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Jane Austen’s Neologistic Contributions to English

Jane Austen

In honor of Jane Austen’s birthday on December 16, we’d like to highlight some entertaining words that appear in her books and letters. For the following terms, Jane Austen has the distinction of being the first citation in the OED; this doesn’t necessarily give Austen coinage credit, though it does mean that she was an early user of these terms. Because of the popularity of her writing, words that might have otherwise fallen into obscurity are kept alive by each new generation of Jane Austen fans (or whatever your chosen term for Austen fandom is). Celebrate Jane Austen by using the following terms in conversation today:

coze: “Miss Crawford..proposed their going up into her room, where they might have a comfortable coze.” –Mansfield Park

cousinly: “That cousinly little interview.” –Persuasion

gad:  “Mrs. Charles’s nursery-maid..is always upon the gad.” –Persuasion

itty: “My dear itty Dordy’s remembrance of me is very pleasing to me.” –Letters

sprawly: “Why is my alphabet so much more sprawly than Yours?” –Letters

What words have you learned from Jane Austen?

21 Comments

  1. Archana Mujumdar Tambe -  December 19, 2013 - 8:36 pm

    I love Pride and Prejucdice and Emma. Both these books have a quality to make a lifetime impact on young and impressionable minds.

    Reply
  2. Nancy Lentz -  December 18, 2013 - 6:22 am

    Ahhh, how lucky Ludwig Beethoven is to share the same birthday with the amazing Jane!

    Reply
    • Ravindra Rao -  June 8, 2014 - 9:53 pm

      Ludwig van Beethoven was born on or about Dec 16, 1770. So, the amazing Jane Austen is the lucky one!

      Reply
  3. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 18, 2013 - 2:52 am

    @Jen:
    I would recommend Pride and Prejudice. I’m on the last chapter, and it’s been great. Not too hard to read, either.

    I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Jane Austen or novels or anything like that, but I’ve been wondering…anybody know how to breed horses in Minecraft?

    Reply
    • Derp -  July 22, 2015 - 7:39 am

      Use a notch apple

      Reply
  4. Mike Robinson -  December 17, 2013 - 4:25 am

    When I was a child and lived in the Irish countryside, gadflies were a constant irritant to cattle and horses, often setting them off in mad dashes to escape the bite of the flies. This behaviour gave rise to the expression “to gad about”.

    Reply
    • Carma -  August 29, 2016 - 10:02 pm

      No, they’re separate words. “Gad” is the older word, meaning to move around restlessly. A different word, meaning spike, goad, or sting, is the origin of gadfly, a biting fly.

      Reply
  5. Kathy -  December 16, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    I would start with “Emma.” If you’ve seen the movie “Clueless,” you’ll follow the story line easily.

    Reply
  6. Lilly -  December 16, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites! My friend and I watch the movie together every once in awhile. I love sitting on the couch with one of her books and petting my cat :D

    Reply
    • Michaela -  April 18, 2016 - 5:23 pm

      Have you seen the BBC for Pride and Prejudice? It is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who has read the book.

      Reply
      • Barbara Lucas -  August 26, 2016 - 6:26 am

        Yes, what a series! The incredible Mr Darcy and his wet shirt!! Wonderful!!

        Reply
  7. Lilly -  December 16, 2013 - 7:15 pm

    Happy Birthday Jane! Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites, definitely start with it. I love her witty writing! She is an inspiration.

    Reply
  8. danielle -  December 16, 2013 - 3:22 pm

    Jen
    I would start with reading Emma! It is an easy read. :)

    Reply
  9. Cecilia King -  December 16, 2013 - 2:54 pm

    Messages in response to comments on my screen from Ashlee and Jen.

    Ashlee says there’s no definition in dictionary.com for “itty.” This can happen. I suggest searching one’s mind for hidden treasures of words you may think you have never heard. For this one, how about
    “itty-bitty” that goes with “teeny-tiny” ? Might Ashlee have heard this?

    For Jen, it’s great to start with “Pride and Prejudice.”

    Reply
  10. Michelle -  December 16, 2013 - 2:42 pm

    “Amiable” and “ardently”

    Reply
  11. Coze | Blue Like That -  December 16, 2013 - 10:54 am

    [...] honor of the illustrious Miss Austen’s birthday, I’m going to employ the word “coze” today…which, of course, means I will [...]

    Reply
  12. Ashlee -  December 16, 2013 - 8:49 am

    So you gave “itty” as an example, but there’s no definition for it on Dictionary.com…. Someone spaced on their homework.

    Reply
  13. Jen -  December 16, 2013 - 5:30 am

    I’ve never read any of her books though she’s been on my “list” for a long time. Suggestions on where to start?

    Reply
    • Marie -  April 26, 2016 - 2:29 pm

      Would 10/10 definitely recommend Pride and Prejudice as your first Jane Austen novel

      Reply
  14. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 16, 2013 - 3:34 am

    Guess what? Today’s my birthday too, December 16! Yay! And I write novels too. Way to go, Jane Austen!

    ~A 13-year-old (today :D ) Minecrafter and WolfQuester

    Reply
  15. Brent Rocksand -  December 15, 2013 - 4:31 am

    Jane Austen is awesome !!
    A funtabulous spin in all her novels of all
    our human emotioms !!!
    Happy b/day up there girl !

    Reply

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