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[re-truh-nim] /ˈrɛ trə nɪm/
a term, as acoustic guitar, coined in modification of the original referent that was used alone, as guitar, to distinguish it from a later contrastive development, as
electric guitar.
Origin of retronym
1990-95, Americanism; retr(o-) + -onym Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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retronym in Technology
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.
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The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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