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book word (plural book words)

  1. A word that is encountered in writing but not in speech, which people may therefore not know how to pronounce correctly (or at all).
    • 1871, Alexander John Ellis, On Early English Pronunciation, with Especial Reference to Shakspere ...:
      The second, being a ‘book word,’ has quite an artificial pronunciation.
    • 2014, Dale F. Coye, Pronouncing Shakespeare's Words: A Guide from A to Zounds (→ISBN), page 7:
      Book words—words that are found most often in writing but are rarely spoken—change as well but in a somewhat different way. When the communal memory of a word's pronunciation has been lost, or when speakers who have never heard a book word pronounced attempt it, then spelling will play a key role in determining the new pronunciation.

Alternative formsEdit

Further readingEdit

  • book word” in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.