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I'm looking for a phrase similar to "lost in translation", except in relation to time, meaning a sentence or word loses its original meaning over time and it morphs to mean something different than what was meant in a different time period. Is there a word or phrase like that?

Example: the phrase "Blood is thicker than water" supposedly used to mean that "ties between people who've made a blood covenant were stronger than ties formed by the water of the womb", but over time it changed to mean the complete opposite. How would you refer to such a change?

  • (Not that it really makes much difference to your question, but this supposed origin of the phrase blood is thicker than water is amost certainly untrue.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 31 '18 at 16:23
  • @JanusBahsJacquet (I know, hence why I wrote "supposedly". I think we all know what I mean here, right?) – noClue Oct 31 '18 at 17:14
  • What is wrong with the similar phrase "lost in time"? – Jason Bassford Oct 31 '18 at 23:35
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Anachronistic? I know it means "chronologically misplaced" so maybe it's a stretch in that it doesn't specifically mean that the meaning is reversed, but it could mean that a sentence or word no longer fits our current use.

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How have I not thought about it earlier!

"Changing over time to take on an appearance remote enough from what you were originally no longer to be recognisable" is the figurative meaning of the verb "warping something" and "getting warped by something".

At the entry for "warp", the online Cambridge Dictionary has the following definitions, literal meaning first, and figurative meaning next, of course:

[ I or T ] If wood warps, or if water or heat warps it, it becomes damaged by bending or twisting:

After being left in the damp garage, the wooden frame had warped. The heat had warped the boards.


[T] to make a person or their behaviour strange, in an unpleasant or harmful way:

Prison warps people. Had it warped Kelley enough that he would kill a stranger?

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/warp

Over time, misconceptions about the phrase "Blood is thicker than water." have warped it to such an extent that it has taken a meaning which is the opposite of its original meaning, like a plank so warped that the face looking up at one end looks down at the other end.

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Your example and your analogy provoke different phrases for me.

Evolve fits your example of "blood is thicker than water" as it describes how something changes over time.

Fade from memory or similar (past, history, etc.) is closer to your analogy of "lost in translation," as it is a) a phrase and 2) describes meaning disappearing, not just changing. (Edited, kudos Laurel.)

  • Fade into memory? – Laurel Oct 31 '18 at 16:30
  • Fade to memory? @Laurel – Unrelated Oct 31 '18 at 16:38
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    The expression is “fade from memory” – Laurel Oct 31 '18 at 16:40

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