Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 28th, 2015
Episode 90 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 28, 2015 is: retronym \REH-troh-nim\ noun : a term (such as analog watch or snail mail) that is newly created and adopted to distinguish the original or older version, form, or example of something from other, more recent versions, forms, or examples Examples: " first came paperback book, differentiated from a book with a cloth or leather binding, provoking the retronym hardcover book." William Safire, The New York Times Magazine, November 18, 2007 ''Nowadays we need such distinctions as free-range chickens, birth mother, natural blonde, and manual toothbrushes. The faster we advance, the more retronyms we enlist." David Astle, Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, November 1, 2014 Did you know? Remember way back when cameras used film? Back then, such devices were simply called cameras; they weren't specifically called film cameras until they needed to be distinguished from the digital cameras that came later. Similarly, the term desktop computer wasn't often used until laptops became prevalent. A lot of our common retronyms have come about due to technological advances: acoustic guitar emerged to contrast with electric guitar, and brick-and-mortar store to distinguish traditional stores from online retailers. Retronym was coined by Frank Mankiewicz, an American journalist and former president of National Public Radio, and first seen in print in 1980.