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A buzzword (also known as a fashion word) is an idiom, commonly used in technical, administrative and political disciplines, consisting of an over-used word or phrase. Buzzwords are ubiquitous but their actual meanings are unclear. A buzzword may or may not appear in a dictionary, but if it does, its meaning as a buzzword is not the same as the conventional definition. Buzzwords differ from jargon in that their function is to impress or to obscure meaning, while jargon (ideally) has a well-defined technical meaning, if only to specialists.

Why are buzzwords used?

A generous view is that buzzwords have the same function as jargon in scientific disciplines: as newly minted terms to describe new concepts, without the danger of over-simplification and confusion that can arise from using words and phrases with previously established commonplace meanings.

Buzzwords can also be used to control thought by being intentionally vague. In management, stating organizational goals by using words with unclear meanings prevents anybody from questioning the directions and intentions of these decisions, especially if many such words are used. (See also newspeak, Machiavelli.)

A less cynical interpretation is that the intentionally vague word is supposed to boost individual thinking and creativity by deliberately raising questions.


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