v. To apply a new meaning or usage to an existing word.
Other Forms
The firestorm Jeffress ignited makes me think that some of the modern definitions for "cult" might be examples of what I would term "wordnapping." I suggest this because an obsolete word, "napper," meaning "thief," is the term from which the well-known "kidnapper" has been derived. A wordnapper would be someone who takes the original meaning of a word and turns it into something that conveys another intent.
—Clark McCall, “Religion 101: Confusion over word 'cult' can be blamed on 'wordnapping',” The Merced Sun-Star, November 05, 2011
I feel very badly when I see unique dying on the language vine. When I witness unusual gobbling up unique, I see, much in the manner of George Orwell's Newspeak, a precious window darkening in the house of language. Unique is a unique word. We have no other adjective that easily and concisely conveys the sense of 'one of a kind.' Because we already possess modifiers like unusual and distinctive, there is no reason why unique should be wordnapped into their territory.
—Richard Lederer, Adventures of a Verbivore, Pocket Books, March 01, 1994
1987 (earliest)
Another question comes from a reader in Portland, Ore., asking for the etymological history by which "gay" came to mean homosexual. In the recent supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, the wordnapping is traced to 1935.
—James J. Kilpatrick, “A dash of proper puctuation helps reader understand,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, May 17, 1987
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