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What Is a Hybrid Word?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2014
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A hybrid word is a word that is made of compound parts that are taken from more than one language. Another similar definition of this type of word is a case where individuals or groups coin a new word by putting parts of two separate words together. The hybrid word can be a key to linguistic origins in a language, or an example of changing uses of words over time.

Many hybrid words in the English language have a combined Greek and Latin origin. For example, the word “metadata” that is commonly used in Internet engineering is taken from the Greek meta and the Latin data. Another example is a word like “hyperactive” where the Greek root is combined with an Anglicized Latin word. Other words involving the prefix “hyper” are often hybrid words.

Other hybrid word examples can be combinations of European and local native languages in the wide parts of the world colonized or taken by European societies. For example, many place names in America are hybrid names based on parts of Native American words, combined with parts of Greek or Latin words. One example is Minneapolis, the combination of the Sioux word mni, menaing "water," and the Greek polis or “city.” The same is true for other American place names with the same prefix.

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Some hybrid word examples come from the clever innovation of marketers. For example, the word “merchantainment” is a combination of the words “merchant” and “entertainment.” This word is generally used to represent some form of entertainment related to commerce or mercantilism. Another example would be the coining of a word like “Accutrend” which could be a brand name or other word combining the meanings of the words “accurate” and “trend,” for example, in relation to trends in lending or other financial activities.

Additional takes on hybrid words might come from more modern combinations of world languages. The fusion of Spanish and English in America, often called “Spanglish,” is a good example. Some of these hybrid word uses are based on the influx of a sizable immigrant population, where common slang creates these colloquial words that may eventually be added to the lexicon. The same pattern holds true all over the world, where language continues to change based on many factors including technology, societal changes, and migration.

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