On Words and Meanings

It’s amazing where words come from and how they change meanings over time.  The History of English brings a great, multi-part article on how new words are added to the English language.

I particularly enjoyed the section on changes in word meanings over time, some even have come to mean the opposite of their original meanings:

Some words came to mean almost the complete opposite of their original meanings. For instance, counterfeit used to mean a legitimate copy; brave once implied cowardice; crafty was originally a term of praise; cute used to mean bow-legged; enthusiasm and zeal were both once disparaging words; manufacture originally meant to make by hand; awful meant deserving of awe; egregious originally connoted eminent or admirable; artificial was a positive description meaning full of skilful artifice; etc.

I’d love to get more on the ‘why’ behind the changes.  Some are obvious, like awful but others seem to defy logic like counterfeit.