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A pejorative or slur is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something.[1] It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.

Definition and etymology[]

The word pejorative is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of peiorare, meaning "to make worse", from peior "worse".[2]


When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called "melioration" in historical linguistics. It may also be called amelioration, reclaiming,[3] or semantic change. An example is queer, which was reclaimed by activists and academics starting in the early 1990s.[4]

See also[]

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  • List of ethnic slurs
  • List of religious slurs
  • Approbative
  • Dysphemism
  • Fighting words
  • Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese
  • Insult
  • Judgmental language
  • Profanity
  • Defamation

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Further reading[]

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External links[]


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