Dictionary.com

Who Coined the Term Fashionista?

fashionista

In light of a recent article about the birth of the word “fashionista” in which Stephen Fried apologized for coining the term, we’d like to delve into the -ista suffix in hopes of understanding why English speakers combine it with certain words.

But first, let’s look at “fashionista.” This word originally appeared in Stephen Fried’s 1993 biography of supermodel Gia Carangi. He invented it as a way to refer to the entourage surrounding supermodels at a photo shoot. The “fashion” portion of term is obvious. Less obvious is the “-ista” part. Fried said that he stumbled upon that particular suffix while researching his 1993 book. He had been reading a lot of late ’70s and early ’80s newspapers and magazines in order to write about the life of Gia Carangi, and he kept seeing articles about Sandinistas, followers of the Nicaraguan political party.

The –ista suffix comes to English from Latin. The derived English variant of this suffix is –ist, used in words like “machinist,” “apologist,” “Darwinist,” and “novelist.” These types of words describe a person in relation to an activity, item, principle, or doctrine. The Spanish version of this suffix, –ista, became fashionable in English in the 1970s due to heavy news coverage of Latin-American revolutionary movements.

Perhaps Fried gravitated to the –ista suffix to infuse his description of fashion professionals with a dose of exoticism. The high-fashion industry is an international one, and adding a suffix like –ista to the end of the word in favor of the typical English construction has the effect of elevating the term to a sophisticated foreign status. Take the term “barista,” for example. It entered English in the 1980s at a time when the –ista suffix was becoming well-known to English speakers. Calling coffee-shop employees “baristas” certainly gives the job a certain artisanal flair.

Whatever Fried’s intentions were in coining “fashionista,” he has now officially apologized for his “crime against nomenclature.” Do you like the –ista suffix? What are your favorite (or least favorite) recent –ista words? Let us know with your comments.

17 Comments

  1. Listen Linda -  October 18, 2014 - 5:56 pm

    Listening Linda says that “ista” as a term is not applicable as a suffix for most words, for it does not clearly connote an immediately recognized meaning. Let us not transfer such a murky, misunderstood ‘suffix’ to English words in hopes of conveying meaning. The limiting of language, while also effective at furthering dystopic rhetoric, is a process that allows for clearer understanding.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan -  October 13, 2014 - 12:17 pm

    As I understand it, the Middle English word “fasion” (meaning “the style of the suit of clothing) is translated from the French “faesione,” meaning “style of clothing.” But once it had been in Middle English for a while, the British of that time period attached other meanings to it as well. It (fasion, fashion) also came to mean “similar in form,” “similar in pattern,” “similar in design,” “in the same way,” or other meanings along those lines. In Modern English, the spelling was changed to “fashion.” I believe the
    “-ista” part comes from Italian, though from what era I am unsure. So, I don’t think that Stephen Fried nor any other non-Italian originally came up with the term. I, like Stefano, believe that “fashionista” “was born [completely] within the Italian fashion world.”

    Anyway, I’m also pretty sure that “fashionista” was coined in and has been in use since the early 1980′s. However, I unfortunately don’t have anything to back-up my assertions. But anyway, I do know that the definition is not at all what Mr. Fried wrote. It is actually this, “1) noun: A person who knows, manufactures and/or coordinates fashion(s). 2) noun: A person who is fashionable; a person who (dresses, moves, paints, etc.) fashionably; a person who is stylishly dressed, adorned, outfitted, etc.”

    Think of your high-school days. Who was/is or were/are the most fashionably dressed student(s)? [Rhetorical question.] Usually, girls (maybe just one or a handful) predominate(d) in the arena of fashion; but there might have been some guys, too, who dressed fashionably. Anyway, he, she or they were/are the “fashionistas”

    It’s true that “-ista” is also used in Spanish.

    Well anyway, my favorite “-ista” word is “vista” which also means “view” (as in the view from my window was beautiful). [Side note: Be careful, though, because not all words that end in “-ista” means or have anything to do with “professional, profess(es) or proponent.” Bye!

