retronym

noun
ret·​ro·​nym | \ˈre-trō-ˌnim \

Definition of retronym 

: a term (such as analog watch, film camera, or snail mail) that is newly created and adopted to distinguish the original or older version, form, or example of something (such as a product) from other, more recent versions, forms, or examples Consider reduplicated retronyms: first came paperback book, differentiated from a book with a cloth or leather binding, provoking the retronym hardcover book.— William Safire Most retronyms are gleaned from high-technology and scientific advances that bring about a modification of an original item. Think of it as a backward glance that signifies progress (film camera, broadcast network, propeller airplane).— Lyrysa Smith

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

If you're planning to buy a TV anytime soon, be sure to do plenty of research. Nowadays, there are so many options using state-of-the-art technology - from projection sets to LCD and plasma ones - that the box television with the convex screen you might be replacing with a flat-screen television is. . .well, retro. And if you still have a console television set, a trip to a big-box store might be in your very near future. The names of such out-of-date technology, like "console television set," are examples of retronyms. The oldest print usage that we know of for the word retronym itself is from William Safire's column "On Language" in a 1980 issue of The New York Times. There, he discusses how then-president of National Public Radio, Frank Mankiewicz, collects what he calls "retronyms."

Examples of retronym in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Yet here came a band with the ridiculous retronym Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — a handle straight out of the dorky, black-and-white early 1960s, when girls still danced in poodle skirts on American Bandstand. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Tom Petty: Southern Boy, American Man," 3 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retronym.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of retronym

1980, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for retronym

retro- + -onym

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about retronym

Listen to Our Podcast about retronym

Statistics for retronym

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for retronym

The first known use of retronym was in 1980

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on retronym

See words that rhyme with retronym

Comments on retronym

What made you want to look up retronym? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!