Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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    Word Subtraction

    Word Subtraction

    We all know you can form new words by adding existing words together, such as combining boat and house to make boathouse or houseboat. But did you know that a lot of common words are also formed by subtraction or taking a piece away from a longer word?

    The linguistic term for this is clipping. It means shortening an existing word to form a new word. The clipped form has the same meaning as the original word and becomes a word in its own right, rather than an abbreviation. This means it can be combined with other words to form compounds.

    Here are some examples of clipped forms

    biopic – biographical picture
    bra -brassière
    burger – hamburger
    bus – omnibus
    cello – violoncello
    exam – examination
    flu – influenza
    fridge – refrigerator
    gas – gasoline
    gym – gymnasium
    lab – laboratory
    math – mathematics (clipped to maths in British English)
    memo – memorandum
    mob – mobile vulgus (fickle crowd in Latin)
    movie – moving picture
    pants – pantaloons
    phone – telephone
    piano – pianoforte
    plane – airplane
    pram – perambulator
    sitcom – situation comedy
    tie – necktie
    typo – typographical error

    There are lots more, of course, but these are clipped forms that have more or less replaced the longer original in everyday speech. Can you think of some others to add to the list?

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