Origin and usage
The adjective pre-loved is formed from the prefix ‘pre-‘ and the adjective ‘loved’. Its first recorded use was in an Ohio newspaper in 1972, in an advertisement for a ‘preloved home’. The hyphenated form is more frequent than the closed form, but both are used.
The most frequent noun collocate of preloved in the corpus by far is ‘item’, followed by others such as ‘clothes’, ‘clothing’, ‘furniture’, ‘jewellery’, and, bizarrely, ‘nappy’ (presumably they mean the reusable cloth kind). Terms such as ‘treasures’, ‘goods’ and ‘goodies’ also feature. Pre-loved is on a continuum that runs from ‘used‘ via ‘second-hand‘ through ‘pre-owned‘, with increasingly positive connotations as the list progresses, with pre-loved being the most positive. There is also the rather infrequent term ‘pre-enjoyed’, which I would place between ‘pre-owned’ and ‘pre-loved’ in terms of positivity. Of course a pre-loved book is exactly the same item as a second-hand one, but the emphasis is not on the fact that it’s been owned by someone else, but on the fact that someone else has enjoyed and valued it, and now you can too. The term also chimes with our growing concern over wasted resources and throwaway goods, and as such is very much of our time. Pre-loved is a recent entry in our crowdsourced Open Dictionary whose contributors play an invaluable role in making Macmillan the dynamic and expanding resource that it is.
“They will be selling pre-loved baby clothes and refreshments.”
“The range is made from handmade pieces and 95% preloved items.”
“Car boot sales are another way that pre-enjoyed goods can get a whole new life!”
pre-owned, second-hand, used