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Pronunciation: WAV or RealAudio

nickname (NIK-naym) noun

1. A descriptive name added to or replacing the actual name of a person, place, or thing.

2. A familiar or shortened form of a proper name.

verb tr.

1. To give a nickname to.

2. Archaic. To call by an incorrect name; misname.

[Middle English neke name, from the phrase an eke name : eke, addition (from Old English eaca + name, name.]

"Gang members now use monikers, or nicknames, so dependably that these pseudonyms can provide a reliable source of investigative information." Wilson, Craig R., What's in a name? Gang monikers., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1 May 1997.

The departing Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives would perhaps be named Ewt Gingrich, had it not been for a process known in linguistics as false splitting. Also known as juncture loss, this process results in an incorrect division of words. The Middle English phrase "an ewte" was mistakenly used as "a newte". Over time this incorrect division persisted and gave us Newt. Today's word shows the shift of the letter "n" from the article "an" in another direction. This week we look at words produced through this process of misdivision. -Anu


Man is unhappy because he doesn't know he's happy. If anyone finds out he'll become happy at once. -Dostoyevsky

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