My SmarTerm 12: Clipping

Clipping is used in the creation of new terms, also known as “truncation” or “shortening”.

There are four types of clipping: Initial (or apheresis), medial (or syncope), final (or apocope) and complex clipping.

Final or hind clipping (also apocope) is the most common type of clipping in which the first part of a term is maintained and the rest is clipped: ad(vertisement), cable(gram), exam(ination), pop(ular music). Termium defines it as “A word formed by omitting the last part of the form from which it is derived.” Some examples in English are:

  • lab(oratory)
  • deli(catessen)
  • fridge for refrigerator

in French:

  • sympa(tique)
  • pneu(matique)
  • prof(esseur)

in Spanish:

  • foto(grafía)
  • tele(visión)

in Portuguese:

  • cine(ma)
  • metrô(politano)
  • radio (radiodifusão)

Apocope is used in phonology when there is loss of a sound at the end of a word, especially is the vowel in unstressed: sync, synch, syncro or synchro for synchronization.

Initial clipping or apheresis retains the final part, such as ro(bot), (turn)pike, and it can be combined with final clipping to create terms such as flu for influenza. As with apocope, apheresis (or aphesis) is the loss of a sound at the beginning of the word: ’cause for because.

Medial clipping or syncope is less common than the above and, as you guessed it, it is the letters in the middle that are left out: ma’am for madam. Syncope in phonology is more commonly used in poetry: heav’n for heaven or ne’er for never.

Complex clipping is used in compounds: op art (optical art), navicert (navigation certificate), sci-fi (science fiction).


Sources and further reading:

Back clipping. Termium

Brighthub education. Word formation: compounding, clipping, and blending

Clipping. Wikepedia

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