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Questions tagged [semantic-shift]

Semantic shift is the change in meaning that occurs in many words

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55
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7answers
16k views

When is my son's first birthday?

[Clue: he was born three weeks ago, on 23 September 2014.] Originally, as I understand it, the word birthday meant the day of one's birth. It was a one-off event. I don't want to quarrel with the ...
52
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6answers
19k views

How did phobia ever come to mean hatred?

I understand the word 'phobia' to mean an irrational fear of something, tracing its roots to the Greek word ῾φοβια᾽ associated with flight, dread, or terror. How then did this word ever come to ...
43
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10answers
7k views

Has “hacker” definitely gained a negative connotation?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a hacker as: One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff. One who uses programming skills to gain illegal access to a ...
19
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8answers
13k views

Does “criticism” imply positive as well as negative?

I thought I was always taught at school that criticism meant evaluation and opinion, either positive or negative. These days, it seems criticism, or to criticise, is almost exclusively used to mean ...
18
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2answers
3k views

How did “to draw” shift to mean “to depict with lines”?

"To draw" originally meant "to drag, pull", and it's pretty easy to make sense of the many meanings of the verb with that in mind. Draw a sword, draw a card, draw water from a well, draw breath, a ...
13
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6answers
2k views

“Literally” and “Decimate” misuse

Recently I've heard American TV commentators say "[a person] was literally decimated" and "[a Senator] was literally thrown under the bus". In the first case I think the person was not actually 10% ...
11
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4answers
4k views

“Decimate”: has it been used in the “classic” sense in modern writing?

In this question, I learned that "to decimate" meant to reduce by 10% (hope I got that right). And it is lamented that no-one uses it in this sense anymore. Now, given that I never until today knew ...
11
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3answers
1k views

Is “What goes around comes around” African-American?

The famous aphorism, (and a Justin Timberlake's song) what goes around comes around, appears to have originated in the United States. It refers to a completed cycle, and normally carries a negative ...
11
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1answer
1k views

Why and how did “a sensible boy” become “intelligent and prudent”?

Italians often get confused by sensible and sensitive. If I tell them He's a sensible boy; he studies hard, saves his money, and plans ahead. They are quite bewildered. To them, sensible is ...
7
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2answers
794 views

Is the difference in “sake” in English and Japanese a form of semantic change?

In Japanese, "sake" means any alcoholic beverage, whereas in English, it means a particular beverage from Japan (Nihonshu, literally "Japanese alcohol"). Is this a case of semantic change, or is ...
7
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3answers
171 views

Term for metonymy becoming an accepted word for the original, over time

A metonymy: ... a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept The only example I can think of is tea. Tea can refer to the drink or the ...
6
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3answers
1k views

Why and when did “breast” become gender-specific?

In the past, "breast" used to be applicable to both male and female chests, but is generally only gender neutral nowadays when used in certain contexts, such as "breast meat" or "breastplate". Why and ...
6
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2answers
109 views

When did 'wyrm' lose its meaning as dragon?

I'm interested in finding out (roughly) when the Old English word 'wyrm' began to lose its meaning as 'A serpent, snake, dragon' due to the competing 'draca' and the later borrowing 'dragon'. I've ...
6
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3answers
223 views

How did “right-on” become pejorative in BrEng?

In The Guardian, I read the following passage The former Leicester, Everton, Spurs and Barcelona striker, also vowed to continue to “speak up for refugees and immigrants and British values of ...
6
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2answers
2k views

What is the real history of the word “scenario”?

In a moment of revery, I pondered from what language the word "scenario" originated. Unsurprisingly, it's Italian in origin, according to etymonline, but the etymonline etymology surprised me - the ...
6
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1answer
273 views

Is there a technical term for the degeneration or evolution of words?

Based on this question, I was curious if there is an actual term that describes how words' meanings change or become deprecated over time.
5
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1answer
881 views

How did we get ‘deft’ and ‘daffy’ from “daft”?

[ Etymonline for 'daft (adj.)'] Old English gedæfte "gentle, becoming," ... from PIE * dhabh- "to fit together" (see fabric). Sense of "mild, well-mannered" (c. 1200). [ Etymonline for 'daffy'] ...
5
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3answers
656 views

Origins of the shift in usage/meaning of the word “religion”

I need some research help regarding the shift in the meaning/usage of the word "religion" in Christian parlance. Background: In recent years the use word "religion" has changed from its classic ...
5
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2answers
159 views

Linguistic connection between the geophysical “bluff” and the deceptive “bluff”?

I know that words can have their etymology independent of words that share the same spelling, but according to Etymology Dictionary, both the geophysical "Bluff" and the deceptive "Bluff" originate in ...
5
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1answer
227 views

How did “womanizer” develop its current meaning?

A womanizer is: a man who always seems to have a new girlfriend, and who has no hesitation about starting up a new relationship before he's ended the last one. Usually, these relationships are ...
4
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2answers
804 views

The semantic shift of “mundane”

All the main English dictionaries give the following as the primary meaning of mundane: Dull; ordinary and not interesting or exciting, especially because of happening too regularly, (ODO, ...
4
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3answers
898 views

Timeline of semantic change of the term “social justice warrior” (SJW)

We have a question about the origin of "SJW". I'm interested in how its usage has changed over time. As a rough outline: It seems to have started out as a nonce-term of praise. Then, it took on a ...
4
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2answers
408 views

Does the “she was found in violation of…” <-> “she was violated” equivalence have a name?

This is a follow-up to this question: Why is "violated" being used as future perfect with a person as the object? At that question, it was established that there is a jargon/slang usage of ...
4
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5answers
2k views

“Are YOU coming to get me” / “Are you coming to GET me” Is there any grammatical or semantic difference?

Is there any grammatical or semantic difference between the phrases: "Are you coming to get me?"—used to imply the question of whether that particular person is coming to get whoever. And this ...
4
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1answer
474 views

What lexical relationship lies between the days of the week?

I'm confused, What is the lexical relationship between "Monday" and "Tuesday"? I mean is the relationship hyponymy, prototypes, polysemy, homophones, metonymy etc?
3
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1answer
140 views

Semantic drift: are the words “can”, “could”, etc becoming contranyms?

There have been questions on ELU about the pronunciation of can and can't in American English. This question is about the usage of the word, not simply its pronunciation. Here are a couple of ...
3
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1answer
113 views

Recent shifts in semantics which lead to misunderstandings [closed]

I was just answering this question. It is about a use of "should". The word seems to have undergone a semantic shift away from a simple first-person form of "would". Instead it is today most often ...
2
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1answer
93 views

How did something comprehensive fail to be comprehensible?

According to Wiktionary the etymology of "comprehensive" derives from Latin "comprehensivius" (via French) which in turn means comprehensible. However I often find comprehensive sources to be very ...
1
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2answers
3k views

“Ridiculous amount”: semantic change (amelioration) originated from an antiphrasis? When and how?

"Ridiculous" means laughable, laughable because it is obviously and hilariously not good enough. However in English "a ridiculous amount of money" is "a ridiculously large amount of money". In ...
1
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1answer
75 views

Is the use of the word “cracker” as a racial slur so common that it cannot safely be used to refer to certain hackers? [duplicate]

I always liked to use the word "crackers" to refer to people who overcome computer software or security restrictions, as opposed to "hackers," which (supposedly) originally meant people skilled at ...
1
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1answer
825 views

Usage and meaning of the term “narrative”

I have the impression that the term narrative, which traditionally refers to the literary sense of: the art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story: Somerset Maugham was a ...
1
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1answer
407 views

Is it common for “unmitigated” to be used hyperbolically?

In Thousands of radioactive boars are overrunning farmland in Fukushima, the word "unmitigated" is used, even though it isn't an unqualified disaster, as noted in the next sentence. Nuclear ...
1
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1answer
274 views

If “propriety” is from the French for “property”, why is it now about proper comportment?

I was trying to reverse-translate a quote I mistakenly believed to be originally in French that I saw in English, so as to find the source. (It turned out to be from Jeremy Bentham.) In the process, I ...
1
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1answer
248 views

The modern usage of the term scantily clad

The term scantily clad is commonly defined as inadequately clothed, under dressed, or wearing something that covers too little of the body, but I've seen the term used simply to describe people who ...
1
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1answer
48k views

Which is correct: I'll be moving next month or I'll be shifting next month?

For changing one's home from one place to another, I've heard people in western part of the world using the sentence: I'll be moving next month. In India, even in the English news channels, I've ...
1
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1answer
498 views

How common is the misuse of “literally” to mean “figuratively”? [closed]

This question "Literally" and "Decimate" misuse addresses the misuse of the word "literally" to mean its opposite. I am curious as to how prevalent is such misuse. My hunch is ...
1
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0answers
376 views

Can you still use “epic” in a non-“epic” way?

The semantic shift of epic from denoting something related with heroism, grandeur, etc. to meaning something more akin to awesome or impressive is well-attested. However, how much is its older meaning ...
0
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2answers
118 views

Business English Semantic Shift of “Abreast”

My coworker just sent out an email asking someone to [please] keep abreast for a response. My understanding is that the phrase is keep abreast of x, and that it is used to mean actively keeping up ...
0
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1answer
409 views

How has pathetic fallacy's meaning changed?

When John Ruskin first coined the term pathetic fallacy he truly did mean that people were committing a fallacy when describing inanimate objects as having characteristics (or having pathos so were, ...
0
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1answer
864 views

Whatever happened to thou and thee? Thy words have become more dreary [closed]

Why did thee, thou and thy come to disappear from English? I am looking for solid explanations, rather than observations that these are still used in dialects in the north. Please explain cause for ...
-1
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2answers
7k views

The prefix “post” can it mean before? [closed]

The posterior is the behind, the postero-dorsal is behind the antero-dorsal. But when we're talking about time, postmodern means "of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one". So are there ...
-2
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1answer
48 views

“Mining” as opposed to “minting” w.r.t. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

I find it fascinating that nearly everyone refers to the algorithmic generation of cryptocurrencies (CC) as mining. Personally, I've never found minting in this context. In my understanding of the ...