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New word alert: Acqhire

New wordsHere’s a word I have just started seeing: Acqhire. It is a portmanteau word, made of pieces of other words… “acquire” and “hire.”

Blogger and marketing company CEO Rex Hammer takes credit for coining the word on Rex Blog in 2005. Here’s his definition:

“When a large company ‘purchases’ a small company with no employees other than its founders, typically to obtain some special talent or a cool concept.”

For a while nobody used it. But acqhire gained wider adoption in the last 2 years on tech blogs, where it took on a less specific meaning. It is still used to refer mainly to startups, but not necessarily ones with no employees other than its founders. As it is used today, acqhire is a verb meaning to buy a company primarily because you want its employees.

If it enters widespread usage, it will be one of a very few words in English to contain a Q without a U. An alternate spelling, acquhire, is used less frequently. It’s also sometimes hyphenated: acq-hire, or even acqui-hire.

Some examples:

All Things Digital, August 19, 2009:

“MySpace Finishes Its AcqHire of iLike”

Business Insider, July 5, 2010:

“Thing Labs — the team behind Twitter client Brizzly — is not going to be acq-hired by Foursquare, cofounder and CEO Jason Shellen tweets.”

Techcrunch, April 27, 2011:

“Another day, another ‘acqhire’ for social gaming giant Zynga.”

The New York Times, May 17, 2011:

“Companies like Facebook, Google and Zynga are so hungry for the best talent that they are buying start-ups to get their founders and engineers — and then jettisoning their products. Some technology blogs call it being ‘acqhired.'”

So far it seems to only used almost exclusively in technology journalism, and it’s a little clunky (how do you pronounce it?). Nevertheless, it solves a problem by labeling a concept that didn’t already have a label. We’ll see if it proves useful elsewhere.

Further reading: A detailed examination of the word by Ben Zimmer.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Language, Technology, Words

One comment

  1. Rex Hammock says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Daryl. (And I’m sorry it took me so long for a google “ego-search” to find my name here.) While I do “take credit” for the word, I tend to assume anyone who takes credit for creating something on the internet doesn’t actually deserve it. So, I don’t believe such “taken” credit — even when I was taking it, myself.

    That’s why I’m glad that someone like linguist Ben Zimmer “gave” me credit after doing the research.

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