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A term invented to distinguish a subclass of things from new members of the superclass, where the distinction was previously not necessary, since the old subclass had been all there was of the superclass.

For example, the retronyms "snail mail" and "paper mail" were coined by those for who "mail" was likely to mean electronic mail.

While the English language in general has a few retronyms ("whole milk", "snow skiing", "acoustic guitar"), hacker jargon is necessarily (at points capriciously) rich in retronyms, e.g. plaintext, natural language, impact printer, eyeball search, biological virus.

References in periodicals archive ?
The morpheme retro- is central in the understanding of retronyms; the language goes back to an already existing noun so as to name a new aspect in the culture.
The fact that retronyms are derived from existing nouns makes them compound nouns.
The morphology of the Ndebele ethnocentric retronyms is that it has two or more stems.
Ndebele uses source to distinguish concepts thereby deriving ethnocentric retronyms in the process.
The case of 'the watch' in English is an example of retronyms brought about by technological developments within the same culture.
Retronyms are not a new concept in Ndebele in that they have been used by them to separate concepts of the same type differentiated by technology.
It is therefore to be colonised philosophically for the Ndebele to derive technological retronyms from English at the expense of other cultures.
Derivation of religious retronyms by both the English and Ndebele is based on a Eurocentric philosophy.
Some of the English retronyms that use the above secondary stems for Ndebele concepts are:
The Eurocentric derivation of Ndebele retronyms creates a situation where by only mocking retronyms are derived using other cultures as the European is known to do.
Derivation of ethnocentric retronyms in Ndebele is guided by a Eurocentric philosophy and Ndebele retronyms are an example of how the African has departed from his own to a borrowed philosophy.
Eurocentric derivation of ethnocentric retronyms in Ndebele robs the African of his technology.