As Vox nihili, also ghost word or ghostword, is meant a word which has arisen only by accidental printing, writing or pronunciation errors of the copyist or editor. Accordingly, a Vox nihili does not arise deliberately, but because of an error and thus has no real meaning. What is important is that a ghostword can only be considered as such when it has appeared in a publication which leads to the actual dissemination of the word, such as dictionaries or scientific papers which are referenced and cited.
The name comes from the Latin and consists of the noun Vox for voice and nihilum for nothing, which stands in the genitive (the nothing). According to this, the word sequence can be translated with the voice of nothing, from which the German term ghost word or the English ghostword can be derived indirectly. Here are some examples:
Phantomnation: appearance as of a phantom; illusion.
The above example is a lexicon entry from the Dictionary An American Dictionary of the English Language (1864), published by Noah Webster, an American lexicographer, writer, and publicist. Here, the substantive phantomnation is interpreted as the appearance of a phantom and as an illusion. This or a similar interpretation of the word is found in several nineteenth-century dictionaries (see Philology of the English Language, 1860).
What is decisive, however, is that the substantive phantomnation does not exist at all and has arisen merely because of an error. This is a Vox nihili or Ghostword. As proof of the existence of the word was referred to Alexander Popes translation of the Odyssey, a work of the occidental poet Homer, from the year 1725. However,
The Phantoms of the Dead.
The separating line makes it clear that these are two words and not, as mistakenly assumed, a noun. Thus, due to the erroneous assumption that Pope Phantomnation wrote, a dictionary entry was made for a word that did not exist. Meanwhile, the Oxford English Dictionary of 2009 introduces the entry as …
“Appearance of a phantom; illusion. Error for phantom nation. ”
Accordingly, the concept still exists today and it has arisen solely because of a mistake. Although the error is now pointed out, this does not alter the fact that the “wrong” noun nevertheless exists. And this fact is called Vox nihili.
Ghost Word Explanation
Cairbow Also appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary within a sample sentence. The word does not exist. This is an error. The caribou (German: Karibu), the North American representative of the reindeer.
Abacot The term was used for many centuries as a name for the tournament hat (first time in 1587 in Chronicles, then in numerous dictionaries), which was used in the middle ages as an ornament of the helmet. In fact, this is a Vox nihili. For the first mention was based on an error in the entry bycoket, which would have been the correct name. This error was only discovered in the 19th century by James Murray.
Drod is considered one of the best-known spirits and has been used as a synonym for density in English dictionaries for decades. In fact, this error is based on the note “D or d” (German: ‘D’ or ‘d’), which was about how the word density should be abbreviated.
Short overview: The most important overview
As Vox nihili, also ghost word or ghostword, is meant a word which has arisen only by accidental printing, writing or pronunciation errors of the copyist or editor. Accordingly, a Vox nihili does not arise deliberately, but because of an error, and is nevertheless spread, whereby it is used in the language.
The term is, however, applied in fact only to words which, on the one hand, have arisen due to an error, but which are actually used on the other hand. For this, it is mostly necessary that they are used either in a dictionary or in a scientific treatise to be referenced and cited at all.