Etymology- How Words Change Over Time

Maria Boomhower

Visitors: 2,332

Etymology is the study of the origins of words.

As languages develop the meaning of words can change over time. This causes confusion and misunderstanding when communicating with other people.
In a world were you make a living at communicating, advertising or marketing, it is not only important to have clarity in your message, it is also important to think of your target market and understand how they understand words and messages.

On the positive side that words change meaning over time, it has been noted that languages that stay alive, adapt and grow over time.

An example would be the word nice. Nice used to be an insult and meant foolish or stupid in the 13th century and it went through many changes right through to the 18th century with meanings like wanton, extravagant, elegant, strange, modest, thin, and shy or coy. Now it means a good & pleasing or thoughtful & kind.

Silly meant blessed or happy in the 11th century and went through pious, innocent, harmless, pitiable and feeble minded before ending up as foolish or stupid.

Pretty started as crafty this changed to clever or skillfully made, then to fine and ended up as beautiful.

Some other changes are:

Word _ Original Meaning
Awful_ Deserving of awe
Bead _Prayer
Brave_ Cowardice (as in bravado)
Girl_ Young person of either sex
Neck_ Parcel of land (as in neck of the woods)
Nuisance_ Injury, harm

There are several reasons for words change meaning. One is the influence of other languages and cultures. Throughout history, many nations through conquering or intermixing with one another, introduced their own languages into the mix. Another reason is the predominate use of slang words. We get so used to using them that many times we forget that we even are.

So when it comes to defining words, there is the standard dictonary, which by the way can show multiple meanings for one word, and there is the definition of the word in slang. As well, slang words spread faster and are used more often than before, making them common place in many societies.

Due to the advancement of science and technology, new words are also being created at an amazing rate. Keeping up with some of the new words and your usage of them will help in your efforts understand and to become a master communicator.

Once every ten years, the Merriam- Webster dictionary is updated. Their 11th edition for 2003 included some 10,000 new words along with 100,000 new meanings to words already existing and some 225,00 revised definitions.

Some of the slang words that have made it in the dictionary are;

Headbanger- a hard rock musician and a fan

Dead presidents- Paper currency

Prairie Gophering – people who peer above their cubicles at work.

McJob- Low paying and dead-end work.

Comb-over- an attempt to cover a bald spot

You can learn about more words in an etymology dictionary.

We can use this as another reminder, especially when it is important to have a group goal achieved, that what a word means to us, may not have the same meaning to someone else.

There is also the emotional reactions that different people have to certain words. But that's another story. . .

All the Best!
Maria Boomhower
The Master Communicator
Ezine sign-up ">Click Here

P. S. If you like what you're reading in this ezine, you'll love the book,
“Overcoming Barriers to Communication. ”
It's a manual that helps you overcome the challengers that start with Intrapersonal to Interpersonal and on to Mass Communication. '>Overcoming Barriers to Communication


Article Source:

Rate this Article: 
Changing The World With Words: How To Write And Sell Articles On Social Change
Rated 4 / 5
based on 5 votes

Related Articles:

Change the Words and Change the World

by: Kevin Burk (March 18, 2005) 
(Self Improvement/Coaching)

Change your Words

by: H. Bernard Wechsler (June 28, 2007) 
(Self Improvement)

Why Two Words Can Change Your Life For the Better

by: Donna Kai Wilson (June 25, 2008) 
(Self Improvement)

Two Words That Can Change Your Life

by: Mike Myatt (August 25, 2006) 

Eight Words That Can Change Your Life

by: Stephen Henry (September 07, 2005) 
(Self Improvement/Positive Attitude)

32 Words That Can Change Your Life

by: Carina MacInnes (January 15, 2006) 

Law of Attraction - 3 Words That Can Change Your Life

by: Brigitte Nadeau (February 12, 2008) 
(Self Improvement/Attraction)

Traffic Adsense Money 3 Words That Could Change Your Life

by: Arthur Wright (June 29, 2006) 
(Internet and Businesses Online/PPC Advertising)

Re-Programming Your Word Choice and Using Power Words to Change Your Life

by: Andrew Felton (June 02, 2008) 
(Self Improvement/Techniques)

Changing The World With Words: How To Write And Sell Articles On Social Change

by: Brad Swift (October 15, 2005) 
(Writing and Speaking/Writing Articles)