At some point in your elementary school career, you probably learned about onomatopoeia, or words that are formed from the actual sound they make, such as "buzz," "sizzle," and "cuckoo."
Lesser known, but similar, are autological (or homological) words. Autological words express a characteristic that they also possess. For example, "short" refers to a deficiency in length or height, a meaning that also applies to the word "short" itself — as in, the word "short" is short in length.
In another example, "English" is, in fact, an English word, and thus autological.
Some words can gain or lose their autological status. Case in point: "Neologism" refers to a phrase or word that is just being introduced to common usage. "Neologism" itself wasn’t very well known. But now, scholars, journalists, and writers regularly use it — meaning "neologism" was downgraded from its autological status.
In case you run out of cocktail party fodder, keep a few of these autological words filed away for fun facts.
It may be cheeky, but it's still accurate. "Word" is, after all, a word. And it's probably the most basic definition of an autological word. "Noun" falls in a similar category, although adjectives and verbs are actually nouns. Mind. Blown.
"Jargon," "lingo," and "slang" probably count, too, but "buzzword" is definitely a buzzword to describe new words and concepts.
There are indeed no hyphens in this word. Autological for the win!
Remember how we talked about the fact that "short" is indeed short? Meet its mirror cousin. "Sesquipedalian" refers to a long word and could easily trip up a spelling bee competitor. It comes from the Latin word sesquipedalis, meaning "a foot and a half long." Now that’s one long word.
This word is derived from the ancient Greek ellhnikos and means, wait for it … of Greek origin.
Did you ever notice the repeating vowels in this word? Once you see it, you can’t unsee that double "e" and "i" — sorry!
You read it, therefore it is. "Existing" exists as a word and thus exists as an autological term to boot.
Referring to any word that has more than one syllable, "polysyllabic" has a whopping five syllables, and is thus a prime example of "polysyllabism."
Don’t tell "inanimate" this, but it’s not alive. It’s 100% inanimate. As a consolation prize, it’s also an autological word.
Are all the letters there? Check. Do we understand its meaning as written? Check. Yeah, sounds like this one’s complete. Oh, and so is this list!