The English language is constantly changing. New words seem to be emerging on a daily basis and some existing words are getting new definitions.
The original meaning of many words has been long forgotten — until now. Best Life recently uncovered dozens of everyday words that once used to mean something completely different. The findings are rather amusing.
Based on Best Life’s research, here are 11 words that once had completely different meanings than the ones we know today:
- Awful. This word is anything but complimentary, but years ago it was used as a form of praise, describing people and things as “worthy of awe.”
- Flirt. Nowadays, we describe someone who is playful in a romantic way as a flirt. Or in a less flattering manner, we call a tease a flirt. However, in the 1500s the word had nothing to do with dating. It was used to describe a quick jerking motion.
- Cheater. The term that we use today to describe dishonesty was once used to describe royal officers who looked after the king’s escheats, which was the land he acquired upon the death of someone without a legal heir. The meaning of the term changed to reflect the dubious ways in which the officers did their jobs.
- Naughty. It is easy to see where the original meaning of this term, which is used nowadays to describe someone who misbehaves, came from. Naught means zero and back in the day, people who had nothing, or naught, were naughty.
- Terrible. We use the word terrible to describe a person, thing, or event that is far from pleasant, but the original term was used to describe actual fits of terror.
- Bully. Calling someone a bully implies they are intentionally seeking to harm or intimidate someone, so it is strange to think the term was once used to call someone “sweetheart.”
- Silly. The word silly was used to describe innocence, happiness, and even someone who is fortunate, but somehow over the years it picked up a negative connotation and is now used to refer to someone who acts foolishly or childishly.
- Dapper. What is the link between a stylish, well-groomed man and bravery? The word dapper. Originally derived from the German word tapfer which means “brave,” the term dapper originally referred to someone as bold or daring. Somehow, the meaning changed to refer to a stylish man.
- Fantastic. This term, which is used to refer to something as extraordinarily good, originally described something that existed in one’s imagination.
- Girl. The word that is used to refer to a young female referred to any young person, regardless of gender, in the Middle Ages.
- Guy. We casually throw the term around to describe the male species, but hundreds of years ago the word was used in a completely different context — to describe someone who had a grotesque appearance.