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New word of the month
by Kerry Maxwell

Christmas is just around the corner and many of us will be heavily ensconced in Christmas shopping, but for those of us who aren't self-confessed shopaholics or who are desperately trying to find something new for the person who has everything, what if the solution was free of expenditure and already sitting in your bottom drawer? On the other hand, have you ever opened a present and felt that its contents look strangely familiar?

This month's new word highlights those dilemmas of gift-giving …

regift (REE-gift) verb [I,T]
to give something as a gift that you yourself originally received as a gift

'How many soaps and candles can a person use in her lifetime?'
Rebecca's solution is to regift.

'Some people shop in department stores … I just shop at home.'
( article, November 2002)

This word, despite its rather negative overtones, describes an activity that the majority of us have done or wanted to do at some time or other! A bundle of recent Internet citations suggest that the verb regift has entered popular informal use in various grammatical guises, eg: intransitively as shown above, also transitively, eg: 'That sweater was regifted, I'm sure of it!' and frequently ditransitively or with a prepositional object as in eg: 'I regifted her that pasta maker. I regifted that pasta maker to my mother-in-law.' A common collocate is with, eg: 'She was regifted with a label maker. '

The verb has spawned various derivatives, which include a participle adjective regifted as in, eg: 'a regifted label maker' and the following nouns:

regift noun [C]
A regift is of course 'something given as a gift which was originally given as a gift to someone else', and so bizarre exchanges of ownership are possible as in 'She regifted the regift right back to him a year later.'

regifting noun [U]
This noun refers to the activity of giving something as a gift that you yourself received as a gift. Regifting generally seems to be viewed as a rather unsatisfactory thing to do and is often alternatively defined as 'taking a present you don't like and giving it as a gift to someone else.'

regifter noun [C]
As a simple agent nominalisation of the verb, a regifter is 'someone who gives a gift that was originally given to them by someone else'. Citations suggest that this is a rather derogatory term to ascribe to an individual in the festive season, eg: 'He recycled this gift. I knew it! He's a regifter!'


Regift is of course a synthesis of the verb homograph gift ('to give something as a gift') and prefix re- meaning 'again'. It was actually first used in the mid-nineties by the American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. In a 1995 TV show, Superbowl tickets and a label maker were 'regifted' and the episode took a light-hearted look at the mistakes people make while trying to conceal the fact that something is a 'regift'. The word's negative overtones lie in its association with deception, by regifting you not only deceive the recipient, but also the person who originally gave you the gift by not being honest about the fact that you don't need or want it. Proponents argue that regifting is an acceptable practice if you think carefully about whether the recipient would really enjoy the regift before you give it, believing that such a gift would be more meaningful than a hastily purchased bottle of wine or bunch of flowers.

Now, be honest, will you be parcelling up any regifts or indulging in a spot of regifting this Christmas? Or are you indeed already a hardened regifter who has regifted unwanted presents before?