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Meanings of Words

December 4th, 2013

Last Friday’s blog got me thinking about the origins of words we use every day. An example of this is breakfast. I recently started to fast, just one day a week, to see if this ancient practice has the health benefits it’s claimed to have. Anyway, the point of me telling you this is that it made me really think about the meaning of the word breakfast, which literally means breaking your fast, the fast being that you’ve not eaten all night!

This set me off looking at the origins of words and their original meanings. You’d be surprised at how many words started out life meaning something completely different to what they’re used for now. A prime example of this is the word ‘gay’. When I was a child, way back in the 80s, being gay simply meant you were happy, it had no sexual connotation at all. Now of course it has a rather different meaning and you’re not likely to hear anyone use it to mean happy these days.

So what other words have completely changed meaning over the years? Well ‘nice’ is a great example. Originally, to call someone nice meant you were really calling them stupid! Not so nice after all. Strange that a word we now use to be pleasant to someone was originally used as an insult.

And, you’d never imagine that the original meaning of ‘awful’ was to inspire wonder or awe – makes sense! If someone referred to you as a ‘guy’ in days gone by they’d really be saying you are a person who is grotesque or ugly. If you were strong and vigorous you might be described as ‘nervous’ and if you were travelling on foot you’d be described as a ‘passenger’.

These were only a few of the words I came across and almost all of these have completely switched meanings over the years – shows you just how much language moves and changes over time. Don’t forget it’s still doing it now!

 

 

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