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What Is a Buzzword?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Put succinctly, a buzzword is a word or phrase that creates a buzz or awareness in people who may then even start using it themselves. That is to say, buzzwords typically have the power to propel a strong message and catch on. For instance, in what is often called "marketing buzz," words or phrases are used to describe an idea succinctly into what appears as a new concept. Some buzzwords are or were used in a variety of contexts, such as "thinking outside the box," while others such as "wellness" may be more limited in their scope.

"Wellness" became a frequently used buzzword in the health care industry to encompass a wide variety of approaches rather than only the traditional one of medical science. Rather than just "well being" or "health" alone, "wellness" connotes a more whole, or holistic, approach that typically involves the mind and spirit as well as the body. For example, wellness in cancer treatment tends to include the many aspects of living with the disease from fashion ideas with new wigs or hats to cope with baldness caused by chemotherapy to emotional support groups where survivors can meet and share experiences. Wellness is also one of the common buzzwords used to refer to the maintenance of overall good health such as to achieve it through proper nutrition, adequate sleep and meditation, rest and/or exercise to relieve stress.

Buzzwords are sometimes called "fashion words," as they may go in and out of style at any given time. A buzzword may be "created" from any source such as media, marketing, politics, educational institutions or the technology or business sector. As with new fashion styles, novel ways of putting words together into buzzwords can be welcomed by some and shunned by others. For instance, when the office term "circle back," meaning "to reconnect later" as with a person or idea, became well used, it had both supporters and detractors. Some workers adopted the buzzword into their daily vocabularies; others found it irritating and refused to use it.

Sometimes buzzwords end up staying around longer to become an important part of certain fields such as the term "special needs" in health and education. With so many possible patient or student individual needs existing, using a more general term when trying to include all of them at once became necessary for educators and health administrators. To stay in use, a buzzword can't simply be fashionable or "in vogue," but must express a relevant concept clearly.

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