Nonsense word

Not to be confused with Nonce word.

A nonsense word, unlike a sememe, may have no definition. Nonsense words can be classified depending on their orthographic and phonetic similarity with (meaningful) words.[1] If it can be pronounced according to a language's phonotactics, it is a pseudoword.[2] Nonsense words are used in literature for poetic or humorous effect. Proper names of real or fictional entities are sometimes nonsense words.

A stunt word is a nonsense word used for a special effect, or to attract attention, as part of a performance. Such words are a feature of the work of Dr. Seuss ("Sometimes I am quite certain there's a Jertain in the curtain").[3]

The ability to infer the (hypothetical) meaning of a nonsense word from context is used to test for brain damage.[4]

See also


  1. Raymond M. Klein; Patricia A. McMullen (1999). Converging Methods for Understanding Reading and Dyslexia. MIT Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-0-262-11247-5.
  2. Natalie Wilson Rathvon (2004). Early Reading Assessment: A Practitioner's Handbook. Guilford Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-57230-984-5.
  3. Encyclopedic Graded Grammar, Vol 2, ISBN 1-4357-4069-6, p. 925
  4. Muriel Deutsch Lezak (2004). Neuropsychological Assessment 4e. Oxford University Press. p. 596. ISBN 978-0-19-511121-7.

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