I'm about creating a new word to denote small pieces of knowledge and understanding, like truthful sentences (eagles are birds), or informative news about technology (Google Chrome's market share beats IE).

Based on this argument, I chose the word knowlet:

  1. Know means to hold information in mind, or realize something
  2. -let is a suffix to denote smallness
  3. Know + -let = knowlet (pronounced /nalet/)

Is it a correct neologism? What problems might it have?

  • 5
    @fdb Sure there is: OED 1, s.v. -let. Bracelet, frontlet, starlet ... Jan 10, 2014 at 12:42
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    @fdb - Booklet and leaflet are also examples of "-let" being a suffix in English.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jan 10, 2014 at 12:54
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    I don't know of any terms off the top of my head in English built by adding the suffix -let onto a verb though. But even so that wouldn't make it correct or incorrect, just attested or unattested. Jan 11, 2014 at 16:03
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    @hippietrail It suggests that part of a native speaker's knowledge of productive derivational morphology includes the rule that the diminutive suffice -let combines with nouns, not verbs, i guess. knowlet certainly sounds bad to me, in a way that, for example, factlet doesn't, despite the fact i've never encountered either before, to my knowledge.
    – P Elliott
    Jan 11, 2014 at 22:23
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    Yes especially given that the OP doesn't seem to be a native English speaker it seems we're being to nitpicky with "correct" and should read it as "Would this word formation be in accordance with English morphology?" etc. It is innovating by adding -let to a verb, but neologisms don't have to make morphological innovations. There are probably far more neologisms built using conservative/normal morphology. Jan 12, 2014 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


There is no such thing as a "correctly-formed neologism".

Neologisms are, by definition, new, and therefore not provided for in The Rules.
So they're by definition also "incorrect".

Of course, The Rules can change, and that's what happens when a neologism survives.
The Rules come to accept it (or at least they ignore it).

As to "knowlet", there is a fundamental problem, caused, as usual, by English spelling.
The root know occurs with two pronunciations, though the spelling doesn't change:

  • /no/, like the verb /noz/ in He knows everything.
  • /na/, like the noun /'nalɪdʒ/ in His knowledge is vast.

So for any neologism spelled knowlet -- never mind what it sposta mean --
it could be pronounced /'nolɪt/, like the verb,
or it could also be pronounced /'nalɪt/, like the noun.
(There is no hope, by the way, of getting the final syllable stressed, with this spelling)

If it were ever to become common, there would undoubtedly be some difference
in pronunciation, because knowlet would occur almost exclusively in text.
So there would be phonological dialects from the beginning, and that leads
almost inevitably to semantic and syntactic dialects as well.

  • 1
    First of all, on this side of the Atlantic, at least, we say [nɔlɪdʒ], not [nɑlidʒ], so the difference between this and [nəʊ] is not very great. Second, and more to the point, neologisms conform to pre-established structures. Otherwise they would not be understood.
    – fdb
    Jan 10, 2014 at 22:56
  • As this one isn't.
    – jlawler
    Jan 11, 2014 at 1:10
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    @fdb: ɔ? Are you sure? On my side of the Pacific it's nɒlɪdʒ. ɔ is the sound in "caught" and ɒ is the sound in "cot". It's well known that many parts of North America have undergone a cot-caught merger. I'm not an expert on British pronunciation though so you might be right. I know British has /ɔkʃən/ where Australian has /ɒkʃən/ for instance though I can't recall hearing "knowledge" with /ɔ/ even by RP speakers. Jan 11, 2014 at 16:10
  • @hippietrail: I use /a/ for American [ɒ], and I distinguish /a/ from /ɔ/ natively; I'm from Illinois.
    – jlawler
    Jan 11, 2014 at 16:25
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    Yes, I learned that RP distinguishes three low back vowels where I have only two. But I do have those two, which people on the US W. coast don't.
    – jlawler
    Jan 11, 2014 at 17:32

I do not think this is a correctly formed neologism. The suffix -let forms diminutives from nouns. Or can you mention any verb+let formations? The other question is whether there is any need for such a word. What is actually wrong with "fact"?

  • Or if it doesn't like fact, there is factlet :)
    – sashoalm
    Jan 10, 2014 at 14:27
  • Fact sounds cool. But what I want is to denote smallness of the information, which is not apparent and explicit in fact. I'd be grateful if you could suggest other terms. Smallness matters here. Jan 10, 2014 at 16:05
  • Most facts are "small" too.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 12, 2014 at 4:28

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