ellesieg (ellesieg) wrote in 1word1day,

Tuesday Word: holophrasis

Holophrasis is the expression of a full sentence in a single word -- a holophrase. Toddlers go through a holophrastic stage, which, having a two-year-old in the family, I initially found frustrating. Why does she keep saying "red"? Where did she learn to glare like that? After consulting a translator and learning that "red" means "I want my red blanket," as well as the deeper meanings of a variety of other one-word utterances, however, I came to appreciate the simplicity of her system of communication.

While the term holophrasis is typically used in the study of language acquisition and thus applied specifically to the speech of very young children, the use of holophrases is not, of course, limited to infants and toddlers. For most older people, however, it is not their primary means of communication, and I tend to associate it with anger, disgust, wonder or shock. For instance, a parent returning home to find a party in full swing may point at the front door and yell "Out!"

Such holophrases are highly dependent on context. There is another type of holophrase, however -- a single word that expresses a combination of ideas -- that does just fine on its own, so long as the reader or listener is familiar with the word. How many ideas, exactly, must a single word convey in order to qualify as a holophrase? Well, I've been working on today's post for over four hours, so I'll let you define that one, and leave you with one last holophrase: ENOUGH!
Tags: h, noun, wordsmith: ellesieg

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