Hypocorism - hypocoristic

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The words hypocorism (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, IPA: / haɪ 'pɒ kə ,rɪ zəm/) and hypocoristic (pronounced with the stress on the fourth syllable, IPA: / ,haɪ pɒ kɔː 'rɪs tɪk/) are technical terms sometimes used in the study of language. A hypocorism or hypocoristic is either

  • a pet name, i.e., a name conveying familiarity or intimacy, attachment or affection – e.g., Debbie or Debs (from Deborah), Chris or Chrissie (from Christine), Jim or Jimmy (from James), and Fred or Freddie (from Frederick). (You may like to see Conventional abbreviations for forenames.) Or
  • the form of a word used by children or by an adult speaking to a child – e.g., ‘daddy’ for ‘father’, ‘mummy’ for ‘mother’, ‘doggie’ for ‘dog’.

Hypocoristic may be used as an adjective as well as a noun; while hypocorism is also sometimes used as a synonym for euphemism, i.e., a polite or inoffensive word or phrase used in place of a word or phrase which might be considered vulgar, offensive, or hurtful.

Hypocorism and hypocoristic come from the Greek ὑποκορίζεσθαι (hupokorizesthai), which means ‘to call by endearing names’ or ‘to use euphemisms’, a compound from κορίζεσθαι (korizesthai, to caress or fondle), which in turn is formed from κόρος (koros, (young) boy) or κόρη (korē, girl).