Recently, I came across a beautiful word 'Cutease', defined on Urban dictionary as:

Cute, sassy, saucy and cheeky. ends up being a tease.

I found this word on one of the social networks and I loved the way it was used. Later, I found it on Urban Dictionary. But when I checked it online on Webster or Oxford dictionaries there was no reference of it.

So, my question in general about using neologisms:

What are the general guidelines for using a newly coined word?

Sub question:

Where can and can't we use this word?

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! I think I've seen your question on ELU Meta. It might be worth adding a comment here why you think this is the best site to answer your question as we quite often migrate questions to ELU that ask about specific words. As such you should bold the last sentence to make it more clear that you are looking for a generic guideline about using newly coined words as opposed to the specific example you used. Personally I think a question about handling new words in your writing is fine. But what exactly are you writing? An essay? Fiction? A screenplay?
    – Secespitus
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 13:48
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    Welcome to Writing. Could you edit to clarify the context(s) where you want to use these words? There's a range of formality levels (Facebook ... military specifications), and online vs print might matter too. Thanks. Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 19:15
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    For an ELU style answer see What are the criteria to adopt new words into English?
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 19:35
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    related xkcd.com/483
    – J.E
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 11:42

7 Answers 7


Writers Should Disappear

The work of a writer is to disappear. In the best writing the reader does not even notice that there is a "writer at work".

When I first read that word, I read it as Cut-ease. I thought it was going to mean something like making a cut easier. It made me pause. When I paused to think about it, I started wondering what the writer meant. That made me stop thinking of the material at hand and thinking about other things. It distracted me from the piece I was reading.

As much as possible, as a writer, you don't want to do that because that is where you may lose a reader.

More Important In Fiction Than Non-fiction

This is a general guideline and more important in fiction than non-fiction.

So, consider each new word you use and the reader group you are targeting to determine how they may get stuck on a word so you don't slow them down and break the reader's reverie.

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    "The work of a writer is to disappear." I'm not at all sure I agree with that. Some writers have a very distinctive voice.
    – TRiG
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 16:05
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    I don't think OP means we should not think about the writer or not identify him/her from the writing style. The writing should be flawless in the sense that the meaning should be self-evident.
    – Autonomous
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 18:09
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    All I have to say to this is - "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe / All mimsy were the borogoves / And the momeraths outgrabe / ..."
    – auden
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 18:54
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    I'd assume that Cutease is an enzyme. For cutting DNA, or something.
    – IMil
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 5:32
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    @IMil exactly, Wikipedia's page on the -ase suffix also states: "the suffix -ase is used in biochemistry to form names of enzymes. The most common way to name enzymes is to add this suffix onto the end of the substrate," . Likely some biochem students came up with the term.
    – CPHPython
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 15:04

A newly coined word is more likely not to be understood by your readers. Consider: your readers might not hang out in the particular circle where the word was coined and is known. In effect, such a word is not different from a dialect word that's only likely to be understood in a specific city or state. There are even words that would only be understood in, say, Australia, but no-where else in the English-speaking world.

Since it is quite likely that your readers would not understand the word, you need to help them understand. In non-fiction writing, you can provide an explanation or a definition. Where you need more organic usage, such as in fiction writing, you should use the word in such a way that it's meaning is self-evident, similar to how writers sometimes use invented words.

You need to consider who your audience is: if you're writing for a small circle of people who are likely to be already familiar with the word, you need to provide less explanation than if you're writing for a larger market that might include non-native speakers who would rely on a dictionary to help with unfamiliar words, and as you state, would find nothing there. Similarly, writing for a highbrow publication, words that are "too new" and "slang" would be considered inappropriate.

Also, in fiction writing, consider who would be using such words. A 19th-century heroine, or a modern elderly gentleman are not likely to use words recently coined by an internet community.


There is no problem in using new (or even non-existent) words in your story. However...

Writers do this all the time. It is part of the experience to develop a larger vocabulary. But when we learn a new word that we want to use, it is our task to try not to disturb the reader too much by making him interrupt the story and look for the word in a dictionary.

The main part of using these new words is check how they sound and how you would use it in a sentence. Write these sentences down and see if they make sense.

Try to figure out in which context it works best and how to describe this to someone who has never heard about this word before. If the meaning is understood immediately, you are ready to use this in your story.

