15 Great Words Coined by Famous Authors

A collection of great coinages from famous writers, from ‘blatant’ to ‘nerd’

We put together the following picture a few weeks ago and shared it on our Twitter feed, where it proved popular enough for us to repost it here. It’s designed to be a colourful illustration of how many of the most descriptive and delicious words in the English language owe their existence to famous authors, whether it’s James Joyce or Lewis Carroll, John Milton or Dr Seuss.

We’ve dealt with the issue of literary coinages in several previous posts, such as our post on words we got from Words Coined in Literatureliterary works (and its follow-up here), but ever since then we’ve been revising and updating our notes in this area, as we’ve discovered new information in the course of our research. We’ve tried to stick to relatively common words (though we admit ‘stentorian’ is not a word you’ll find many people using in your local coffee shop or burger bar), and to words which appear to have been invented specially for the work of literature in which they appear, rather than simply being words we can trace back to a particular work or writer (for this reason, Shakespeare does not appear, since we cannot be sure he was coining new words so much as popularising existing ones).

Click on the image to enlarge it and feast on its colourful linguistic inventiveness (courtesy of the authors featured, of course; our only inventiveness involved working out how to get Microsoft Paint to do what we wanted). If you’d like to use it anywhere – e.g. on your own website or as an educational resource, we’d be delighted, though we’d love it if you’d let us know, as it’s always good to hear if the work we do has any usefulness in the classroom etc.

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