Is there a term for words like "aftermath" or "windfall" that originally had a completely different meaning to the sense in which they are used today? Windfall for example, originally referred to fruits shaken off trees by the wind but has come to mean a stroke of good fortune. Idiomatic is the closest I could come up with but I am not sure if that is accurate.

  • Yes, idiom works. See definition 1.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 6:07
  • 1
    I mean, aren't the terms being used metaphorically? I imagine they would be some subclass of metaphors.
    – tidbertum
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


I think this is an example of semantic shift. In the example of ‘windfall’, its meaning has widened, and it has become a metaphor for a stroke of good fortune.

There is more information about this on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_change

I am not aware if there is a specific term for examples of semantic shift.

  • This wikipedia article cites "broadcast" as an example of semantic shift and classifies it as a metaphor. My examples are pretty much in the same category. Thanks for the reference.
    – Dinesh
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 9:46

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