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Words Invented by Specific People

Difficulty level: hard. Can you guess these words whose invention can be traced to a specific person?
see comments for caveats
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: October 20, 2023
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First submittedOctober 20, 2023
Times taken10,075
Average score50.0%
Rating4.43
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Definition
Answer
Person
Year
Person with high intelligence but low social skill
Nerd
Dr. Seuss
1950
Machine, often humanoid in shape, which can carry
out complex tasks
Robot
Karel Čapek
1920
One who looks down on those of lower social class
Snob
William Makepeace
Thackeray
1848
One who takes candid pictures of celebrities for money
Paparazzo
Federico Fellini
1960
Defacing or damaging property, especially with graffiti
Vandalism
Henri Grégoire
1798
Piece of information that spreads like a gene
Meme
Richard Dawkins
1976
An imagined land with an ideal system of government
Utopia
Sir Thomas More
1516
Obvious and unashamed. "The lawyer showed a
____ disregard for the truth".
Blatant
Edmund Spenser
1596
Being which is half machine, half organic
Cyborg
Manfred Clynes
1960
The self aware portion of the mind
Ego
Sigmund Freud
1923
Unsettling. "He bore an _____ resemblance to..."
Uncanny
Sigmund Freud
1919
A worker who sells their services to many employers,
rather than working as an employee
Freelance
Sir Walter Scott
1820
A cry of joy or excitement
Yahoo
Jonathan Swift
1726
1950s trendster associated with berets and poetry
Beatnik
Herb Caen
1958
To understand intuitively
Grok
Robert A. Heinlein
1961
Journalist who looks to expose scandals
Muckraker
Theodore Roosevelt
1906
A short description of a book or other work written
for promotional purposes
Blurb
Gelett Burgess
1907
Halfway between chuckle and snort
Chortle
Lewis Carroll
1855
A state of madness and disorder in a crowd
Pandemonium
John Milton
1667
Mystery story where a detective tries to figure out
who committed the crime
Whodunit
Donald Gordon
1930
42 Comments
+3
Level ∞
Oct 20, 2023
In some cases (for example, nerd) the inventor created the word but not its modern meaning.

In other cases (snob) the word already existed but was given a new meaning.

+7
Level 75
Oct 20, 2023
Can you accept the last one with two ns?
+6
Level ∞
Oct 20, 2023
Yes
+5
Level 60
Jan 28, 2024
how about three?
+1
Level 78
Feb 7, 2024
Four? Or am I pushing my luck?
+4
Level 78
Oct 20, 2023
Wow, great word choices. I tried to make something similar and put it on the back burner for how long it’d take to research. Love your word quizzes!
+10
Level ∞
Oct 20, 2023
GPT-4 was helpful for this one. Of course, a lot of what it came up with was complete BS, but there were enough real things left to make a quiz.
+4
Level 83
Oct 20, 2023
The term 'ego' wasn't invented by Freud. He used the term 'ich', and his translators rendered it as 'ego.'
+5
Level ∞
Oct 20, 2023
Yes, I'm aware. I'm excited to see what further nitpicks people will come up with!
+13
Level 74
Oct 20, 2023
Is this a nitpick? Personally I don't really see, how the word fits into the category at all, it wasn't made up by a specific person.
+5
Level 83
Oct 21, 2023
It seems to fit the "word already existed but was given a new meaning" pattern, albeit given by the translator rather than Freud himself.
+1
Level 83
Jan 29, 2024
The term he created (from an existing one) was 'ich'. His translator did create a new meaning for 'ego', but they should be credited rather than Freud
+2
Level 80
Jan 27, 2024
The wording of the clue better fits Freud's original term "conscious" ("das Bewusste") so maybe accept both?
+2
Level 57
Jan 28, 2024
Same with "uncanny". That word couldn't really have been invented / popularized / changed by Freud because wrote in German, not English. The German word "unheimlich" may have been given a specific meaning by him, but "uncanny" was already on the rise when Freud was born (according to Google's Ngram viewer) and thus must have just been a somewhat trendy word that Freud's translators selected.
+6
Level 83
Oct 20, 2023
Could you take other forms of "vandalism"? Vandalize, for example?
+2
Level 78
Oct 20, 2023
Accept Vandalising as well?
+4
Level ∞
Oct 20, 2023
Added various type-ins.
+6
Level 68
Oct 20, 2023
I kept trying "automaton", but apparently its used in the Iliad. A ways off from 1920.
+3
Level 70
Oct 20, 2023
Fun fact - "robot" (from Slavic robota, labour) was actually invented by Karel's brother Josef. Karel himself originally wanted to call it "labor".

...

When variations of "yeah" and "yay" wouldn't work, my mind got stuck on "yolo" for the cry of joy by J. Swift. I'm a bit disappointed he did not invent that.

