Words invented by famous authors

Some legendary authors have left a trail of fascinating neologisms behind them.
Neologism refers to ‘the creation or use of new words or senses’.
Here are some of the words that famous authors invented!

  • Chortle

This is one of the most commonly used word in the contemporary world and we have C.S. Lewis to thank for it. The author has invented many words, chortle being one of them. This word was first used by him in Through the Looking-Glass (1871), along with words like ‘jabberwocky’, ‘frabjous’, etc.

‘“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy.’

Chortle is a portmanteau word—a combination of two or more words—that  combines ‘snort’ and ‘chuckle’. In fact, even the word, ‘portmanteau word’ was invented by Carrol!

  • Doublespeak

This word was first used by George Orwell in his book 1984, published in the year 1949. The word, in layman terms, means, ‘deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language’.

But Winston Smith, the protagonist of the book 1984, defines it as, ‘To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…’

  • Time Machine

First coined by H.G. Wells in his book The Time Machine, published in 1895, the word time machine has since been used all over the world.

One can even wager that this book led on to influence cinema and the making of television shows like Doctor Who.

  • Swagger

The word swagger causes instant invocation of images of hip-hop and a lot of ‘bling-bling’. But this word was invented by someone not-so bling, and intended its meaning to be something else entirely.

Invented by Shakespeare, the word was first used in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream; ‘What hempen homespuns have we swaggering here?’

The correct definition of the word is someone haughty and insolent, who treats others as inferior to him. Completely different from the hipster-cool imagery that this word has come to evoke now.

  • Mudblood

Any Potterhead would immediately inform you that this word is derogatory in the Magical world and refers to wizards or witches born to non-magic, or muggle parents.

We first see the mention of this word in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Draco Malfoy uses the slur against Hermione Granger, who is born to non-magic parents, as opposed to a pure-blood like himself, born to a witch and a wizard.

  • Wendy

First used by J.M. Barrie in his story Peter Pan, the name Wendy existed earlier only as a shorter version for the name Gwendolyn.

So I guess, credit to J.M. Barrie can be given for popularizing this name in the mainstream.

  • Pandaemonium

John Milton was the first to use the word pandaemonium in his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ (1667) where it was the capital of Hell. Its etymology shows that it’s roots lie in the Greek words, Pan which meant ‘all’ and ‘daimon’ which means demon.

The word has come to mean chaos in the contemporary world, which isn’t far from Milton’s interpretation.


Credits: Sindhoora Pemmaraju

About Sindhoora

An unabashed bibliophile, Sindhoora is Majoring in English Literature.  She loves literature and music.


The Penguin India Blog

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