List of English back-formations

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Back-formation is either the process of creating a new lexeme (less precisely, a new "word") by removing actual or supposed affixes, or to the neologism formed by such a process. Back-formations are shortened words created from longer words, thus back-formations may be viewed as a sub-type of clipping.

Each back-formation in this list is followed by the original word from which it was back-formed.


  • aborigine as a mistaken singular for aborigines (the correct English singular is aboriginal, the Latin has no singular)[1]
  • accrete from accretion (root: accrescere)[2]
  • acculturate from acculturation[2]
  • addict from addicted (root: addicere)[2]
  • admix from admixt[3]
  • adsorb from adsorption[1]
  • adolesce from adolescence[1]
  • adulate from adulation[3]
  • advect from advection[3]
  • aesthete from aesthetic[2]
  • air-condition from air conditioning[2]
  • anticline from anticlinal[4]
  • antipode from antipodes (non-standard)
  • attrit from attrition[4]
  • auto-destruct from auto-destruction (cf. auto-destroy)
  • automate from automation[2]
  • aviate from aviation[2]


  • babysit from babysitter[2]
  • back-form from back-formation
  • bartend from bartender[4]
  • beg from beggar[dubious ]
  • benefact from benefactor (and also the derived benefactee, cf. benefactor)
  • bibliograph from bibliography
  • bicep from biceps (non-standard)[2]
  • biograph from biography
  • blockbust from blockbuster[4]
  • book-keep from book-keeping
  • brainwash from brainwashing[4]
  • bulldoze from bulldozer[4]
  • bum possibly from bummer[4]
  • burgle from burglar[4]
  • bus ("to clear dirty dishes from table") from busboy[4]
  • bushwhack from bushwhacker[4]
  • buttle from butler[4]


  • cadge from cadger[2]
  • caretake from caretaker
  • cavitate from cavitation[1]
  • cherry from Old French cerise, treated as English plural[4]
  • Chess (river) from Chesham
  • choate from inchoate
  • choreograph from choreography[4]
  • claustrophobe from claustrophobia
  • cohese from cohesion (cf. cohere)
  • commentate from commentator[4]
  • committal from non-committal
  • complicit from complicity[3]
  • computerize from computerized
  • congratulation from congratulations
  • contracept from contraception (cf. rare contraceive)
  • contrapt from contraption
  • convect from convection[2]
  • conversate from conversation or conversing[5]
  • cose from cosy
  • couth from uncouth[2]
  • co-vary from covariation
  • cross multiply from cross multiplication
  • cross-refer from cross-reference[6]
  • curate (verb) from curator[3]
  • custom-make from custom-made




  • fine-tune from fine tuning[6]
  • flab from flabby[2]
  • flappable from unflappable[4]
  • flake ("eccentric person") from flaky
  • floss ("to show off") from flossy[6]
  • fluoresce from fluorescence[2]
  • fragmentate from fragmentation[4]
  • free-associate from free association (backformed adjective-verb compound)
  • funk (quality of music) from funky[3]


  • gamble from gambler[2]
  • gestate from gestation[2]
  • ghostwrite from ghostwriter[2]
  • gid from giddy[2]
  • gladiola from gladiolus[2]
  • gnarl from gnarled[4]
  • godsend from god-sent[2]
  • greed from greedy (the noun was originally "greediness")[4]
  • grid from gridiron[2]
  • grovel from groveling[2]
  • grunge from grungy[2]
  • gruntle from disgruntle[2]



  • ideologue from ideology[2]
  • incent from incentive[3]
  • indice from indices (cf. index)
  • injure from injury[4]
  • intercept from interception (possibly a backformation)
  • interfluve from interfluvial[4]
  • interlineate from interlinear
  • intuit from intuition[4]
  • isolate from isolated[2]


  • jell from jelly[2]
  • jerry-build from jerry-built[2]


  • kempt from unkempt[2]
  • kidnap from kidnapper[2]
  • kudo from kudos (non-standard)[2]


