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Pet Peeve #14:
Ginormous is NOT a real word

Filed under: Pet Peeves

I refuse to accept that “Ginormous” is a word. I know Merriam-Webster added it to their dictionary in 2007, but it still sounds comical. In my book, it’s still not a real word.

What makes it so utterly absurd is that it is the combination of two words — gigantic and enormous — which basically have the exact same definition as the resulting new word. What is the point?

It’s a fairly sad commentary on the state of our language and society that we have resorted to smashing together existing words in an attempt to derive new synonyms, rather than using the wide variety of perfectly good alternatives anyone could find in a good thesaurus. Or perhaps that is the problem? How many people actually own a thesaurus these days?  [Well, there’s always, but I doubt those enamored with the word “ginormous” bother with that either.]

As a case in point, to name a few, here are some synonyms one could use instead:

colossal, enormous, gargantuan, gigantic, huge, humongous, immeasurable, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, mountainous, prodigious, stupendous, super-colossal, titanic, tremendous

The very fact that ginormous sounds like a word crafted by a tween sometime in the last decade should automatically disqualify it from inclusion in our dictionaries.  According to Merriam-Webster, it dates back to 1948, although references to its usage in print and literature do not seem to date back quite as far. The New York Times, on the other hand, calls it a neologism — a newly created word. Whatever the case of its history may be, I still don’t see it as a word my grandparents’ generation would have included in their conversations. It’s really only relatively recently that it seems to have gained popularity. However, I don’t know if that helps bolster this nonsensical word’s validity. More likely it provides further evidence of the dumbing down of our culture.

So does inclusion in a dictionary legitimize a word? I don’t think so. In the end society really makes the call on that one. But, if it was society that invented this moronic word, that doesn’t give me hope about our linguistic future.

And then, while watching the news the other day, I was amazed and horrified as the anchor described something as ginormous. He sounded ridiculous, and certainly far from authoritative and professional as we’d expect the news to at least pretend to be.  I guess my response would have been more appropriate if I had said “W.T.F.”, but in case you don’t realize, I don’t like to be that brief.

July 19, 2009 | Posted by Ian | Permalink | 22 Comments
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  • August 16, 2009 at 5:32 am
    J.C. Rendon says:

    Yes. Thank You. It is not a word. I’m not sure “Bodacious” is either, but I haven’t checked. As far as Merriam-Webster is concerned, that publisher had long since made it policy to add any latest “pop” word as soon as it can. James Lipton pointed out that “Jiggy” made it in several years ago. Can a lexicon be prostituted? I wonder.

  • August 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm
    Ian says:

    I imagine it all depends on how they decide to define the word “prostituted”

  • August 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm
    Ian says:

    As for “bodacious”, several sources suggest it originated in the 1830’s or 1840’s, apparently from the words “bold” and “audacious”. I guess than means in 150 years or so “ginormous” will likely be more accepted as a legitimate word. I guess that won’t really be our problem, though.

  • August 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm
    priscilla says:

    what the hell dude get a life. who cares if its not a real word? thats like freaking out when somebody says “coolio” or “awesomness”. ha and you really took the time to look up “ginormous’s” history? wow. and bodacious is actually a word.

  • May 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm
    ??? says:

    Actually, humongous is almost exactly the same as ginormous. Huge + Enormous = Humongous. Times change. Get over it, old timer.

  • July 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm
    Ian says:

    So it seems we have touched a nerve with a couple of you. It seems you are adamant defenders of such neologisms. Nevertheless, on OUR list of pet peeves, we’ve place the word “Ginormous”. If it helps, feel free to use it as much as you’d like in your conversations with your peers.

    Also, for the record, casual research reveals that “humongous” dates from the late 1960’s and is believed to come from a mashup of “huge” plus “monstrous”.

  • November 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    Adam says:

    Perhaps it would make a difference for you to know that the word,”ginormous,” is currently recognized as a” real ” word in the Oxford English Dictionary.This reference resource is widely acknowledged in the world of academia as the standard against which other dictionaries are judged. In fact, the word has been a part of British slang since the 1940’s. Many words that we use every day are the product of word mergers. You may be arrogant, but that doesn’t make you right about this. Last I checked, no collegiate professor asked you what words are allowed to be “real.”

