I often see new words being made up in English quite easily. Is this correct? What are the guidelines I should follow?

For example, there's a legendary game known as Quake, and there have been people with which I've played with for hours.

Would it be correct to say I was quaking with them?

  • 5
    "Alice was quaking with fear as the door slowly opened." No, Alice was not playing Quake. :)
    – apaderno
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 22:58
  • 3
    Define "correct." If by "correct" you mean, "an acceptable usage listed in a dictionary," then, no, it's not "correct" (at least, not unless the usage becomes widespread, and until the dictionary catches up with culture). On the other hand, if you define "correct" to mean, "understandable by the hearer," then, sure, you can "correctly" form a new word.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 23:06

1 Answer 1


First off, inventing words is generally frowned upon, especially in formal situations. In some cases it may even make people reflect negatively on your intellect, or be taken as offensive.

That said, in cases of humor, on very informal context, then yes it would be fine, as long as the audience you're speaking to will understand what you mean. This is best achieved by using a real word and adding a common prefix or suffix to it, or by making it into a verb, as you are suggesting. That said, even if you make up this word, its use should only be tied down to that context.

Also, if a word could possibly be confused with an already existing term, you must take care to make it clear in the context. In a case like this, perhaps it would best to avoid creating the word.

Example of Bad Time:

Boss: Why are you late?

You: I overslept. I was up late Quaking it up!

Example of Good Time:

Best Friend: Are you ready to play?

You: Heck yeah! I've been ready to Quake for over an hour now!

  • 2
    This would be more or less correct, except that "quake" is already an ordinary English word. Unless you've established the context already, most people will think that you mean "shaking" when you say "quaking", and thus will be quite puzzled by your utterances. If the game you were playing doesn't sound like an ordinary English word -- e.g. EverQuest --, then you may have more success: "I was up late EverQuesting" can only be interpreted one way.
    – Martha
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 23:25
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    @Martha: Needing to provide sufficient context to disambiguate wouldn't be unique to Quake. Lots of games – old and new – have names that are "ordinary" English words, with other meanings in the dictionary, such as bridge, checkers, darts, Magic, Risk, Clue, and pool. Even though it's hard to imagine someone at a bridge club saying, " Heck yeah! I've been ready to Bridge for over an hour now!", I still think it's good to point out that context is everything.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 23:57
  • I guess simply a typo: did you meant to say "its use" at the end of paragraph two?
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 12:58

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