Non-Words People Often Use (But Don’t Exist)

misspelled word brang vs. brought

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Non-words look and sound like they could totally be real words. They follow the conventions of the language and look like they should make sense. Unfortunately, non-words aren’t really words, even if many people use them. Over time, though, non-words can progress into popular slang and common nonstandard words. You’ve likely seen and heard many of the non-words listed below. Does this make them real words?

Understanding Non-Words in Context

Also called pseudowords, non-words can sometimes sound like a whole lot of jabberwocky. Then again, you might catch yourself using some of these words in everyday speech. They’re nonstandard at best and totally wrong at worst. 

  • Agreeance - This archaic, outdated term is equivalent to “agreement.” Use that instead.

  • Alot - If you mean a great quantity, that’s “a lot” (two words); if you mean to distribute a share, that’s “allot” (two Ls). “Alot” is a non-word.

  • Alright - In casual speech, you can probably get away with this as one word with one L. Technically, it should be two words with two Ls (all right).

  • Anyways - The correct formal term is “anyway.” Adding the S is quite informal, but you probably won’t get called out on it anyway.

  • Brang - If you’re talking about the past tense of “bring,” you’ll want to say you “brought” something or you “had brought” something. “Brung” is equally nonstandard.

  • Conversate - You mean to have a conversation? The verb you’re looking for is “to converse.”

  • Interpretate - Speaking of adding an extra -ate to the end of a word, you probably mean “interpret” here.

  • Irregardless - Another nonstandard word. Replace it with “regardless,” since that already means “without regard.” Adding the ir- prefix makes “irregardless” look like it means “not without regard.” 

  • Mischievious - The correct spelling is “mischievous” with three syllables, not four. 

  • Nevermind - This should be two words (“never mind”) unless you’re talking about the colloquial phrase “pay no nevermind.”

  • Thusly - Just use “thus.” The -ly suffix is unnecessary.

  • Truthiness - Talk show host Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” on The Colbert Report in 2005. It refers to believing something is true based on intuition alone, irrespective of facts or evidence. “Truthiness” started as a non-word, but now you’ll find it in many dictionaries as an “informal” term.

  • Undoubtably - Be careful with that spelling and pronunciation, as you should be saying “undoubtedly” instead. It’s close, but note the -ed before the -ly, not -ably, as the ending.

Language is complex at best. Ever hear someone referring to “espresso” as “expresso” with an X? Before you call them out on it, recognize that this alternate spelling has become so common, you can even play it in Scrabble. Well, that was fast.

Internet Slang and the Word on Street

Just because a word isn’t in the dictionary doesn’t mean it’s not a real word, does it? Non-words can include all sorts of modern slang, informal language and nonstandard words too.

  • Aks - It’s just an anagram of “ask,” sometimes also spelled as “axe” or “ax.”

  • Bae - This backronym for “before anyone else” is a term of endearment for a significant other, like a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Expecially - Here we go with X in place of S again. The correct word is “especially.”

  • Fleek - You’ll hear this term used as part of the term “on fleek,” meaning “on point” or looking well put together. 

  • Hisself - It may be “his” and “hers,” but the word you want here is “himself.”

  • Kiki - Used as a verb or a noun, a kiki is a party or festive gathering.

  • Prolly - Is this a very casual, abbreviated form of “probably”? Yup, prolly. 

  • Turnt - As part of the phrase “turnt up,” “turnt” indicates that someone is really excited and possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Twerk - Work it! Here’s a type of dance move with thrusting hip movements.

non word slang twerknon word slang twerk
  • Yas - While you might think “yas” is totally equivalent to “yes,” it’s really an exclamation used to express praise or excitement about something.

  • Yolo - You only live once. Life is short, so live it to its fullest.

For more, check out this list of texting slang on YourDictionary for lots of common abbreviations used online. 

Playing Pseudowords in Word Games

Generally speaking, you should probably avoid using non-words in any kind of formal document or correspondence. Keep them off your resumes, cover letters and business emails. Casual conversations with friends and family? Go ahead with as much nonstandard and informal language as you feel is appropriate.

But, what about when it comes to playing word games like Scrabble GO? That’s a bit of a mixed bag. With more of a lax policy on pseudowords, Words With Friends generally allows more slang words than Scrabble. Indeed, several of the non-words listed above may be playable in your game of choice. 

Both “alright” and “thusly” are playable words in both Scrabble and Words With Friends, for example. So are “hisself” and “irregardless.” But, “conversate” and “brang” aren’t valid plays. When you’re not sure, enter your potential non-word into our Scrabble Dictionary. It’ll tell you whether the word is valid and how many points it is worth. 

Using Non-Words in an Evolving Language

Language naturally changes over time. You probably won’t hear much Middle English spoken at a college dorm these days. Terms that started out as slang, nonstandard or even non-words can quickly join the mainstream lexicon. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added “facepalm” in 2011, for instance. And whether you can play a word in Scrabble is another benchmark for how “real” it is.

Still, these types of developments will always have their opponents. Indeed, one of the most common Words With Friends complaints is the inconsistency over what words are and aren’t valid. Read that article for more on what people don’t like about the hugely popular word game.

Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.


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