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How to concisely and accurately describe the effect many words (usually adjectives/adverbs) are suffering from, where:

  • they have a clear primary meaning but end up being used merely for emphasis, or to describe something similar but much less significant

  • were you to use them with the primary meaning in mind, you'd need to clarify which it is to be understood, often for the message to even be noticed

  • they are the most accurate words for what you have in mind, the lack of unambiguous drop-in replacements setting them apart from the many other words whose meaning drift does not have the same frustrating impact

Examples:

"Stop, you're literally killing me" (You are causing me lethal damage; not making me rotfl)

"Uncanny semblance" (saliently disturbing similarity, as in uncanny valley; not just remarkable, amazing, significant, interesting, curious likeness)

[edit] The focus is on the effect that has made the words difficult to use in their primary meaning.

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    I would just say that they are trite, or tired, or cliché. – Warren P Jul 26 '16 at 11:06
  • Figurative means something completely different. It means NOT LITERAL. – Warren P Jul 26 '16 at 11:08
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    This sounds like semantic bleaching or perhaps some other kind of grammaticalization (obligorification?). – Dan Bron Jul 26 '16 at 11:11
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    "literally" is a special case, where people say "literally" when they actually mean the opposite, ie "figuratively". They should literally be slapped. – Max Williams Jul 26 '16 at 11:12
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    Figurative ‘literally’ in the OED: Hold the front pages, literally. Or not. There has been much excitement this week over the discovery that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has recorded a sense of the word literally that seems to cause particular irritation. I am speaking of its use in a sentence like “I literally died laughing and had to run out of the room before I disrupted the meeting”. blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/08/literally – user66974 Jul 26 '16 at 11:28
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It appears that the question has no answer, but the closest term to what is described is semantic bleaching (a good explanation here).

Credit goes to Dan Bron, upvote his comment if you agree.

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