Lexiconical Gap

Another phrase from the Frenemy episode of NPR’s This American Life.  A lexiconical gap is the name given to an absence of a necessary word in a language.  Linguistics suggests that if two words ever become fully synonymous, both in their literal and semantic meetings, one word will disappear.  It is a free marketplace of ideas philosophy.  However, the inverse doesn’t seem to be true.  Just because a word is needed, doesn’t mean it will appear.

The best example offered is that in our English we have a word for a child who lost his parents (an orphan), a woman who lost her spouse (a widow), but we have no word for a parent who lost a child.  This is a lexiconical gap.

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