Actually, "hinayana" was originally intended to be offensive, and is also misleading, because it implies a homogeneity of the early schools that did not exist. Of course, Mahayanists are not the only ones who developed offensive language concerning the early schools. The Theravadins (who are not one of the original eighteen schools by the way, contrary to popular misconception; see below) referred to the early schools as so many thorns on the tree of dharma. However, the word is also useful because there are not a lot of alternatives, and it has the advantage of being recognizable. The title of my book, Fundamental View, intentionally alludes to the literal meaning of "hina," i.e., base, = basic, using a bit of etymological sleight of hand. I wanted to take what was good about the word and use it, without the pejorative connotation. In my subsequent book, Conversations with the Buddha, I consistently replaced the word with the phrase "the Eighteen Schools," the Hinayana traditionally being identified with the original eighteen schools of early Buddhism. A synonymn for Hinayana is Sravakayana, "the hearers' vehicle," but this is also pejorative. Some people use Theravada as a synonymn for Hinayana, but this is inappropriate since it implies that the relatively late "early" school of Theravada (4th cent. CE) is primary, whereas in fact the Theravadin self-identification with the Sthaviriya (4th cent. BCE) is retrospective and is not mentioned by Warder, for example; this is therefore an ahistorical, sectarian, ideologically motivated back formation, like the word "hinayana" itself, rather like the Jehovah's Witnesses referring to their sect as "original Christianity." Moreover, the Sthavira were not the original Buddhist school, they split from the Mahasamghika, so that one must therefore logically regard the Mahasamghika, precursor of the Mahayana, as the original Buddhist school. Original or presectarian Buddhism is also inappropriate, because the Hinayana consisted of multiple schools and was not presectarian. Incidentally, here is a chronological list of the 18 original Buddhist schools according to A.K. Warder as of circa 50 BCE: Sthaviravada, Mahasamgha, Vatsiputriya, Ekavyavaharika, Gokulika (a.k.a. Kukkutika, etc.), Sarvastivada, Lokottaravada, Dharmottariya, Bhadrayaniya, Sammitiya, Sannagarika, Bahusrutiya, Prajnaptivada, Mahisasaka, Haimavata (a.k.a. Kasyapiya), Dharmaguptaka, Caitika, and the Apara and Uttara (Purva) Saila (quoted from my contribution to the Wikipedia article s.v. Early Buddhist Schools; see also his Indian Buddhism, chap. 9). It is also worth mentioning that the Mahayana does not reject the Hinayana, only one school of which still exists. It is a bodhisattva downfall to disparage the Hinayana. IMHO, the proper Mahayana perspective on the Hinayana is that it constitutes the foundation of Buddhism, much as the foundation of a house; it is not identical with the whole construction of the house, but the whole construction of the house rests on and is supported by the foundation. The house and the foundation need each other. Take away either one, and the whole structure would collapse or be uninhabitable respectively.