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Imaginary Words

  1. Paul Meara

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0524

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Meara, P. 2012. Imaginary Words. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


Imaginary words—sometimes also called pseudo-words, nonsense words, or nonce words—are strings of letters which resemble real words but do not actually exist as words in a specific language. Thus, ‘shern’ is a plausible letter string for English, but does not appear as a word in any of the standard dictionaries.


  • psycholinguistics;
  • second language acquisition;
  • vocabulary