Printable Version
Pronunciation: -kê-nim Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A bad word, bad for whatever reason—badly constructed, insulting, ugly, etc.

Notes: The first caconym we need to mention is a Good Word, acronym, which is based on Greek words meaning "topmost name", which doesn't make sense. Some people would call the name Dezonia Delacrasia a caconymous burden for the child upon whom it is inflicted. This name is caconymic because it is cacophonic "bad-sounding". Of course, the vocabulary of profanity, including racial slurs, is a collection of caconyms. The adjective is caconymous [k-kah-n-ms] and the noun, caconymy [k-kah-n-mi].

In Play: Caconyms are first and foremost bad names: "No wonder he goes by the nickname 'Bud'; his parents cursed him with the caconym, Percival Aloysius." Now, if you know someone who resorts to profanity too often, you can correct them and set an example at the same time: "Leander, were your speech less caconymous, we would listen to more of what you say."

Word History: Today's is a combination of Greek kakos "bad" + onyma "name". Kakos goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root found in almost all Indo-European languages referring to defecation (English caca). It appears in several English borrowings from Greek, including cacophony, cacography, and cacodemon. Onyma comes from PIE nomen "name" which changed very little in Latin, where we find nomen "name", visible in nominal, ignominy, misnomer, and many other English borrowings. In the Germanic languages we find it as something like English name (German Name). The best guess is that moniker is a Shelta variant, munik, of Gaelic ainm "name" from the self-same source.

Dr. Goodword,

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