A pejorative or slur is a word
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
, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social
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
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.
* Fighting words
* Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese
* Judgmental language
* List of ethnic slurs
* List of religious slurs