Eight words which have completely changed their meaning over time
Strangely, their original meaning was very different – or totally the opposite – of what it is now.
This originally meant “full of artistic or technical skill”.
Now its meaning has a very different slant:
1. produced by man; not occurring naturally: artificial materials of great strength
2. made in imitation of a natural product, esp as a substitute; not genuine: artificial cream
3. pretended; assumed; insincere: an artificial manner
4. lacking in spontaneity; affected: an artificial laugh
5. biology relating to superficial characteristics not based on the interrelationships of organisms: an artificial classification
[C14: from Latin artificiālis belonging to art, from artificium skill, artifice ]
This comes from the Latin “not to know”. Originally a ‘nice person’ was someone who was ignorant or unaware.
1. pleasant or commendable: a nice day
2. kind or friendly: a nice gesture of help
3. good or satisfactory: they made a nice job of it
4. subtle, delicate, or discriminating: a nice point in the argument
5. precise; skilful: a nice fit
6. rare fastidious; respectable: he was not too nice about his methods
7. nice and pleasingly: it’s nice and cool
[C13 (originally: foolish): from Old French nice simple, silly, from Latin nescius ignorant, from nescīre to be ignorant; see nescience ]
This meant “full of awe” i.e. something wonderful, delightful, amazing.
However, over time it has evolved to mean exactly the opposite:
1. very bad; unpleasant
2. not standard (intensifier): an awful cold day
This once was used to signify “cowardice”. Indeed, its old meaning lives on in the word ‘bravado’.
1. a. having or displaying courage, resolution, or daring; not cowardly or timid b. ( as collective noun preceded by the ): the brave
2. fine; splendid: a brave sight ; a brave attempt
3. archaic excellent or admirable
4. a warrior of a Native American tribe
5. an obsolete word for bully
6. to dare or defy: to brave the odds
7. to confront with resolution or courage: to brave the storm
8. obsolete to make splendid, esp in dress
[C15: from French, from Italian bravo courageous, wild, perhaps ultimately from Latin barbarus barbarous ]
From the Latin meaning “to make by hand” this originally signified things that were created by craftsmen.
Now the opposite, made by machines, is its meaning:
1. to process or make (a product) from a raw material, esp as a large-scale operation using machinery
2. ( tr ) to invent or concoct: to manufacture an excuse
3. the production of goods, esp by industrial processes
4. a manufactured product 5. the creation or production of anything
[C16: from obsolete manufact hand-made, from Late Latin manūfactus, from Latin manus hand + facere to make]
This once meant a “perfect copy”.
Now it means anything but:
1. made in imitation of something genuine with the intent to deceive or defraud; forged 2. simulated; sham: counterfeit affection
3. an imitation designed to deceive or defraud
4. archaic an impostor; cheat
5. ( tr ) to make a fraudulent imitation of
6. ( intr ) to make counterfeits
7. to feign; simulate
8. ( tr ) to imitate; copy
[C13: from Old French contrefait, from contrefaire to copy, from contre- counter- + faire to make, from Latin facere ]
Originally this meant “to test”. The old meaning survives in the phrase ‘proving ground’.
Now it means:
1. ( may take a clause as object or an infinitive ) to establish or demonstrate the truth or validity of; verify, esp by using an established sequence of procedures or statements
2. to establish the quality of, esp by experiment or scientific analysis
3. law to establish the validity and genuineness of (a will)
4. to show (oneself) able or courageous
5. ( copula ) to be found or shown (to be): this has proved useless ; he proved to be invaluable
6. printing to take a trial impression of (type, etc)
7. ( intr ) (of dough) to rise in a warm place before baking
8. archaic to undergo
[C12: from Old French prover, from Latin probāre to test, from probus honest]
Its original meaning was “to count”. Which is how we came by the term ‘bank teller’.
1. ( when tr, may take a clause as object ) to let know or notify: he told me that he would go
2. ( tr ) to order or instruct (someone to do something): I told her to send the letter airmail
3. to give an account or narration (of something): she told me her troubles
4. ( tr ) to communicate by words; utter: to tell the truth
5. ( tr ) to make known; disclose: to tell fortunes
6. to serve as an indication: her blush told of her embarrassment
7. ( tr; used with can, etc ; may take a clause as object ) to comprehend, discover, or discern: I can tell what is wrong
8. ( tr; used with can, etc ) to distinguish or discriminate: he couldn’t tell chalk from cheese
9. ( intr ) to have or produce an impact, effect, or strain: every step told on his bruised feet
10. informal to reveal secrets or gossip (about): don’t tell! ; she told on him
11. ( tr ) to assure: I tell you, I’ve had enough!
12. ( tr ) to count (votes)
13. dialect ( intr ) to talk or chatter
14. informal chiefly ( US ) to tell the truth no matter how unpleasant it is
15. tell the time to read the time from a clock 16. slang you’re telling me I know that very well
[Old English tellan; related to Old Saxon tellian, Old High German zellen to tell, count, Old Norse telja ]
Words Completely Changed – Dagutigui