I came across the coiner word : pneumonoultramiscropicsiliconvolcanoconiosis today, and reading the definition it was a coined word, as expected. I thought a coined word was a word that was made from lots of roots, r prefixes and suffixes. But then I came across the word: cell and read that it was a coiner term. This confused me as cell is a 1 sylable, much less suffix-2root-prefix word, so it made me wonder:

What exactly does it mean for a term to be coined?
What's the difference between a coined term and a coined word?


1 Answer 1


Originally, coining a word, term, or phrase meant that you were creating a new one. More recently (the mid-20th century, according to this article), it took on the meaning of "borrowing" or using a cliché (overused) expression.

So in a sentence like, "Volney F. Warner coined the phrase 'boots on the ground'," we are stating that he invented (i.e. was the first person to use) the term/phrase.

This sentence from a Forbes article has the more recent, contradictory meaning, "Well, this is–to coin a phrase–the 'new normal'," the writer uses "to coin a phrase" to indicate that he is about to use a "borrowed" phrase (i.e. one he didn't invent), the common (and perhaps now cliché) "new normal."

Determining which meaning a speaker/writer intends will depend on the context they use it in; however, the second, newer meaning is typically used in the semi-fixed phrase "to coin a phrase" and occurs right before a well-known (and generally popular to the point of becoming a cliché) expression.

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