Retronym  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A retronym is a type of neologism coined for an old object or concept whose original name has come to be used for something else, is no longer unique, or is otherwise inappropriate or misleading. The term was coined by Frank Mankiewicz in 1980 in The New York Times. Many of these are created by advances in technology. However, a retronym itself is a neological word coinage consisting of the original noun with a different adjective added, which emphasises the distinction to be made from the original form.

The word retronym also refers to an acronym constructed after the fact (a backronym), such as Perl.

In 2000, The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) became the first major dictionary to include the word retronym.

Examples of retronyms are "acoustic guitar" (coined when electric guitars appeared), and World War I (called "the Great War" or "the World War" until World War II).

It is not always obvious which is the retronym and which is the non-retronym. "Leaded gasoline" (petrol) could be considered the retronym since that term was used after the introduction of unleaded gasoline. However, lead is actually an additive that was not originally in gasoline.

Posthumous names awarded in East Asian cultures to royalty after their death can be considered retronyms too, although their birth names will remain unambiguous.

Careless use of retronyms in historical fiction can cause anachronisms. For example, referring to the "First World War" in a piece set in 1935 would be incorrect — "The Great War" and "14-18 War" were commonly employed descriptions. Anachronistic use of a retronym could also betray a modern document forgery (such as a description of the First Battle of Bull Run before the second had taken place).





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Retronym" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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