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Is there a simple way to describe the phenomenon when usage of a word or expression changes in such a way that it leaves the original concept without a word to describe it?

As usage evolves, sometimes the a new meaning orphans an existing definition. For example, cadence is used when schedule, period, or rhythm is meant.

"We are on a weekly cadence for planning meetings" vs. "We are on a weekly schedule for planning meetings."

At some point, we will no longer have a word meaning "a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase." There is no alternative word for this definition of cadence.

Another example: "Begging the question" is used all the time to mean "suggesting the question," rather than its original definition of the logical fallacy of assuming the conclusion in the premise.

  • I think your question is worth asking, but the examples could be improved. The fact that cadence now has another meaning (relating to schedules) does not mean that it has lost its original meaning. In fact, it already had multiple meanings before management scientists adopted it. The fact that the contexts of those various uses are so different makes it unlikely that adopting the new one will orphan the old one. A better example might be terrific, or awesome, which were once related to fright, but are now usually entirely positive descriptions. – Juhasz Oct 30 at 17:48
  • semantic drift – Lawrence Oct 30 at 18:01
  • If the new meaning gets rid of the old one it's called semantic narrowing. – Robusto Oct 30 at 23:51
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    Literally might be a better example, since its modern meaning fits the same contexts as the historical meaning, so that as the new meaning takes over the old one really can't be used any longer without causing confusion. – The Photon Oct 30 at 23:57

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