper and pen, and play with the words, inserting letters anywhere, doing alphabet substitution like Method 4 if you are stuck.
Here are some examples of what I did:
Potenta = Notentia, Photentia, Boatential
Bootstring = Bootstringles, Tootstringy, Wootstring
Smellycopter = Smellycoppertry, Rallycopter
Magicon = Magiconicron, Magiconic, Smudgicon
Cattract = Cattractiveness, Kattractniss (after Katniss Everdene), Fattract (slang)
Potential Word Endings
Try a few of these word endings on the end of one of your newly made up words and see if it makes a difference!
Below is a poem I wrote years ago, using some of the invented words I made.
© Suzanne Day 2002
in sour jeans
grew up in Laverton,
w a t e r e x a g g e r a t i o n
"smile please" for
she loves the postmentality,
you can see it in her eyes
Do you like to make up your own words?
I won’t lie – you can spend a few hours on this and only get a handful of “maybe” words. Or sometimes you can create amazing words in just five minutes. It all depends on your mood and how creative your subconscious wants to be today.
Some people can do all of this in their head and some people need a piece of paper or a laptop. I have a weird habit where I prefer to lay in bed with lots of recycled paper spread everywhere. When you find your most comfortable haven for writing, do these exercises in your special spot for a bit of lighthearted fun.
You won’t know until you go there with wordplay!
I'd love to hear if you have invented any unusual words in the comments section below, so don't be shy...
© 2013 Suzanne Day