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- See the article on National Socialism regarding the ideology
Nazi is a political epithet invented by Konrad Heiden during the 1920s, as a means of denigrating the NSDAP and National Socialism. Heiden was a journalist and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, whose mother was Jewish.
The word itself derives from the German word for National Socialism: "Nationalsozialismus". It was coined for its negative sound and connection, as the word "sozi" had previously been used to refer to Marxists in Germany, particularly those of the Social Democratic Party of Germany - "Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands". It is also a political pun similar to an Austro-Bavarian word for "simpleton". It was then popularised abroad by various individuals, including Heiden himself, who fled the country after the NSDAP gained power.
Related words include Nazism and Neo-Nazism.
The word was and is used almost exclusively by opponents.
The NSDAP briefly adopted the word, in attempt to give it a more positive sense, but soon gave up this effort and generally avoided it while in power. A rare example of its usage is a 1931 work by Joseph Goebbels titled The Nazi-Sozi: Questions and Answers for National Socialists.
In the Soviet Union, the terms National Socialist and Nazi have been stated to have been forbidden after 1932, presumably to avoid any taint to the word "socialist". Soviet literature instead referred to fascists.
As an example of popular political correctness and political bias, compare the usage of the term "Soviet Union" with "Commie Russia", cheap name calling.
Despite this, using "Nazi" or "Nazism" instead of "National Socialist" or "National Socialism" is extremely common. For example Wikipedia routinely uses "Nazi", despite not using "Commie".