A pejorative or slur is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative or a disrespectful connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.


The word ''pejorative'' is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of ''peiorare'', meaning "to make worse", from ''peior'' "worse".

Pejoration and melioration

In historical linguistics, the process of an inoffensive word becoming pejorative is a form of semantic drift known as pejoration. An example of pejoration is the shift in meaning of the word ''silly'' from meaning that a person was happy and fortunate to meaning that they are foolish and unsophisticated. The process of pejoration can repeat itself around a single concept, leaping from word to word in a phenomenon known as the euphemism treadmill, for example as in the successive pejoration of the terms ''bog-house'', ''privy-house'', ''latrine'', ''water closet'', ''toilet'', ''bathroom'' and ''restroom''. When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called melioration or amelioration. One example is the shift in meaning of the word ''nice'' from meaning a person was foolish to meaning that a person is pleasant. When performed deliberately, it is described as reclamation or reappropriation. An example of a reclaimed word is queer, which was re-appropriated as a positive term by activists and academics starting in the early 1990s.

See also

* Approbative * Defamation * Dysphemism * Fighting words * Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese * Insult * Judgmental language * List of ethnic slurs * List of religious slurs * Profanity


Further reading

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External links

* * {{Authority control Category:Bullying Category:Connotation Category:Criticism Category:Discrimination