Words are incredibly complex things. Whether it’s words that have the same spelling but different meanings (homonym) or the same word which has two completely opposite meanings (contranym), the English Language can be an incredibly confusing thing. It is important to note that words are not always fixed in their meanings, they can evolve over time. This change in the meaning of words is something that has happened since words were invented and is not something to blame on younger generations, regardless of how much as you dislike the new, positive connotations of the word ‘sick’!
Below we will list 5 words whose meanings have changed over time:
Nice: This word used to mean “silly, foolish, simple”, pretty much the exact opposite of what
Awful: Awful used to mean “worthy of awe”, reserved for amazing things, rather than the terrible things that are described by it today.
Myriad: Whereas today myriad is used to mean “a lot”, 600 years ago this word was much more specific. Myriad used to mean exactly 10,000!
Eerie: Now used to describe something that inspires fear, i.e, ‘A dark, eerie forest’, you used to be able to feel eerie yourself, ‘she felt faint and eerie’, as it was used as we would now use the word ‘afraid’!
Egregious: It used to be possible for it to be a good thing to be egregious: it meant you were distinguished or renowned. But in the end, the negative meaning of the word won out, and now it means that someone or something is conspicuously bad — not conspicuously good.
Are there any words you know of that have changed in meaning dramatically over time? Let us know on our social media pages!