If you have visited my blog before, you must have already fathomed that words fascinate me. I mean, words are totally awful as far as I am concerned! Confused now, read on and my ramblings will no longer sound garbled as you check out my list of words that used to mean something completely different before.
I will take you on the journey of the meanings from the beginning –> to a little later (if applicable) –> to now. I have not included additional details here (origins/actual timelines eg: 16th century, etc) today but hope to later(maybe with visuals)!!
Words That Used to Mean Something Completely Different Before
Awful – Egregious
- Awful: worthy of awe for a myriad reasons –> inspiring great dread –> very bad, scary or loathsome
- Artificial: artfully or skillfully constructed (positive) –> fake/not real/not natural (negative)
- Backlog: originally a large log at the back of a fire –> figurative sense “something stored up for later use –> Large number of jobs to be done
- Brave: showy –> courageous
- Bully: sweetheart –> tormentor
- Clue: clew or ball of yarn –> hint
- Cute: sharp or quick-witted –> endearingly attractive, pretty or charming (But we use its original meaning in the phrase ‘don’t get cute with me’!)
- Dapper: brave/daring –> fashionable
- Decimate: kill one in every ten (totally made sense) –> obliterate
- Egregious: illustrious, select –> something outstandingly bad or shocking
Fantastic – Matrix
- Fantastic: something that only exists in the imagination –> extraordinarily good (So the books with titles like fantastic creatures have it perfect for either meaning of the word)
- Fizzle: Fart quietly –> die out
- Flirt: to give (a person) a sharp, sudden blow or knock –> to show superficial or casual interest or liking
- Garble: Sift, separate out impurities –> confused and distorted; unclear
- Girl: a child or young person of either sex –> a female child
- Harbinger: lodging keeper –> a scout who went ahead to book lodgings for the oncoming horde –>a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another
- Hussy: the mistress of a household/housewife –> an impudent or immoral girl or woman
- Jade: broken-down horse –> disreputable woman –> wear out/tire; green gemstone
- Knave: boy, male child; male servant –> scoundrel; rogue; villain
- Matrix: Pregnant animal –> Grid/Pattern
Meticulous – Sad
- Meticulous: frightened and timid –> overly and timidly careful –> extremely careful
- Myriad: specifically 10,000 –> today, an uncountable number or simply many, many…
- Naughty: Someone who had naught (or nothing)/poor –> Evil or immoral –> Badly behaved
- Nice: silly, simple, or foolish person –> finely dressed or shy and reserved –> pleasing, polite, kind
- Obsequious: compliant, obedient –> fawning, toading
- Prestigious: of, relating to, or marked by illusion, conjuring, or trickery (hey, presto!) –>Reputable
- Pretty: crafty and cunning –> clever, skillful, or able (eg: an elegantly drafted speech, or cleverly created something) –> good-looking, especially in a delicate or diminutive way
- Quelling: killing someone/thing –> not just subduing it.
- Restive: sluggish; inactive –> restless; fidgety
- Sad: sated (as from a full meal) –> steadfast –> serious –> sorrowful
Silly – Insegrevious
- Silly: worthy, blessed –> pious –> innocent –> naive –> foolish
- Spinster: a woman who spun yarn or thread –> married women used to find higher paid jobs leaving unmarried women to be spinsters –> tada!
- Undergo: to partake of something –> to assume responsibility –> to experience/endure
- Villain: Farm laborer –> Evil protagonist
- Insegrevious: a nonsense word, but should be one; one that changes meaning every time it’s used. Apparently, invented by comedian Gary Ovens in the 1960s’, this is primarily used as an adjective but meaning whatever the speaker wants it to mean! So I simply had to include it here to make this list insegrevious — you can take it to mean whatever you want!!
You can check out this post of 50 Forgotten Words or this list of books for people who love words and language.
h/t: While I used various online dictionaries along with myriad lists for this list here today, here are a couple websites I discovered as a result that I know I will be returning to (and one that I have loved for a while now):
- Online Etymology Dictionary: An awfully good site about, well, etymology.
- Futility Closet: Check this one out if you have not already!! Truly fascinating site..
- The Phrontistery: ‘The’ Place for unusual words!
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, any words that you were reminded of as you read this post? What is the word that stood out for you? Would love to hear these answers and any other comments you have on this post
2 thoughts on “35 Words That Used to Mean Something Completely Different Before”
What a list of words with meanings I have never heard of! Bully and nice really caught my eye.
It’s just so hard to imagine some of those words being used in those different contexts.