Jargon words and phrases

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jargon words

jargon (noun)
British/UK English pronunciation: /ˈdʒɑː(r)ɡən/
American English pronunciation: /ˈdʒɑrɡən/
from Old French jargoun



The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology  (my favourite etymology guide) has these definitions for jargon:

  • meaningless talk
  • speech specific to a trade or profession
  • twittering or chattering of birds
  • debased or hybrid language

It’s one or both of the first two definitions in this list that most people are referring to when they talk about jargon.


The word ‘jargon’ is often used in a disapproving way, but when used appropriately jargon is actually very useful language.

As the specialized language of specific groups, professions, or trades (e.g. law and medicine), its use enables people who are working in the same field, or who belong to the same group, to communicate quickly, clearly and efficiently. 

However, if, for example, a doctor uses medical jargon with a patient, or a lawyer uses legal jargon with a client, very often the people they’re speaking with won’t understand the language used.

And that’s when those words are perceived to be being used to impress or deliberately confuse the patient or client, and to make the speaker seem more important.

Most professions or groups have their own special words and phrases, or terminology.

If we use that terminology outside of our work or group it very often becomes meaningless talk, or jargon in its negative sense.


Examples of jargon


Here are some English teaching jargon words:

  • EFL (English as a Foreign Language – for people learning English for use outside of English speaking countries)
  • ELT (English Language Teaching)
  • TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • CELTA and DELTA – English language teaching qualifications
  • scaffolding
  • experiential learning
  • Power Distance Index
  • functional syllabus

and some that learners of English will be more familiar with:

  • IELTS – International English Language Testing System
  • EFL – English as a Foreign Language
  • TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language



  • misdemeanour (a criminal offence)
  • grantor (a person who sets up a trust)
  • decree (an order of the court)



  • dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • haemorrhage (loss of blood)



  • dynamic random access memory 
  • simple mail transfer protocol


I discovered a new word (for me) the other day – ‘bafflegab’.

Apparently it’s an informal word often associated with politicians and bureaucrats. It refers to language/jargon that sounds impressive but is actually only confusing and pretentious nonsense.

What do you think of the word ‘bafflegab’?

I think it perfectly describes the language used by some of our politicians.


What jargon words and phrases are associated with your work?



Angela Boothroyd

Angela Boothroyd

Freelance writer, English language teacher, at Botanical Linguist
Hi, I'm Angela, the creator of the Botanical Linguist site. I'm a freelance writer, linguist, and qualified English language teacher. I specialize in writing online course content, and blog posts and articles about business, education, and the English language. I’m also a writing coach for non-native users of English who want to blog better in English.
Angela Boothroyd
Angela Boothroyd

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