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Jargon is terminology, much like slang, that relates to a specific activity, profession, or group. It develops as a kind of shorthand, to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, and also to distinguish those belonging to a group from those who are not. This is sometimes called "guild" or "insider" jargon. Newcomers or those unfamiliar with a subject can often be tagged by their incorrect use of jargon. The use of jargon by outsiders is considered by insiders to be audacious, since it constitutes a claim to membership of the insider group. Conversely, since outsiders may not see the reference made via jargon, they are all the more sensitive to its more visible elitist social framing. Jargon to the outsider usually comes across as pedantic, nerdy, and divorced from meaning.

Jargon can be distinguished from terminology in that it is informal and essentially part of the oral culture of a group, with limited formal or written expression. Many jargon terms have non-jargon equivalents which would be used in print or when addressing non-specialists; other jargon terms, particularly those which are used to characterise or even ridicule non-specialists, have no such equivalents.