  • March 8, 2013 at 12:45 am
    Seriously? says:

    What, pray tell, are the qualifications of a “real word”? I mean considering of course language has not always existed and all words were birthed somehow. When was the dictionary sealed and locked? When was it decided the english kanguage was complete? Who decided this? Why would anyone look down on expanding our language? Words are incredible tgings, beautiful even to those of us who take advantage of them. How else convey a conplicated emotion. Also you seem to have a problem with combing two words to form another. Have you not heard of a compound word? I guess they aren’t “real” either.

  • March 20, 2013 at 9:51 am
    Ian says:

    Well… I never denied this ridiculous word is now in some dictionaries. Nevertheless, WE still think it sounds absurd, and thus the subject of this Pet Peeve on OUR blog.

    Apparently, there are some of you that have tremendous fondness for the word Ginormous. Perhaps a website dedicated to raising awareness for the now “official” status of this word is in order? You can even sell ginormous ribbons to help support your cause.

  • March 20, 2013 at 10:20 am
    Ian says:

    A few words I do like, that are apparently not appreciated as much as I would have thought…

    You may also want to read… Welcome to our site (maybe)

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    Top cat says:

    Argghh, I totally agree that “ginormous” should not be a real word. The 6 year old kids I teach use it all the time and I really want to teach them proper adjectives/adverbs not slang mash-ups. I presumed they were mixing words together by accident like they often do eg. pexagon. I can’t believe “ginormous” has been added to the dictionary without me even realising. I’m only 35 but feeling old all pf a sudden. OMG

  • October 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm
    wiseyboyEK says:

    Humongous, really??

  • November 30, 2013 at 11:45 am
    Chris says:

    Yes! I just heard this word on a TV commercial, and after first vowing to never buy anything from that advertiser, I had to see if anyone else felt the same. When someone uses the word ginormous, my ears refuse to absorb anything else they have to say. All credibility is lost. I’m not opposed to new words being added to the dictionary. The world is ever-changing, so naturally our language would have to expand to accomodate. I am also open to words created from a mash-up of two words, IF the two words have different meanings and the new word serves a purpose of describing something with the blended meaning in a more concise manner. Taking two words that mean almost the same thing and creating a new word out of parts of them does not serve a purpose. It just sounds like a person was thinking of using either gigantic OR enormous and accidentally combined them in speech.

  • January 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm
    JK says:

    Get a grip you tools. It is officially recognised and has been added to the Oxford Dictionary. I can use it in a sentence too: “Each and everyone of you are ginormous ball bags!”

  • August 29, 2016 at 9:47 pm
    Scott Arnold says:

    I know this is an old post, but I want to comment on it. I’ve seen this word used more and more lately. Growing up, the word ginormous was always used jokingly. It was a gag word, when you were intentionally trying to sound silly and absurd. The fact that it is now being used seriously is something I find more than a little disturbing.

    I hate to bring up the movie Idiocracy, but little things like this give me a hair raising fear that the dystopian society portrayed in the film might someday come true.

  • February 20, 2017 at 6:15 am
    SM says:

    Who cares. This is the dumbest thread, lol.

  • April 12, 2017 at 7:44 pm
    D says:

    I was surprised by the etymology of the word ginormas as its first use was 1942 and dates back to World War II. So, it is not a “new” word as we all seem to/use to think.

  • April 12, 2017 at 7:47 pm
    D says:

    I apologize; as typical, my auto correct/predictive text updated the word ‘ginormous’ incorrectly. Imagine that 🙂

  • April 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm
    Nim Smith says:

    Well, my grandmother uses ginormous a lot, and I don’t think that “tween” exactly qualifies as a word either, in that sense. You’re just combining “teen” and “between” or shortening “between”.

  • September 21, 2018 at 4:48 pm
    Tom says:

    So new words are not allowed to be used or created? Whomakes that rule? So when you search fo the word Ginormous I bet you “Googled” it.

  • May 6, 2020 at 1:21 am
    Steven says:

    I agree it is cringe worthy though its use dates back to 1942 England so… We can blame the UK for this one…!

  • October 23, 2021 at 10:13 pm
    Don Barts says:

    Cannot stand this word! It sounds like some word Ross would use in a ‘Friends’ episode.

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