Breaking the mould: words and phrases for things that are new or modern.

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about ways of talking about people or animals that are young. This post looks at a related set: words for things that are new or modern.

Firstly, if we want to emphasize that something is very new, we say it is brand new: She bought herself a brand new sports car. This phrase means that something has just been made, but the thing itself does not necessarily have to be modern.

To talk about very modern things, we often use the phrase the latest in front of the thing we are talking about: He likes to buy all the latest sound equipment. We also use ‘the latest’ to talk about very recent information. Another word for this is up-to-the-minute: Have you heard the latest news? We are receiving up-to-the-minute reports from the scene of the accident.

Cutting-edge describes things that use the most recent ideas and methods and are often rather experimental: The company uses cutting-edge technology to reduce waste. If we describe something as bleeding-edge, we mean that it is still being developed and is not yet perfect: Using these bleeding-edge tools for complex data is risky. State-of-the-art is similar to ‘cutting-edge’ and implies very high quality: She has her own state-of-the-art recording studio.

There are several words connected with objects or ideas that are new and very different from what has existed before. Avant-garde is used to describe new styles, for example of art or literature: The city’s avant-garde architecture is not to everyone’s taste. If something is so modern that it seems to belong in science fiction, we can describe it as futuristic or space-age: They showed us their futuristic designs for the new hotel. He was wearing a space-age suit made of plastic.

Something that is innovative uses completely new ideas: They used innovative techniques to look deep into space. We use the word groundbreaking to describe ideas or inventions that help to make important progress in something: They carried out groundbreaking medical research.

If something such as a system, invention or area of study is new and not fully developed, we can say that it is (still) in its infancy: Electric transport is still in its infancy. If something has never happened or existed before, we say it is unprecedented: Our hospitals are seeing unprecedented levels of demand. We also use the idiom break the mould (UK)/mold (US) for things that are totally different from what has existed before: The show broke the mould of traditional TV chat shows.

I hope this post has given you some brand new words and phrases to use – let me know if you can think of any others!


39 thoughts on “Breaking the mould: words and phrases for things that are new or modern.

  1. Mujahed Jadallah

    Great job!

    What about ‘brave-new’?

    Can we say that people around the globe are venturing with brave-new so-called online education?

    1. Liz Walter

      It does exist, but it’s not very common, and it tends to be used rather sarcastically, as in your quote, and as in the title of Aldous Huxley’s famous novel ‘Brave New World’.

  2. Gladys

    I simply love it and I find it very useful to improve my English and sound more natural.
    Thank you so much, you’re doing such a great job 👍🏼👍🏼

    1. Liz Walter

      Yes, we talk about a ‘paradigm shift’ when something changes completely, usually when it makes progress.

      1. Sundar Naz

        Please give us some examples sentence of ‘paradigm shift’. Although, I will search it on the Internet but yours will be authentic.

  3. Fred Baker

    A nice collection, but only “bleeding edge” was unfamiliar. I kept hoping for etymology: what is the root, for example, of “brand” new? But that is just me, I guess. I only learn words in a way that makes them usable in speech or writing if I know their origin. I came to this blog by clicking a link in a sequence of links that began with my exploration of “dienetic,” a word I was astonished not to recall encountering in my 68 years of life once I discovered its meaning. Probably I simply eye-skipped it until I was forced to look it up to understand something I was reading.

    1. Liz Walter

      Thanks for your comment. I’m guessing from your name (and your writing!) that you are a native speaker of English. This blog is aimed primarily at learners of English, so I’m trying to provide common and useful phrases rather than rare ones.

      1. Yeah

        After all, what are rare words for?

        Unless you love framing words and putting them up on the wall for the visitors to see, they have no use at all . Huahuaaa

  4. Marcel

    I remember picking up the phrase ‘newfangled ideas’. Does the adjective collocate with words for objects as well?

  5. Nana Goshadze

    Hello Liz! Thank you for the blocks you write for us. I always find something very useful in them and helps me a lot.
    Nana from Georgia

  6. Great post. My favourite ones were Cutting-edge, Groundbreaking and Unprecedent. About these words: are they formal enough to be written on an academic paper?
    Thanks in advance!
    Greetings from Chile

  7. Timi

    By the way, would it be possible to clarify the meaning of ‘interesting’? As I know it has a meaning totally different in English than in other languages. Meaning ‘silly’ if we use it . If that is so, I think that many people are just using it the wrong way. Is this so? Am I wrong?

      1. Sundar Naz

        I didn’t understand the use of exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence of your reply. If it’s not out of place, would you care to explain this.

      2. Hi Sundar

        Thanks for your question. It is quite common nowadays for people to use exclamation marks in emails and messages to indicate a friendly or chatty tone.

        Best wishes

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