Source: Pixabay Creator: Jill111

It is well know that the best literature uses a varied vocabulary. But even great writers like J.R.R. Tolkien or Stephen King, can get bored of using the same old words and terms over again. So what do the most creative writers do? They made up a word. Sometimes those words stuck and ended up as a part of our vernacular, though their meanings often changed overtime. Novelists, poets and even the occasional playwright have made numerous contributions to the English language. There are probably hundreds of words that originate in literature, but I have managed to narrow it down to ten words, which to some degree are still used today.

1. Utopia

Source: Pixabay Creator: allyartist

Utopia is used to describe what is an imaginary place, or state of being, in which everything is perfect. The word was first used by Thomas Moore, in his book of the same name, which was published in 1516. In the book it is the name of a fictional island, on which Moore, imagines an ideal society. He derived utopia from the Greek, ou=not and topos=place.

Thomas Moore would later be tried and executed for refusing to acknowledge Henry VII, as head of the Church of England.

2. Tween

Author J.R.R. Tolkien                           Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the current age, tween is used to describe a child who is not quite a teenager (around 11 or 12 years old), but is within a year or two of becoming one. The word was created by author J.R.R. Tolkien, known for penning the popular Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In his novel the Hobbit, tween does not quite match the contemporary meaning. When Tolkien, created the word in 1937, it was meant to refer to a hobbit, between the ages of 20 and 33.

3. Yahoo

Source: Pixabay  Creator: Clker-Free-Vector-Images

The contemporary meanings of yahoo include an expression of joy or excitement, or a boorish or uncivilized person. Its origin, suits the latter meaning rather well. Yahoo, was coined by Jonathan Swift in his 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels. In the novel, Yahoos are a race of brutish beings.

4. Mentor

Source: Pixabay Creator: Unsplash

Mentor, is yet another word that comes from a work of literature, though it is far older than any of the other words on this list. Today a mentor is considered a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher, which is essentially the original meaning.

Homer was the first to use the word in his epic poem, the Odyssey. In the poem Mentor, is the name of the friend trusted to look after the wellbeing and education of Odysseus’ son during his absence.

5. Scaredy-cat

Source: Pixabay Creator: jonasjovasis

A scaredy-cat, is a term used to describe someone who is easily frightened. The term originates with author and poet Dorothy Parker, who first used it in her short story The Waltz, in 1933.

6. Pandemonium

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pandemonium, today often refers to a wild uproar or unrestrained disorder, or a place or scene of chaos. Its contemporary meaning, still has echoes of its original meaning, which was far darker.

Pandemonium, comes from the epic poem Paradise Lost, written by John Milton during the 17th Century. In the poem, it is the name of Satan’s capital, in hell. Milton derived the word by combining the Latin word pan=all with the Greek word daimon=deamon.

7. Blatant

A scene from The Faerie Queene  Source: Wikimedia commons

Something that is blatant, is something incredibly obvious, or right in front of you.

Blatant was originally the name of a creature with one thousand tongues, in Edmund Spenser’s poem The Faerie Queene.

8. Piehole

Source: Pixabay Creator: EME

Piehole, is quite simply a slang term for mouth. It is thought that Steven King was the first to use the term, piehole in his 1983 novel, Christine.

9. Freelance

Source: Pixabay Creator: kevinpartner

Today working freelance, is something that is popular in a variety of professions, but mainly in the arts, such as writing or painting. Someone who is a freelance, pursues a profession, but does not have a long term commitment to an employer.

The term freelance, originated in Sir Walter Scott’s 1820, novel, Ivanhoe. In the novel, it is used to refer to a soldier, who has no allegiance. A freelance, is instead a mercenary, who offers to fight in exchange for payment. Though working freelance, still involves going from one client to the next, few types of freelance work today involve combat.

10. Robot

Source: Pixabay Creator: bamenny

A robot is defined as a machine that may resemble a human, and completes mechanical, routine tasks on command.

Considering robots seem to be a more contemporary invention, you might think that the word was a more recent invention. Most people would probably think that some scientist or engineer invented the word, maybe during the 50’s at the earliest. However, like all of the words on this list, the word robot comes from literature.

The word robot was first used by Czech playwright, Karel Capek in his play R.U.R., in 1920. While trying to come up with a name for his androids in the play, his brother suggested the word roboti, which comes from the word rebotnik= drudge/ slave in Czechoslovakian. Therefore today’s definition of robot still has remnants of its roots.

For other words that originate from literature that I decided not to use, check out 20 Essential Words We Got From Literature or I didn’t know these words came from literature.

Which word is your favourite literary contribution? Comment below.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s