Definition and Examples of Jargon in English

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Jargon refers to the specialized language of a professional or occupational group. Such language is often meaningless to outsiders. American poet David Lehman has described jargon as "the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false."

See Examples and Observations below.

Jargon is often used as a negative term for an unusual language of various kinds, including slang or speech perceived as gibberish. Adjective: jargony.


From Old French, "the twittering of birds, meaningless talk"

Examples and Observations

  • "This matter of language is important. Professional jargon--on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices--can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsiders, and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura."
  • Education Jargon
    "[T]here is . . .. an Education Jargon Generator on, which offers complete jargon-filled sentences or gives you parts of sentences (prepositional phrases , verbs, adjectives, and nouns) to create your own. Here are examples of sentences created with the push of the 'generate jargon' button:
    • 'We will triangulate mission-critical culminating products across content areas.'
    • 'We will agendize innovative communities for our 21st Century learners.'
    • 'We will cultivate competency-based technologies through the experiential based learning process.'
    • 'We will reinvent proactive ESLRs across cognitive and affective domains.'
    • 'We will visualize performance-driven cohorts through the Big Ideas.'

      "You get the ridiculous idea."

  • Is Jargon Necessary?
    "Should jargon be censored? Many people think it should. However, close examination of jargon shows that, although some of it is vacuous pretentiousness, and therefore dysphemistic, its proper use is both necessary and unobjectionable."
  • Film Jargon
    "I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, 'If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don't, you won't be able to understand your own explanation.' That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
  • Diner Jargon
    "Pigs in a blanket sixty-nine cents,
    Eggs--roll 'em over and a package of Kents,
    Adam and Eve on a log, you can sink 'em damn straight,
    Hash browns, hash browns, you know I can't be late."




(George Packer, "Can You Keep a Secret?" The New Yorker, March 7, 2016)

(Valerie Strauss, "A Serious Rant About Education Jargon and How It Hurts Efforts to Improve Schools." The Washington Post, November 11, 2015)

(K. Allen and K. Burridge, Forbidden Words, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

(Roger Ebert, “O, Synecdoche, My Synecdoche!” Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 10, 2008)

(Tom Waits, "Ghosts Of Saturday Night")