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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Words That Mean the Opposite of What They Used to Mean

Thanks to cultural changes, incorrect translations, and a host of other reasons, word meanings often shift over time. Here, ten words that have done a 180.

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Current meaning: Very unpleasant

Original meaning: Inspiring wonder, as in “full of awe.” Here are 15 more words that have completely changed meaning over time.

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Current meaning: Someone who mocks or harms those who are weaker

Original meaning: A good fellow or a darling. Linguists believe it evolved from the Dutch word “boel,” meaning “lover.”

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Current meaning: Contrived or false

Original meaning: Artfully and skillfully constructed. Here are 8 words that totally sound artificial (today’s definition), but are 100% real.

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Current meaning: Evildoer

Original meaning: A trusted farm hand. It used to be spelled villein, and it evolved into the version we’re familiar with today. Learn the origins of some more of your favorite slang words.

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Current meaning: A conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject

Original meaning: A drinking party. The word comes from the Greek word “symposion,” which the ancient Greeks used to describe their lively, boozy banquets. Here are 10 words that mean very different thing in England and America.

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Current meaning: A promiscuous woman

Original meaning: A goofy, mischievous man. Check out these 10 unique words you’ll only find in English.

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Moot point

Current meaning: A matter of no importance

Original meaning: A hypothetical idea created specifically to be talked about.

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Current meaning: Indignation

Original meaning: Gratitude

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Current meaning: Seeming fair, but falsely so

Original meaning: Fair or beautiful. Check out how the pronunciation of these 12 words can predict where you are from.

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Current meaning: Shockingly bad

Original meaning: Anything that separates itself from a group. Speaking of separating from a group, that’s what you’ll be doing if you learn the true meanings of these 70 words and phrases you’re probably using all wrong.