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Jargon is a type of language that is used in a particular context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation (that is, a certain trade, profession, vernacular, or academic field), but any in group can have jargon. The main trait that distinguishes jargon from the rest of a language is special vocabulary—including some words specific to it, and often different senses or meanings of words, that out-groups would tend to take in another sense—therefore misunderstanding that communication attempt. Jargon is thus "the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group".[1] Most jargon is technical terminology (technical terms), involving terms of art[2] or industry terms, with particular meaning within a specific industry. A main driving force in the creation of technical jargon is precision and efficiency of communication when a discussion must easily range from general themes to specific, finely differentiated details without circumlocution. A side-effect of this is a higher threshold for comprehensibility, which is usually accepted as a trade-off but is sometimes even used as a means of social exclusion (reinforcing ingroup-outgroup barriers) or social aspiration (when intended as a way of showing off).

The philosopher Étienne Bonnot de Condillac observed in 1782 that "every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas". As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment, he continued: "It seems that one ought to begin by composing this language, but people begin by speaking and writing, and the language remains to be composed."[3]

Various kinds of language peculiar to ingroups can be named across a semantic field. Slang can be either culture-wide or known only within a certain group or subculture. Argot is slang or jargon purposely used to obscure meaning to outsiders. Conversely, a lingua franca is used for the opposite effect, helping communicators to overcome unintelligibility, as are pidgins and creole languages. For example, the Chinook Jargon was a pidgin.[4] Although technical jargon's primary purpose is to aid technical communication, not to exclude outsiders by serving as an argot, it can have both effects at once and can provide a technical ingroup with shibboleths. For example, medieval guilds could use this as one means of informal protectionism. On the other hand, jargon that once was obscure outside a small ingroup can become generally known over time. For example, the terms bit, byte, and hexadecimal (which are terms from computing jargon[5]) are now recognized by many people outside computer science.


The French word is believed to have been derived from the Latin word gaggire, meaning "to chatter", which was used to describe speech that the listener did not understand. Middle English also has the verb jargounen meaning "to chatter", which comes from the French word.[6] The word may also come from Old French jargon meaning "chatter of birds".[6]

Fields using the term[edit]

The term is used, often interchangeably, with the term buzzword[7] when examining organizational culture[8].

In linguistics, it is used to mean "specialist language,"[9] with the term also seen as closly related to slang argot and cant[10].

Industry term[edit]

"An industry term... is a type of technical terminology that has a particular meaning in a specific industry. It implies that a word or phrase is a typical one in a particular industry and people working in the respective industry or business will be familiar with and use the term."[11]

Precise technical terms and their definitions are formally recognized, documented, and taught by educators in the field. Other terms are more colloquial, coined and used by practitioners in the field, and are similar to slang. The boundaries between formal and slang jargon, as in general English, are quite fluid. This is especially true in the rapidly developing world of computers and networking. For instance, the term firewall (in the sense of a device used to filter network traffic) was at first technical slang. As these devices became more widespread and the term became widely understood, the word was adopted as formal terminology.

Technical terminology evolves due to the need for experts in a field to communicate with precision and brevity, but often has the effect of excluding those who are unfamiliar with the particular specialized language of the group. This can cause difficulties as, for example, when a patient is unable to follow the discussions of medical practitioners, and thus cannot understand his own condition and treatment. Differences in jargon also cause difficulties where professionals in related fields use different terms for the same phenomena.

Accessibility issues[edit]

With the rise of the self-advocacy movement within the disability movement, jargonised language has been much objected to by advocates and self-advocates. Jargon is largely present in every day language, in newspapers, government documents, and official forms. Several advocacy organisations work on influencing public agents to offer accessible information in different formats.[12] One accessible format that offers an alternative to jargonised language is Easy Read, which consists of a combination of plain English and images. Other resources include online glossaries of technical jargon, also known as a "jargon busters." [13] There is a balance to be struck, as excessive removal of technical terminology from a document leads to an equally undesirable outcome—dumbing down.[citation needed]


Many examples of jargon exist because of its use among specialists and subcultures alike. In the professional world, those who are in the business of filmmaking may use words like "vorkapich" to refer to a montage when talking to colleagues.[14] In Rhetoric, rhetoricians use words like "arete" to refer to a person of power's character when speaking with one another.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jargon". Merriam Webster. Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Term of art". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. ^ Quoted by Fernand Braudel, in discussing the origins of capital, capitalism, in The Wheels of Commerce, vol. II of Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, 1979:234. Originally found in Condillac's work Le Commerce et le gouvernement considérés relativement l'un à l'autre (1776).
  4. ^ https://www.britannica.com/topic/jargon-linguistics
  5. ^ Lundin, Leigh (2009-12-31). "Buzzwords– bang * splat !". Don Martin School of Software. Criminal Brief.
  6. ^ a b "Jargon". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  7. ^ https://books.google.ca/books?id=eQ9UAQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:xjw1HfQuPYAC&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjYksve5YngAhWE94MKHUCQD1QQ6AEIKjAA
  8. ^ Martin, J. and Frost, P., 2011. The organizational culture war games. Sociology of Organizations: Structures and relationships, 315.
  9. ^ https://books.google.ca/books?id=tppMDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA18&dq=linguistics+jargon+definition&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmw7aZ5ongAhUJ34MKHScfB9wQ6AEIRTAE
  10. ^ https://books.google.ca/books?id=4Xdv4FTyXfkC&pg=PP7&dq=linguistics+jargon+definition&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmw7aZ5ongAhUJ34MKHScfB9wQ6AEISTAF
  11. ^ Peterlicean, Andrea (2015). "Challenges and perspectives in teaching specialised languages". The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education. 8: 149–162. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  12. ^ Lundin, Leigh (2013-04-05). "Jargon buster – Accessible Information * splat !". Northampton Borough Council. Northampton Borough Council.
  13. ^ Lundin, Leigh (2013-04-05). "Jargon buster – Involve * splat !". Involve.
  14. ^ "Cinematic Terms – A FilmMaking Glossary". filmsite.org.
  15. ^ "Dictionary.com - Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Green, Jonathon. Dictionary of Jargon. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987. ISBN 0-7100-9919-3.
  • Nash, Walter. Jargon: Its Uses and Abuses. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993. ISBN 0-631-18063-X.
  • Sonneveld, H., Loenning, K.: (1994): "Introducing terminology", in Terminology, p. 1–6
  • Wright, S. E.; Budin, G.: (1997): Handbook of Terminology Management, Volume 1: Basic Aspects of Terminology Management. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 370 pp.

External links[edit]