  • lase from laser[2]
  • laze from lazy[2]
  • legislate from legislator[2]
  • letch from lecher[4]
  • liaise from liaison[2]
  • loaf (meaning "to be idle") from loafer[4]
  • logroll from logrolling[4]
  • luminesce from luminescent[4]


  • manipulate from manipulation[2]
  • mase from maser
  • mentee from mentor
  • mix from mixt (adj. from Old French, misconstrued as past participle of verb)[2]
  • mottle from motley[2]
  • moonlight (the verb, work on second job) from moonlighter[2]
  • multimillion from multimillionaire


  • nake from naked[2]
  • nitpick from nit-picking[2]
  • notate from notation[2]


  • obsess (meaning "to behave obsessively") from obsessive[dubious ]
  • obligate (as a verb meaning "oblige") from obligation
  • one-up or one-upman from one-upmanship[2]
  • orate from oration[2]
  • orientate from orientation


  • panhandle (meaning "to accost") from panhandler[4]
  • paramedic from paramedical
  • partake from partaker[2]
  • patriation from repatriation
  • pea from Middle English pease[7]
  • peddle from peddler[2]
  • peeve from peevish[2]
  • pettifog from pettifogger[4]
  • phosphoresce from phosphorescent[2]
  • pleb from plebs
  • ply from reply
  • preempt from preemption[2]
  • process from procession[7]
  • prodigal from prodigality[4]
  • proliferate from proliferation[2]
  • proofread from proofreader[4]
  • pugn from impugn[citation needed]


  • quadrumvir from quadrumvirate[2]
  • quantitate from quantitative


  • raunch from raunchy[2]
  • reminisce from reminiscence[2]
  • resurrect from resurrection[2]
  • ruly from unruly
  • rotovate from rotovator


  • sass (impudence) from sassy[4]
  • scavenge from scavenger[1]
  • sculpt from sculptor[4]
  • secrete (meaning "to produce and emit") from secretion[2]
  • secretive from secretiveness[2]
  • sedate (the verb) from sedative[3]
  • self-destruct from self-destruction (cf. self-destroy)[3]
  • semantic (adjective) from semantics
  • sharecrop from sharecropper[2]
  • shoplift from shoplifter[2]
  • sightsee from sightseeing[4]
  • sipid from insipid[4]
  • sleaze from sleazy[2]
  • sleepwalk from sleepwalking[4]
  • smarm from smarmy[2]
  • sorb from sorption (also a back-formation)
  • soft-land from soft landing (backformed adjective-noun compound)
  • sorption from adsorption and absorption[2]
  • spectate from spectator[4]
  • stargaze from stargazer[2]
  • stave (the noun) from staves[2]
  • steamroll from steamroller[4]
  • stridulate from stridulation[2]
  • suckle from suckling[2]
  • sulk from sulky[2]
  • summate from summation[2]
  • sunburn (the verb) from sunburned[2]
  • superannuate from superannuated[2]
  • surreal from surrealism[4]
  • surveil from surveillance[4]
  • swashbuckle from swashbuckler[2]
  • swindle from swindler[4]
  • syncline from synclinal[4]


  • tamale, as a singular of tamales (plural form of tamal)[4]
  • tase from Taser
  • televise from television[4]
  • tongue-lash from tongue-lashing[2]
  • transcript (verb) from transcription (cf. verb transcribe)
  • tricep from triceps (non-standard)
  • trickle-irrigate from trickle-irrigation (possibly backformed from verb-noun compound but may also be verb-verb compound)
  • tweeze from tweezers[4]
  • typewrite from typewriter[2]


  • unit from unity[2]
  • upholster from upholstery[2]


  • vaccinate from vaccination[4]
  • vend as in vend out (meaning to contract out to a vendor), derived from vendor
  • vinify from vinification[2]
  • vivisect from vivisection[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Harper, Douglas (2001), Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 9 November 2009 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" (4 ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be "Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged" (4 ed.). Random House, Inc. 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  5. ^ "'s 21st Century Lexicon"., LLC. 2003–2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Webster's New World College Dictionary". Retrieved 9 November 2009.