Phono-semantic matching

Phono-semantic matching (PSM) is a term refers to camouflaged borrowing in which a foreign word is matched with a phonetically and semantically similar pre-existent native word/root.

PSM, introduced by Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann, University of Cambridge, may alternatively be defined as the entry of a multisourced neologism that preserves both the meaning and the approximate sound of the parallel expression in the source language, using pre-existent words/roots of the target language.



PSM is frequently used in Mandarin borrowings.

An example is the Taiwan Mandarin word 威而剛 wēiérgāng (weiergang), which literally means "powerful and hard" and refers to Viagra, the drug for treating impotence in men, manufactured by Pfizer.

Another example is the Mandarin form of World Wide Web, which is wàn wéi wǎng (万维网), which satisfies "www" and literally means “myriad dimensional net”.

Brand names

Viagra, which was suggested by Interbrand Wood (the consultancy firm hired by Pfizer), is itself a multisourced neologism, based on Sanskrit vyāghráh "tiger" but enhanced by the words vigour (strength) and Niagara (free/forceful flow).


  • ZUCKERMANN, Ghil`ad 2003. Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. London-New York: Palgrave Macmillan. (Palgrave Studies in Language History and Language Change, Series editor: Charles Jones). Hardback, 304 pages, 216mm x 138mm, ISBN 1-4039-1723-X.

Search another word or see phono-on Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature