A pejorative[1] (also term of abuse, term of disparagement, or derogatory term) is a word or grammatical form of expression that expresses contempt, criticism, hostility, disregard and/or disrespect. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social or cultural groups but not in others. Sometimes, a term may begin as pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.

When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense this is called "melioration" in historical linguistics. It may also be called amelioration, reclaiming, or semantic change.[2] Some examples of melioration are "punk" or "dude".

Name slurs can also involve an insulting or disparaging innuendo,[3] rather than being a direct derogatory remark. In some cases, a person's name can be redefined with an unpleasant or insulting meaning, or applied to a group of people considered by the majority to be inferior or lower in social class, as a group label with a disparaging meaning. Also, an ethnic slur or racial slur can be used as a pejorative to imply people of those groups are inferior or deficient.

See also


  1. ^ "Pejorative | Define Pejorative at". Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  2. ^ Croom, Adam M. (May 2011). "Slurs". Language Sciences (Elsevier) 33 (3): 343–358.  
  3. ^ "Slur - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-04-25. 

Further reading

  • Volume 33, Number 3, May 2011, pp. 343-358. Published by ElsevierLanguage Sciences,Croom, Adam M. "Slurs." .
  • Henderson, Anita. "What's in a Slur?" American Speech, Volume 78, Number 1, Spring 2003, pp. 52–74 in Project MUSE
  • , 13 (1):11-32 (2014)Lingusitic and Philosophical InvestigationsCroom, Adam M. "Remarks on 'The Semantics of Racial Slurs'".
  • Volume 41, Part B, January 2014, Pages 227–242.Language SciencesCroom, Adam M. "The Semantics of Slurs: A Refutation of Pure Expressivism".