Sometimes when describing something quite large, you may hear the adjective “ginormous” used to describe it. The word is fun but doesn’t sound like something you’d find in a legitimate dictionary.
Is this a real word?
Where did it originate?
Well, the answers may very well surprise you!
Let’s dig deep into the etymology of this term and determine whether it’s an official word or simply a trendy affectation while exploring its meaning and the best ways to make use of it.
What Does Ginormous Mean?
Ginormous is an adjective used when something is exceptionally big. More than likely created as a quirky combination of “gigantic” and enormous,” the word has been trending in recent years.
- Oh my gosh! Selene has a ginormous zit right on her nose!
Poor Selene. This must be a ginormous blow to her self-esteem, mainly because the use of this adjective means it is an incredibly noticeable blemish!
- Look out! There’s a ginormous rhinoceros behind you!
It is probably best to avoid any rhinoceros, but being trampled by a sizeable beast like that one would probably not be a popular bucket list entry.
- Luther wants a top-of-the-line computer, but his favorite choice costs a ginormous amount of money.
Until Luther gets a better job, he’s probably not going to be able to afford that particular model unless he can schmooze some money from a rich relative, perhaps.
As it seems this word is a reasonably recent addition to social conversation, you may think that it was likewise a modern invention.
You may be surprised to discover the earliest records of “ginormous” date back to 1948, perhaps even earlier, as it is an entry in a dictionary of British military slang entitled A Dictionary of Forces’ Slang, 1939-1945.
This tome was a record of slang used during World War II, signifying that this word existed as long ago as that, at least!
As to why it has returned to everyday use – it’s a mystery. Combining two or more words to create a new term has been a popular activity for several years but is not a novel concept.
There’s a name for this sort of blending of words: a portmanteau word.
A portmanteau is a type of briefcase that opens into two distinct halves, essentially meaning that you have two suitcases combined into one – much like these words assimilate two others into a single word.
Here are some examples of other familiar words that are considered portmanteaus.
- Bash = bang + smash
- Smog = smoke + fog
- Bromance = brother + romance
- Dramedy = drama + comedy
- Frenemy = friend + enemy
- Spork = spoon + fork
That’s just a tiny sample! These are pretty fun; you should find some lists of these word combos.
It’s a great way to spend a Saturday night!
So, Is Ginormous a Proper Word or Not?
Well, it’s complicated.
It’s not a proper word, in that it’s just a mish-mash of two other words, but due to the popularity of the word, it now appears in dictionaries and other authoritative references.
Slang words that reach common usage inevitably appear in official diction resources since the term needs to be defined and explained for those unfamiliar with it.
Many unusual words and expressions are promoted to legitimacy when certain big-name word-gurus include them in their databases.
Once you can find it in the Oxford English Dictionary, that’s probably a good indication that the word has made it to the big time. In other words, once Oxford picks it up, Mirriam-Webster and the other heavy hitters are right behind.
Due to this, you could say that “ginormous” is now an honorary word, the way universities sometimes confer an honorary degree to certain celebrities.
With the backing of mega-word mogul Oxford, ginormous is a real word, but it is still an improper word.