A pejorative, also known as defame, disparagement, derogatory or slur, is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense in some or all contexts.

Definition and etymology

The word pejorative is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of peiorare, meaning "to make worse", from peior "worse".


When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called "melioration" in historical linguistics. It may also be called amelioration, reclaiming, or semantic change. An example is queer, which was reclaimed by activists and academics starting in the early 1990s.