ghost word

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Coined by Walter William Skeat in 1886; ghost +‎ word.


ghost word (plural ghost words)

  1. (linguistics) A fictitious or erroneous word, originally meaningless (not used in practice), that has been published in a dictionary or similarly authoritative reference work or otherwise listed as genuine, generally as the result of misinterpretation, misreading, or typographical error.
    • 2006, Folia orientalia - Volumes 42-43, page 467:
      Here such cases as ghost words & misglosses, secondary semantics, different etymologies for one etymon or one etymology for different etyma, and finally semantic overpermissiveness are discussed.
    • 2014, James Lambert, “A Much Tortured Expression: A New Look At 'Hobson-Jobson'”, in International Journal of Lexicography, volume 27, number 1, page 65:
      Anglo-Indian English was recognised in colonial days as having unique features, but it was never called Hobson-Jobson at that time. Therefore, this is really a ghost word, or, rather, a ghost meaning.


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