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A pejorative or slur is a
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also co ...

word
or
grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
form expressing a negative or a disrespectful
connotation A connotation is a commonly understood cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, custom ...
, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express
criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgment,Rodolphe Gasché (2007''The honor of thinking: critique, theory, ph ...
,
hostility Hostility is seen as form of emotionally charged aggressive behavior. In everyday speech it is more commonly used as a synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phras ...
, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some
social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
or
ethnic An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancest ...
groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.


Etymology

The word ''pejorative'' is derived from a
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, kn ...
past participle stem of ''peiorare'', meaning "to make worse", from ''peior'' "worse".


Pejoration and melioration

In
historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including s ...
, the process of an inoffensive word becoming pejorative is a form of
semantic drift Semantic change (also semantic shift, semantic progression, semantic development, or semantic drift) is a form of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication us ...
known as pejoration. An example of pejoration is the shift in meaning of the word ''silly'' from meaning that a person was happy and fortunate to meaning that they are foolish and unsophisticated. The process of pejoration can repeat itself around a single concept, leaping from word to word in a phenomenon known as the
euphemism treadmill A euphemism () is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes t ...
, for example as in the successive pejoration of the terms ''bog-house'', ''privy-house'', ''latrine'', ''water closet'', ''toilet'', ''bathroom'' and ''restroom''. When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called ''melioration'' or ''amelioration''. One example is the shift in meaning of the word ''nice'' from meaning a person was foolish to meaning that a person is pleasant. When performed deliberately, it is described as reclamation or
reappropriation Linguistic reappropriation, reclamation, or resignification is the cultural process by which a group reclaims words or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group. It is a specific form of a semantic change (change in ...
. An example of a word that has been reclaimed by portions of the community that it targets is ''
queer ''Queer'' is an umbrella term In linguistics, hyponymy (from Greek language, Greek ὑπό, ''hupó'', "under", and ὄνυμα, ''ónuma'', "name") is a semantics, semantic relation between a hyponym denoting a subtype and a hypernym or hyp ...

queer
'', which began being re-appropriated as a positive descriptor in the early 1990s by activist groups. However, due to its history and – in some regions – continued use as a pejorative, there remain LGBT individuals who are uncomfortable with having this term applied to them. This suggests that reclaiming a pejorative epithet is ultimately a complex and lengthy process, as the practice can receive varying degrees of support within the social group or subculture that is involved.


See also

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Approbative In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages ...
*
Defamation Defamation (also known as calumny, vilification, libel, slander, or traducement) is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort A tort, in commo ...
*
DysphemismA dysphemism is an expression with connotations that are derogatory either about the subject matter or to the audience. Dysphemisms contrast with neutral or euphemistic expressions. Dysphemism may be motivated by fear, distaste, hatred, contempt, or ...
*
Fighting words Fighting words are written or spoken words intended to incite hatred or violence from their target. Specific definitions, freedoms, and limitations of fighting words vary by jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'la ...
*
Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese Some historical Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written ...
*
Insult An insult is an expression or statement (or sometimes behavior) which is disrespectful or scornful. Insults may be intentional or accidental. An insult may be fact A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement ...

Insult
* Judgmental language *
List of ethnic slurs The following is a list of ethnic slurs or ethnophaulisms or ethnic epithets that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about members of a given Ethnic group, ethnicity or racial group or to refer to them in a derogatory (that ...
*
List of religious slurs The following is a list of religious slurs or religious insults in the English language that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about adherents of a given religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of d ...
*
Profanity Profanity is a socially offensive use of language, which may also be called cursing, swearing, or expletives. Accordingly, profanity is language use that is sometimes deemed impolite, rude, or culturally Culture () is an umbrella term wh ...

Profanity
*
Dilettante Dilettante or dilettantes may refer to: * An amateur An amateur (; ; ) is generally considered a person who pursues an avocation independent from their source of income. Amateurs and their pursuits are also described as popular, informal, autodid ...

Dilettante


References


Further reading

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External links

* * {{Authority control Bullying Connotation Criticism Prejudice and discrimination