Wordsmith. You hear the word tossed around in chatty writer’s groups and on sassy author profiles. But, what the heck is that exactly, and are you one? Well, maybe. Let’s dig into the definition and history of this popular writer’s moniker and how we can use it in our own wordy-world.
What is a wordsmith?
A wordsmith is someone who works with words, or an especially skilled writer. Based on this definition, I think any writer who hones their craft and makes a living from wordplay could be called a wordsmith. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says this term was first used in 1873.
Cambridge Dictionary says…
A wordsmith is someone who “has skill using words, especially in writing.” This definition makes me think great orators would be included alongside writers, since both are pros at word usage.
Collins Dictionary says…
A wordsmith is a person, especially a professional writer, who both coins new words and uses language skillfully. Excellent! So every time we come up with new expressions and phrases in our writing, we’re being wordsmiths.
Urban Dictionary says…
Surprisingly, this definition is pretty accurate with a side of humor. This source explains that a wordsmith has the ability to “effortlessly string words together” to create smiles, laughter or admiration and to “make up bullshit on the spot.” Well, depending on the project, this definition is fitting too.
The backstory on smithing
Let’s dig a little deeper into the etiology of wordsmithing. If we break it down into word and smithing, we quickly see how this word became synonymous with people who work in words to create new things.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, smithing is the act of doing metalwork for fabrication or repair. When we think of this classic trade, the idea of forging something new from bars of metal is top of mind. Much like a blacksmith twisting and molding iron or steel to fashion a new tool, writers do the same with words to create thoughts and ideas.
I decided to go another step down the rabbit hole with this one and browse an article on the history of blacksmithing in Forge Magazine. The language used could easily describe the creative mind of a writer: artistic component, craft, creating something out of the ordinary. The first known evidence of blacksmithing is thought to hail from 1350 BC in Egypt, where smiths kept their techniques secret — much like prolific writers, er, wordsmiths.
Playing with this word
We can agree, wordsmith is a pretty cool noun that deserves more use in our everyday lexicon. Let’s weave it into online bios, elevator-style intros and online convos amongst others who finesse words each day. Give these variations a gander.
- Wordsmithing: This active verb refers to the act of shaping words. Use it in place of the word writing to perk up a few ears. I’m off to do some wordsmithing at my desk this morning.
- Wordsmithed: This past-tense verb celebrates the actual doing of writing. When a project is complete, you wordsmithed it. It took five hours, but I wordsmithed my best poem yet.
- Wordsmithery: By far my favorite, using this fancy four-syllable concoction screams word nerd. Refer to your wordsmithery when showing writing samples or exclaim in an upcoming tweet that you’re off to do some wordsmithery on a project. Let the wordsmithery of the day commence! I must fashion new words for your consumption!
Working with fire? Forging? Creating? Molding? Yep, sounds about like a day at my desk as a writer. Happy wordsmithing to you, fellow worker-in-words.