A pejorative (also called a derogatory term, a term of abuse, or a term of disparagement) is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, or showing a lack of respect for someone or something. It is also used as criticism, hostility, disregard or disrespect. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social or cultural groups but not in others. Sometimes, a term may begin as a pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.
Name slurs can also involve an insulting or disparaging innuendo, rather than being a direct pejorative. In some cases, a person's name can be redefined with an unpleasant or insulting meaning, or be applied to a group of people considered by the majority to be inferior or lower in social class, as a group label with a disparaging meaning. Also, an ethnic slur or racial slur can be pejorative and to imply people of those groups are inferior or deficient.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word pejorative is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of peiorare, meaning "to make worse", from peior "worse".
Melioration of pejoratives
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, or semantic change. Some examples of melioration are "punk" or "dude".
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- Croom, Adam M. "Slurs." Language Sciences, Volume 33, Number 3, May 2011, pp. 343-358. Published by Elsevier.
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