(A useful resource: University of Toronto - Writing Advice: Dealing with New Words)

  • I have a little doubt after reading all the answers and link provided. There are literary hundreds of words in English literature and one a new word out of 10 coined by J. K. Rowlings 'Horcrux '. It is not easy to pronounce, isn't it?!?
    – CaWo
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 16:00
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    @CarolineWo but the effect it had and the meaning provided stuck with you. It is all about providing the proper context Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 17:30
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    @CarolineWo I don't think 'Horcrux' is an appropriate example. The whole magic world in the Harry Potter books is supposed to be somewhat unfamiliar and intriguing to the reader. Also the word is not even English and it is explained in the books what it is, so it polishes the feel of the story to the reader and at the same time doesn't leave him baffled looking for an explanation elsewhere. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 13:42
  • @CarolineWo I didn't read the book where those Horcruxes showed up, but I still remember them. Why? I associated them to horrible + cruxes.
    – CPHPython
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 15:10
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    @CarolineWo yup, neologism means "new speech" which is the process of creating new words out of combinations of words, abbreviations or acronyms. So this makes the article perfectly relevant. Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 7:26

I think there is one golden rule here: your coinage in the story must follow the conventions and motivations of real-world neologisms.

We create new words for the following reasons:

  • An equivalent word to express the idea is absent from the lexicon. 'Telephone' is an example of this; before the object existed, the word did not.

  • As word-play. Examples might be portmanteau words, malapropisms, rhyming slang, euphemisms...

  • For brevity, particularly with a commonly used word. Consider 'Brexit' as a contraction of 'Britain's exit (from the European Union.)'

To include the word 'Cutease' in your story.

Sorry, I just gagged as I typed that word: it is so perversely saccharine that I can only imagine - with horror - what honeycombed invention would call for its extended use.

To include that word in a story, you will need to:

  • Establish its roots, possibly with an origin story in which the word is first coined, or alternatively by placing a character in a position of inferior knowledge.

  • Provide adequate need for that word to fall into common usage in your constructed world.


Adding to the answer from @Galastel sometimes you need a new word and those available to us in dictionaries or otherwise don't cut it. In a Sci-Fi I just finished that was based on Mars the author coined a couple of cuss words that stood out distinctly, 'gorrydamn'. Unfortunately the first time I read it, it totally interrupted my flow, knocked me out of my readers reverie and all that. But I quickly grew used to them. But he also inserted another phrase more artfully. Luckily the story carried the first and the second helped carry the story.

So general guide lines for me are:

  • Make sure you need your newly coined words and aren't just being cute.
  • Ensure your content carries your new word well and that it isn't a distraction or something I need to figure out.
  • Like Shakespeare, be brave enough to do it and do it well.

Here's another resource for you where this is covered


When reading (especially when younger) it is common to come across a word you have never seen before, some of these words you'll need a dictionary for, but sometimes this isn't the case.

Let me give an example using cutease.

she cuteased the panda.

makes no sense if you don't know the word.

She playfully cuteased the panda, giggling while calling it plump and joyfully calling it a pirate bear due to the distinctive black eye markings, even though she knew the panda couldn't understand, sometimes she could swear that pirate bear did understand she was only having fun and that he could tell her jokes came from her love of him.

The reader might not be able to produce a definition for the word after reading that. but it allows a reader invested in the story to gloss over the word still knowing whats happening without interrupting the flow too much.

This is not for everyone, some people just cannot stand literature that uses words they don't know, but as long as they are used sparingly and given a healthy dose of context people will learn words, just as you probably did when learning to read/speak picking up on them from context not studying a dictionary.

  • It sounded to me from context as though "cutease" is a descriptive noun, not a verb? Like you wouldn't say "Alice cuteased Jason" but rather, "Alice is such a little cutease; look at how she is messing with Jason". I could be wrong, though. ...Edit: I just realized this question and answer are from 2018. Oops
    – MarielS
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 17:47

Shakespeare, who may not have coined all the words he's credited with, but who certainly popularized a lot of neologisms, tended to recapitulate or paraphrase a possibly unfamiliar word in the same sentence.

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red.

Macbeth, Act II, Scene 2.

I try to use the same technique myself --even in conversation --, and have found it effective. The chief challenge is to not make it too clunky or redundant.

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