Printable Version
Pronunciation: pê-jo-rê-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Derogatory, negative, insulting. 2. Vulgar, profane.

Notes: Pejorative terms are words like floozy and jerk, that are insulting to those they refer to. They include all the vulgar words and racial slurs that we don't allow on our website. The adjective may be used as a noun, as in speaking of pejoratives like drunkard, braggart, and twerp.

In Play: We find pejorative alternatives for many of the commonplace nouns in the English language, e.g. yap is a pejorative term for mouth and mug is pejorative for face. Words can even be pejorative sometimes, sometimes not. Pig, for example, is perfectly normal when applied to pigs, but is pejorative if used to denote a person. Despite the unsavory connotations of this word, you can play with it: "Anita Job says the word 'work' as though it were pejorative." You may know someone with Anita's speech defect.

Word History: This word comes to us from Latin pejoratus "having been made worse" from the verb pejorare "to make worse". The verb is based on the comparative of malus "bad", which is pejor "worse". Malus itself underlies English malady, not to mention the prefix mal-, found in such words as maladroit, maladapted, and malfeasance. The superlative of malus is pessimus "worst", on which our word pessimism is built.

Dr. Goodword,

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