Printable Version
Pronunciation: vay-pêr-wer Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A computer product that has been announced or advertised but has not been produced and whose production is doubtful.

Notes: Today's word is a very recent compound noun that has not had time to spawn a lexical family, so it is a lexical orphan. Since it is a mass noun, it doesn't even have a plural form. It does have an alternate British spelling: vapourware.

In Play: Vaporware usually represents a failure or at least a long delay in software development: "A good thing about vaporware is that you can't download a virus from it." Word of the completed product must have gotten out somehow: "Announcing a smartphone a year in advance strongly suggests vaporware."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created by analogy with software. In an issue of her newsletter, Release 1.0 in 1983, Ester Dyson simply substituted vapor for soft. It originally referred only to software, but it currently is used to indicate hardware, too. Old French never touched Latin vapor "steam, heat", though, over time, it did become Modern French vapeur. English borrowed the Old French version. The word is akin to vapidus "flat (wine)". No one knows where either word came from. Ware goes back to PIE wer- "to watch out (for), guard", hence warehouse. It is also the source of English wary, beware, and aware. English ward and warden share the same source. Old French picked up ward but, since French had no [w] sound, it used the closest sound to [w], [gw] spelled GU. The result: guard, which Middle English borrowed back. (Let's all now thank Dan Obertance for recommending today's brand new—in linguistic time—Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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