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Pejoratives are words or grammatical forms which denote a negative affect; that is, they express the contempt or distaste of the speaker. Sometimes a term may begin as a pejorative word and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense. In historical linguistics, this phenomenon is known as melioration, or amelioration, or semantic change (e.g. "punk"). Within some social groups a particular term is still regarded as being a pejorative, whereas the term isn't deemed as such within another social group elsewhere (e.g. "gay"). Some social groups have attempted to "reclaim" formerly offensive words applied against them, known as reclaimed words. Ethnic slurs are one kind of category of pejorative.
Word Origin & History
pejorative = "depreciative, disparaging," 1882, from Fr. péjoratif (fem. péjorative), from L.L. pejoratus, pp. of pejorare "make worse," from L. pejor "worse," related to pessimus "worst," pessum "downward, to the ground." Eng. had pejorate "to worsen" from 1644.
- Approbative, or positive affect
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