I was writing an essay a while back and my teacher advised me not to use the word "queer" to describe something out of the ordinary because nowadays it is a LGBT related word that wouldn't portray what I wanted it to. In case I decide to write another essay, are there other words whose connotation has changed over time/ words I should look out for if I want to use them?

I don't know about ten years from now, but right now, are there any words I should look out for?

  • "Gay" comes to mind. – deadrat Jun 17 '15 at 5:36
  • Intercourse, in the conversational meaning - youtube.com/watch?v=YQ7Tak6fK9w – mplungjan Jun 17 '15 at 5:56
  • I'd prefer 'whose primary sense has changed over time'. It's more than connotation. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '15 at 7:55
  • No, there are no words whose meaning has changed over time. All of the words that exist today mean exactly what they meant when I coined them, long, long ago. – Drew Jun 18 '15 at 1:37
  • 'Retarded' is another one. Be careful, lest ye be spat upon by the SJW crowd. Almost anything you say can and will offend them. – Adam Hayes Mar 9 '16 at 19:56

In Sherlock Holmes stories I found characters often ejaculating. Nowadays people seem to have stopped this nasty habit. :-)


There are lots of people engaging in intercourse in 18th century novels, but not the fun kind. It used to mean conversation or just interpersonal activity of any kind.


The short answer is, yes, there are many many words whose meanings have changed a great deal in the last hundred or two hundred years, and may cause offence or just laughter. But there's no formula for telling which word has changed: there's no particular reason why you should be alert to the fact that "queer" has acquired a new meaning but "odd" still just means "odd".

You can look words up in a good dictionary, and you can ask native speakers, that's pretty much all you can do to avoid this kind of problem. Or you could research slang specifically to do with sexuality to solve this particular problem. Let us know how you get on.

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