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bouncebackability also bouncebackibility

noun [uncountable]

the ability to be successful again after a period of failure

'When Everton were knocked out of the League Cup last week, their manager Mo Marley said: "This will be a great test of the famous Everton bouncebackability."

The Guardian 18th October 2004

'As a former Cabinet member of Major's government, Michael Howard has an even harder job ahead of him. He has to show he has enough bouncebackability to get him into Number Ten.'

The Scotsman 8th October 2004

Though the world of English neologisms is generally dominated by nouns, one of the most significant new coinages of 2003 was, in fact, a phrasal verb. Last year there was intense interest in the term sex up, a new phrasal verb famously used by the BBC in the context of the alleged embellishment of the UK government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction.

the most common context of use of the term bouncebackability is in football commentary

In 2004, a phrasal verb has made its mark on the language again, though not by being intrinsically 'new', but by spawning a 'new' noun. The established intransitive phrasal verb bounce back, meaning 'to become successful again after something bad has happened' has formed the basis of a new derivative bouncebackability, an uncountable noun which apparently fills a gap in the language for describing a person's ability to succeed again after a period of being unsuccessful.

The most common context of use of the term bouncebackability is in football commentary, as illustrated by the first citation above. The majority of current usages refer to a team's predicted capacity (or lack of it!) to come back and win after one or more defeats, for example:

The team were determined to show their bouncebackability after losing in last week's game …
Tomorrow's match will be a true test of the team's bouncebackability following last weekend's defeat.

The term is beginning to cross over into rugby and other team sports, and is also gradually appearing in non-sporting contexts, such as business performance or political commentary, as illustrated by the second citation above. It is also beginning to be used in the more general contexts associated with the original phrasal verb, such as recovery from illness.

So convinced of the need for the term bouncebackability are some members of the English-speaking public that they have launched a variety of online petitions for its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. UK bookies are even offering odds of one to five as to whether bouncebackability will make it into OED, dictionary coverage of the word recently being the subject of some debate in the world of lexicography.

There is a small amount of evidence for the spelling variant bouncebackibility, though this is significantly less common.

Background – bouncebackability

The word bouncebackability was first coined by ex-footballer Iain Dowie, now manager of Crystal Palace football club, who famously described his team as showing '… great bouncebackability'.

The word is, of course, formed from suffixation of the phrasal verb bounce back with -ability, a suffix which is usually used with adjectives ending in 'able' to form nouns which indicate a particular quality, such as dependabledependability, suitablesuitability.

Many thanks to Mark Cox, a freelance teacher of English as a foreign language based in Kamp-Lintfort in Germany, for suggesting bouncebackability.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 6th December 2004.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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