Words about words – Terms to describe different types of words


We have words to describe everything and by the same token we even have words to describe words themselves. In fact, there are quite a few terms which serve this very purpose and while some of them are instantly recognisable and easy to remember, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate these terms and to recall what separates them. For this reason, you can find many words to describe the different types of words that exist with each one indicating a different function or purpose. The list is actually so long and specific that we have decided to pick out a selection of the most useful terms and listed them below with definitions from oxforddictionaries.com.

So see how many are completely new to you and enjoy this list of words about words!

Words about words banner

AcronymAn abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g. ASCII, NASA).

AnagramA word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another, such as spar, formed from rasp.

AntonymA word opposite in meaning to another (e.g. bad and good).

BackronymAn acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name or as a fanciful explanation of a word’s origin. (e.g. ‘Biodiversity Serving Our Nation, or BISON).

DemonymA noun used to denote the natives or inhabitants of a particular country, state, city, etc. ( e.g. ‘he struggled for the correct demonym for the people of Manchester’).

DysphemismA derogatory or unpleasant term used instead of a pleasant or neutral one. The opposite of euphemism.

EponymA name or noun formed after a person OR A person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.

EuphemismA mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing. (e.g. ‘the jargon has given us ‘downsizing’ as a euphemism for cuts’). The opposite of dysphemism.

HomonymEach of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins. For example, pole and pole.

HypernymA word with a broad meaning constituting a category into which words with more specific meanings fall; a superordinate. For example, colour is a hypernym of red.

HyponymA word of more specific meaning than a general or superordinate term applicable to it. For example, spoon is a hyponym of cutlery.

LitotesIronic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g. I shan’t be sorry for I shall be glad).

LogophileA lover of words.

NeologismA newly coined word or expression.

OxymoronA figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

PalindromeA word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backwards as forwards, e.g. madam or nurses run.

Sesquipedalian(of a word) polysyllabic; long (e.g. ‘sesquipedalian surnames’) OR Characterized by long words; long-winded (e.g. ‘the sesquipedalian prose of scientific journals’).

SynonymA word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close.


  • StartWright, ‘Words about words’. Available here [accessed on 13/02/18].
  • Oxforddictionaries.com, ‘English’. Available here [accessed on 13/02/18].

Written by

Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Completed a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork.