Are there any newer-ish words for things/ideas that existed 100-200 years ago. In English I don't know of good examples. To be clear I'm not talking about new words like "email" or "blog". Those didn't exist in the past. Basically I'm asking like now we might say "Don't be late" but in the past they said "Don't be foobar" where "late" is the new common word and it used to be "foobar".

At the moment I can really only take some examples from Japanese because in Japanese new words often stick out. Two examples. One, the word "level" is in common usage in Japanese as in "this product has the highest level quality". Clearly at some point in the past the an actual Japanese origin word would have been used for "level" but at some point this new word "level" became common. Similarly the English word "towel" is common usage in Japanese as in "I will dry off with a towel" where as 100 or 200 years ago people would have used a Japanese word.

For English I'm not specifically talking about loan words though. I'm wondering if there are any words in common usage today that have replaced words that were in common usage in the past.

Maybe pants vs pantaloons?

Note: I'm more curious about common words. The examples above "level", "towel", "pants" are every day words and are in this list of the 3000 most common English words. I'm not only looking for words in that list, just trying to help give examples of what a "common word" is. Also not interested in slang.

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    Are you asking about words like "cool, tubular, sick, mad, skillz, whack, sus, fleek," etc, where they can all be used to describe ideas and concepts that existed 100-200 years ago but where not used then? If so, this question is too broad as there are literally hundreds or more words. If you are asking specifically of names for actual physical things whose name has changed, that's maybe more interesting, but I can't think of any off hand.
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2019 at 18:58
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    There are architectural styles where today we might call the style "Colonial-" or "Tudor-style" but they most certainly were not called that when they first appeared.
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2019 at 20:13

4 Answers 4


There are many dialect words that have fallen into disuse; some may have been replaced by newer words and some not.

For one word that is rich in historical and social change, look at the changing names for privy / lavatory / toilet.

Another example is the changing role of science:

Scientists had previously been known as natural philosophers, but a new emphasis on empirical and inductive methodology led to a perceived need for change:

1840 WHEWELL Philos. Induct. Sci. I. Introd. 113 We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist.


For examples of dialect words not used now see



Not to be political but how about the word dotard? I am curious as to how that word came to be used by North Korea and what the persons English language background is. My guess is that it’s an old English word and they used a thesaurus when writing the letter.


One comment I saw recently.

There is the new term islamophobia (language or actions offensive to Muslims). But back in 1982, when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, the term islamophobia was not yet in use. Instead, English-language descriptions of the complaint against Rushdie used the already-existing term for the same thing: blasphemy.

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    I have never seen the word islamophobia ("irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam") used to mean anything like blasphemy ("the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God"). One of these is a social and political judgement and one is strictly religious. Where have you seen islamophobia used in place of blasphemy?
    – Juhasz
    Dec 17, 2019 at 19:21
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    "Blasphemy" is not a synonym for "islamophobia". Blasphemy means actions or statements which express disrespect for beliefs, scriptures, spiritual figures or practices associated with any religion. Islamophobia, on the other hand, is specifically fear or hatred of followers of Islam and does not, necessarily, include blasphemy. A person can blaspheme against the tenets any religion or sect, in fact a Muslim could make a blasphemous joke or statement against St Mary the Virgin which would offend Roman Catholics without committing blasphemy in his own religious context.
    – BoldBen
    Dec 17, 2019 at 19:25

Some modern terms are less harsh, e.g. out-of-wedlock as opposed to bastard.

  • I can't say that I've ever found an "out-of-wedlock" file in the tool department at Home Despot.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 18, 2019 at 2:07
  • out-of-wedlock (adj/ adv) vs. bastard (adj/noun); Does it match?
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 18, 2019 at 13:22
  • They used words differently back then :)
    – user205876
    Dec 18, 2019 at 15:40
  • @HotLicks A bastard file is so-named because of the diagonal teeth -- a diagonal stripe on a coat-of-arms indicated a bastard son. Interestingly, bastard generally meant a thing that was created that fell halfway between two other "pure" forms. For example, a bastard sword that is halfway between a great sword (two-handed) and a sword (one-handed). I believe that sense pre-dated the application to children born out of wedlock.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 20, 2019 at 16:55

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