+23
Level 79
Oct 20, 2023
Grok!? The rest of these seem relatively common, being things I'd reasonably read, hear, or use myself at least a few times a year, but never in my life have I encountered the word grok.
+10
Level 91
Oct 20, 2023
You need to be a "person with high intelligence but low social skill" to know what grok means. Generally.
+2
Level 71
Dec 23, 2023
It's from "Stranger in a Strange Land," great book.
+2
Level 72
Oct 20, 2023
Fun quiz. Consider accepting just paparazzi?
+3
Level 79
Oct 20, 2023
It does accept paparazzi
+3
Level 75
Oct 20, 2023
why not yippi-ka-yey
+4
Level 95
Oct 20, 2023
Even in cases where the word is now used differently the two uses should still be etymologically related, right? This would be the case for e.g. Thackeray's "snob", but Swift's word is unrelated to the definition given (and is still used in the sense of "yokel" anyway) and it is unknown whether "nerd" actually derives from Dr. Seuss's original nonsense word.

And the following might be a nitpick, but "utopia" involves more than just government.

+4
Level 79
Oct 20, 2023
Good point, having the definition for 'yahoo' be the exclamation is misleading since it has nothing to do with Gulliver's Travels.
+6
Level 85
Oct 21, 2023
Somebody needs to ask songwriter Richard Sherman whether it was him or his brother Robert who came up with "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" while he's still around. He's 95.
+3
Level 69
Oct 21, 2023
"Nerd" doesn't imply high intelligence. e.g. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/nerd
+3
Level ∞
Oct 21, 2023
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nerd

"A person who is intellectual but generally introverted."

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/intellectual

"Endowed with intellect; having a keen sense of understanding; having the capacity for higher forms of knowledge or thought; characterized by intelligence or cleverness"

+3
Level 69
Oct 23, 2023
Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, etc., are more authoritative sources of definitions than Wiktionary.
+8
Level 79
Oct 23, 2023
The Wiktionary definition seems to conform most to how it's used today, at least in my experience. The Cambridge definition includes physical unattractiveness as part of it which I've never considered a necessary aspect of being a nerd.
+2
Level 69
Oct 23, 2023
I mean, the whole point of a dictionary is to elevate a discussion away from personal anecdotes about our own experiences of how we've seen words used.

For what it's worth, though, the Cambridge entry gives an alternative definition of "a person who is extremely interested in one subject, especially computers, and knows a lot of facts about it" - so if you're using the word "nerd" in a certain way, then that dictionary would agree that it doesn't imply unattractiveness.

+1
Level 79
Oct 23, 2023
Then the dictionaries wouldn't seem to be doing a very good job at achieving that goal if the definitions across several different ones can't seem to nail down definitive characteristics for a word. If anything, that encourages discussions about how and why usage varies from context to context. I think the connotation of a word goes far beyond the level of personal anecdote, and I think quite a few of people would agree that the definition of 'nerd' in Wiktionary is most prevalent. I do think the definition provided in the quiz is not the best.
+1
Level 69
Oct 24, 2023
The definitions from reliable dictionaries that I can find (Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, Britannica, Collins) all agree that one of the mainstream uses of "nerd" is to indicate someone who's obsessed with something, especially computers (or words to that effect). So, to that extent, they're doing a good job.

Yes, there is disagreement about whether "nerd" can also mean unstylish vs. unattractive vs. unpopular, etc. And I agree that this could be an interesting discussion to have. But not in the context of a quiz that is meant to be dealing in verifiable facts.

Particularly as *none* of the definitions from those reliable dictionaries include an interpretation of "nerd" that implies "intelligent". The closest is from Cambridge, which includes an interpretation in which a nerd *might* be devoted to "intellectual pursuits" or, equally, might instead be devoted to academic or technical pursuits. i.e. it'd be consistent to call someone a nerd if they were stupid but loved computers.

+2
Level 79
Oct 24, 2023
Fair 'nuff. I agree that the clue is lacking and the percentage correct seems awfully low for such a common word. I think it'd be higher with any of the definitions you've brought up or the Wiktionary definition.
+2
Level 75
Jan 31, 2024
Now do 'introverted'. Hint: it doesn't mean having "low social skill".
+2
Level 70
Oct 24, 2023
It's been years since I've read Stranger in a Strange Land, but grok continues to be one of my all-time, favorite words.
+2
Level 73
Dec 10, 2023
Pleasingly difficult.
+2
Level 71
Dec 23, 2023
Can we have more type-ins for paparazzi? It's kinda tricky to spell with the double letters and vowel sounds.
+2
Level 66
Jan 27, 2024
Shouldn't have even accepted paparazzi since that is plural and the question asked for the singular.
+1
Level 75
Jan 27, 2024
Interesting quiz!