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20 Words that once had different meanings

Languages are continually changing, and several of the words we use today had different meanings only a couple of decades ago.

Some words even came to mean the exact opposite of what they used to!

Nice: Although it’s a compliment today, it used to mean silly / foolish / simple.

Silly: Historically it meant worthy / blessed, today it indicates that something or someone is foolish.

Awful: Originally used to describe things that are “worthy of awe”, today it describes things that are terrible.

Fizzle: Used to refer to quiet flatulence, now it indicates a failure to complete something.

Wench: Originally used to reference female children, then female servants, and today references wanton women.

Fathom: Used to mean “to encircle with one’s arms”, today means “to understand after much thought”.

Clue: In past centuries, referred to a ball of yarn.

Myriad: Used to mean exactly 10,000, not just “a lot”.

Naughty: Historically meant having naught / nothing, transitioned to meaning evil / immoral, today means badly behaved.

Eerie: Originally referred to people feeling fear, today refers to things that inspire fear.

Spinster: Used to indicate women who spun (as in, spun yarn as an occupation). Today refers to an unmarried woman.

Bachelor: This used to mean a young knight, transitioned to meaning someone who had achieved the lowest rank at university, and today means an unmarried man.

Flirt: Historically, flirting meant flicking something away or making some brisk / jerky motion. Today it means playing with someone’s emotions.

Guy: Originally meaning a frightful figure and names after Guy Fawkes, the man who attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605, today it refers to any man.

Hussy: Originally was a shortened version of “housewife”, today refers to a disreputable woman.

Egregious: Used to describe someone who was distinguished or eminent, today it means someone or something conspicuously bad.

Quell: Historically meant killing something, today means subduing something.

Divest: Historically meant undressing or depriving others of their rights or possessions. Today means selling off investments.

Senile: Used to refer to anything related to old age, now specifically refers to people suffering from senile dementia.

Meat: Historically meant any kind of solid food, today means just animal flesh.

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