ret·​ro·​nym | \ ˈre-trō-ˌnim How to pronounce retronym (audio) \

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

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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 The names of such out-of-date technology, like "console television set," are examples of retronyms.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

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The first known use of retronym was in 1980

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Cite this Entry

“Retronym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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