novel

Definitions

General English

  • adjective new and unusual
  • noun a long story with imaginary characters and events

Slang

  • adjective pretentious, unoriginal, unappealing. The standard term has been used ironically in this way by students and others since 2000.

Origin & History of “novel”

English has acquired the word novel in several distinct instalments. First to arrive was the adjective, ‘new’ (15th c.), which came via Old French from Latin novellus, a derivative of novus ‘new’ (to which English new is distantly related). (The Old French derived noun novelte had already reached English as novelty (14th c.).) next on the scene was a now obsolete noun novel ‘new thing, novelty’ (15th c.), which went back to Latin novella, a noun use of the neuter plural of novellus. In Italian, novellus became novello, and this was used in storia novella, literally ‘new story’, a term which denoted ‘short story’. English adopted this as a third novel (16th c.), at first referring specifically to Italian short stories of the type written by Boccaccio, but by the mid-17th century being extended to a longer ‘prose narrative’ (the original Italian novella was reborrowed in the early 20th century for a ‘short novel’). English is also indebted to Latin novus for nova (19th c.) (etymologically a ‘new star’) and novice (14th c.).
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