    Reply
  3. David Jack -  April 16, 2014 - 10:10 pm

    The suffix “ista” typically means not only a practitioner, but a militant promoter of something, oftentimes to even a violent extreme. It definitely has connotations of militancy.

    Reply
  4. Joan -  April 3, 2014 - 8:12 pm

    I always think it’s offensive when English speakers put Spanish endings on English words to sound cool. They always sound like fools to me, fools who know and care nothing about the Spanish language and think they are high class and trendy while doing it.

    Reply
  5. Melanie -  April 24, 2013 - 2:16 pm

    IDK why I randomly read this during a videochat with my friends, but when I was looking up a word, I felt like it. ‘Ere we go…
    -Ista is cool, and is not a crime against nomenclature (LOL at the fact I had to look up what that meant). Fashionista is a great word. I wish I had invented it; Fried should be partying right about now.
    I thought the word was older than the ’90s honestly, but apparently not.
    Oh, and my favorite -ista word is vista… and then barista and then fashionista.
    WOAH I really typed an educated response on Dictionary.com… My report should be looking fine!

    Reply
  6. THE Caitlyn -  April 23, 2013 - 6:47 pm

    I hate it when it says “no comments” and then I put “Yay! First comment! :)”
    and then it turns out 68 other people already commented and they typed “first comment” too. Oh dictionary.com……
    But anyways, cool article. One of my favorite -ista words: barista! :)
    Also, it’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

    Reply
  7. bholland -  April 23, 2013 - 5:13 pm

    The suffix “ista” seems to be similar to the suffix “ism” and appears to have a similar meaning.

    Reply
  8. Alfredo Estrella -  April 23, 2013 - 8:49 am

    ista’s a good thing. Makes many things more understandable. Ista’s like guau or Pow.

    Reply
  9. Shruvin -  April 23, 2013 - 4:21 am

    I have never heard of fashionista :/

    Reply
  10. Mark M. Tully -  April 23, 2013 - 3:20 am

    And then there are the -(n)ik words like ‘peacenik’ with a similar foreign language derivation signifying philosophical adherence.

    Reply
  11. yaqub hashi -  April 23, 2013 - 2:43 am

    eyeball nice word

    Reply
  12. GiraffeBoy -  April 22, 2013 - 10:28 pm

    The title of the biography is “Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia”

    Reply
  13. [...] LINK: Origin of the term “fashionista” But first, let’s look at “fasionista.” This word first appeared in Stephen Fried’s 1993 biography of supermodel Gia Carangi. He invented it as a way to refer to the entourage surrounding supermodels at a photo shoot. The “fashion” portion of term is obvious. Less obvious is the “-ista” part. Fried said that he stumbled upon that particular suffix while researching his 1993 book. He had been reading a lot of late ’70s and early ’80s newspapers and magazines in order to write about the life of Gia Carangi, and he kept seeing articles about Sandinistas, followers of the Nicaraguan political party. [...]

    Reply
  14. Larry -  April 22, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE *yum yum*

    Reply
  15. Phumpul -  April 22, 2013 - 3:50 pm

    My favorite would most likely be “vista.” It sounds exotic and I also like its definition: “an outlook or prospect (usually through a narrow passage but can also mean a vision into the future)

    Reply
  16. ISTA | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  April 22, 2013 - 2:18 pm

    [...] ‘Ista’ you is or ‘Ista’ You Ain’t somebody’s baby? — Whether it be the fashion or otherwise in a coffee bar, — Entertaining “Crimes against nomenclature” — Or for theses times an Omen of Nature. — A Crime of Un-wordly passion or a “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”. — Nevertheless: To Istanbul OR NUT ISTA. –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged LT, LTRhyme, the HOT WORD on April 22, 2013 by LTRhyme. [...]

    Reply
  17. Stefano -  April 22, 2013 - 7:59 am

    The -ista suffix is common (and correct) in italian language. In fact, I always imagined that the term was born within the Italian fashion world.

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top