Some word meanings change over time –
When it comes to expressing ourselves, the world has been getting it wrong for hundreds of years… literally.
The word “literally” means “in a literal way or sense” but, to the fury of language purists, many people now use it simply to stress a point.
And what about these words; how have they changed in meaning –
Awful – In the 1300s it originally meant “inspiring wonder” and was a short version of “full of awe”. But now the word has purely negative connotations.
Broadcast – It may now be the way the BBC spreads the news, but in 1767 “broadcast” meant sowing seeds with a sweeping movement of the hand or a “broad cast”. Its media use began with radio in 1922.
Gay – Back in the 13th century the word meant “light-hearted” or “joyous” and a century later it meant “bright and showy”. But in the 1630s it acquired connotations of immorality with the term “Gay woman” meaning prostitute or “gay house” a brothel. It was first used to refer to homosexuality in the 1930s.
Nice – This word used to mean “silly, foolish, simple.” Far from the compliment it is today!
Naughty – Long ago, if you were naughty, you had naught or nothing. Then it came to mean evil or immoral, and now you are just badly behaved.
Flirt – Some 500 years ago, flirting was flicking something away or flicking open a fan or otherwise making a brisk or jerky motion. Now it involves playing with people’s emotions.
Hussy – Believe it or not, hussy comes from the word housewife (with several sound changes, clearly) and used to refer to the mistress of a household, not the disreputable woman it refers to today.
And here are more words; how have they changed in meaning –
Bad – Bad used to describe someone who’d done something wrong or something that was poor in quality. Today, it also means “good” or “great” when used as slang.
Sick – Sick used to mean ill. Today, it also means something is really amazing.
Rubbers – Rubbers also used to be erasers (and still mean erasers in Britain). Today, it’s most often slang for condoms.
Then there are these words – what do you think they mean today –
Stumble, Troll, Bandwidth, Stream, Spam, Dope, Cool, Bully, Tweet, Snap
You get the idea.
From Wikipedia.org –
What is semantic change?
Semantic change (also semantic shift, semantic progression or semantic drift) is the evolution of word usage — usually to the point that the modern meaning is radically different from the original usage. In diachronic (or historical) linguistics, semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word. Every word has a variety of senses and connotations, which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the extent that cognates across space and time have very different meanings.
Some people take words and use them for their true meaning. Other’s will take words and use them as slang, using words to mean something else.
I guess I do both, but there are certain words that I use for their true meaning and not for slang – this is important to me. What about you?