The formation of slang words

Bohdana Volynyuk

Kamianets-Podilsky Ivan Ohienko National University

Scientific Supervisor : Nykytiuk S.I.


 The article deals with the formation of slang words. There are several ways of slang words formation: various figures of speech participate in slang formation such as metaphor , metonymy, hyperbole, understatement, irony. Slang word can appear thanks to the recycling of the words and parts of words.

Key words : slang, cool, formation

The vocabulary of Old English differs from the vocabulary of Modern English. Modern English abounds in the words that were absent in Old English. The language is not a dead phenomenon, it is alive, and it is always up-to-date. The development of the language is gained due to the endless appearance of new words.

Slang comes to be a very numerous part of the English language. It is considered to be one of the main representatives of the nation itself. The birth of new words results from the order of the modern society. Slang arises due to our propensity for replacing old denominations by expressive ones. And yet the growing popularity of every new creation prevents it from remaining fresh and impressive. What was felt as strikingly witty yesterday becomes dull and stale today, since everybody knows it and uses it. So how do the slang words come to life? There are several ways of slang words formation:

  1. Various figures of speech participate in slang formation: upperstorey-head (metaphor) ,skirt-girl (metonymy), killing-astonishing (hyperbole), some-excellent or bad (understatement),  as mud (irony).

Slang items usually arise by the same means in which new words enter the general vocabulary.

  1. The slang word can appear thanks to the recycling of the words and parts of words, which are already in the language.
  • Affixation allows limitless opportunities for open-ended sets.

          For example: megabucks, megabeers, megawork (for vast quantities of the   item in questions).

  • Compounding makes one word from tw : airhead-someone out of touch with reality, homeboy-a person from the same hometown
  1. A currently productive process especially in American English is the addition of a particle like OUT, OFF or ON to a noun, adjective or verb, to form a phrasal verb : blimp out-to overeat; blow off-to ignore; hit on-to make sexual overtures to
  2. In slang, frequently used words are likely to be abbreviated : OTL-out to lunch-out of touch with reality; VJ-video jock-an announcer for televised music videos ; OBNO-obnoxious; Sup?-What’s up?; Pro-professional.
  3. Unlike the general vocabulary of the language, English slang has not borrowed heavily from foreign languages, although it does borrow from dialects, especially from such ethnic or special interest groups which make an impact on the dominant culture as American Black, or from a second language that is part of the culture : Yiddish.
  4. Certain slang words are mere distortions of standard words : cripes-instead of “Christ!”
  5. Sometimes new words are just invented: shenanigans-tricks, pranks.
  6. Mock dialect and foreign pronunciation result into the formation of slang : “my feet are staying” (goodbye)-mock for German “auf wiedersehen”.
  7. Some sounds appear to give words a slangier flavor: the sound [z]: zazzy from jazzy, scuz from scum, zap from slap.
  8. Sometimes a new slang word can appear due to the replacement or addition of a vowel with [oo] : cigaroot from cigarette, bazoom from bosom.
  9. Rhyming is a favorite means or creating slang for many Londoners : trouble and strife-wife; mince pies-eyes.
  10. The transition of slang words within the English language itself comes to be one of the ways of slang words formation [1, p. 861].

Slang expressions often embody attitudes and values of group members. They may thus contribute to a sense of group identity and may convey to the listener information about the speaker’s background. Before an apt expression becomes slang, however, it must be widely adopted by members of the subculture. At this point slang and jargon overlap greatly. If the subculture has enough contact with the mainstream culture, its figures of speech become slang expressions known to the whole society. For example, cat (a sport), cool (aloof, stylish), Mr. Charley (a white man), The Man (the law), and Uncle Tom (a meek black) all originated in the predominantly black Harlem district of New York City and have traveled far since their inception. Slang is thus generally not tied to any geographic region within the country. A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly dated (23-skiddoo). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its original slang meaning (bus, from omnibus) or with an altered, possibly tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms. Television and novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for $5000). Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang. Drug-related expressions (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious youth; and in the 1970s and ’80s they were widely known . [4]

 In fact, most slang words are homonyms of standard words, spelled and pronounced just like their standard counterparts, as for example (American slang), cabbage (money), cool (relaxed), and pot (marijuana). Of course, the words cabbage, cool, and pot sound alike in their ordinary standard use and in their slang use. Each word sounds just as appealing or unappealing, dull or colorful in its standard as in its slang use. Also, the meanings of cabbage and money, cool and relaxed, pot and marijuana are the same, so it cannot be said that the connotations of slang words are any more colorful or racy than the meanings of standard words [2].

 “Cool” is a very meaningful word. In the Standard English language it is translated as something between warm and cold. But in the everyday conversations it is used in the meaning of something “great”, “wonderful”, “good”. The word “cool” can be both the noun and the attribute.

Compare: cool cat = great fellow ;  It’s cool = it’s good.

The meaning depends on the person uses it. So the expression “cool weather” can have two translations depending on the content.

These are the slang meaning of the word “cool”.


  1. To postpone, await developments in; let’s cool this whole business for a week or so.
  2. To kill; who knew what he wanted to it look like when he cooled her.
  3. In control of one’s feeling; learn to be cool under fire.
  4. He lost his cool and bolted like a rabbit.
  5. Aloof and uninvolved, disengaged; He’s cool; don’t give a shit for nothing.
  6. Cool musician Jazz marked by soft tones, improvisation based on advanced chord extensions, and revision of certain classical jazz idioms.
  7. Pleasant, desirable; you enjoying it? Is everything cool?

We may conclude, the theme should be investigated more carefully, because slang is changing rapidly. We observed several ways of slang formation. One of these ways is that  various figures of speech participate in slang formation such as : metaphor , metonymy, hyperbole, understatement, irony . The slang word can appear thanks to the recycling of the words and parts of words, which are already in the language as an affixation and compounding. Unlike the general vocabulary of the language, English slang has not borrowed heavily from foreign languages, although it does borrow from dialects.


  1. Abridged Edition. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. – Oxford University Press: 1996. – 985 p.
  2. Crystal D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language / D. Crystal – Cambridge University Press: 1996. – 712 p.
  3. Eble C. Slang and Sociability. London and Chapel Hill: University of North

Carolina Press, 1996. Crystal D., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.-Cambridge University: Press. 1996-712p.

  1. Fasola Jelena Slang and its history / Jelena Fasola // [Електронний ресурс].– Режим доступу :

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