A pejorative or slur is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something.[1] It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.

Definition and etymology

The word pejorative is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of peiorare, meaning "to make worse", from peior "worse".[2]


When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called "melioration" in historical linguistics. It may also be called amelioration, reclaiming,[3] or semantic change. An example is queer, which was reclaimed by activists and academics starting in the early 1990s.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Pejorative | Define Pejorative at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.