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For those unfamiliar, “to coin a phrase” traditionally means “to create a new phrase.” These days, “coin a phrase” has also taken on a new meaning, first documented around the mid-twentieth century: “to introduce a cliché sentiment.”

Funny enough, we have no idea who first coined the phrase “to coin a phrase,” but there are some clues as to how the phrase evolved.

The verb “to coin” first came about when referring to the actual process of making money. Around the fourteenth century, the noun “coin” actually meant “wedge,” and referred to the wedge-shaped dies that were used to stamp the disks that were then “coined,” and made into official currency.

From there, the verb “to coin” started to refer to anything that was made into something new. By the sixteenth century, coining new words became quite popular, though it wasn’t always considered a positive, innovative thing.


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In 1589, George Puttenham wrote in The Arte of English Poesie: “Young schollers not halfe well studied… will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin.”


As you can see, some people looked down at word and phrase coiners. If you’ve ever been published on a major website, you’ll know that today a very vocal minority still feel the same way about any innovative use of grammar, creation of words, or (God-forbid) typos.