Schools Training

12 Words That Used To Have Radically Different Meanings

11 APR 2014

1024px-ĸra_in_a_dictionary_(ubt)All languages evolve over time, which is why it’s always so interesting to trace back a word’s origins. For example, did you know that the word “Bully” used to mean “Sweetheart” for both genders? It’s true! For more words whose meanings have drastically changed over time, check out this article by Business Insider.


Coined in the 1540s, “prestigious” used to mean “practicing illusion or magic” or “deceptive.” The word was derogatory until the 19th century. But now, of course, it means “inspiring respect or admiration.”

The older meaning comes from the Latin noun prestigiae meaning “juggler’s tricks.”

In linguistics, this is called amelioration — when a word takes on a more favorable meaning.

2. FUN

This noun, formerly a verb, used to mean “to cheat or hoax” in the 17th century. The new meaning, “amusement,” appeared around 1727.

The original version likely stems from the a variant of Middle English fonnen, meaning “to befool.”

Because sometimes lying to people is fun, right?


Originally, “awful” meant exactly what it sounds like: “full of awe.” People used it in the 13th century to describe something “worthy of reverence.” It comes from Old English aghe, an earlier form of “awe” meaning “fright, terror,” plus the suffix -ful.

While something “awful” might scare you, the more common meaning today, “very bad,” began in 1809.


In the 18th century, the term “broadcast” referred to farming. The adjective “broad,” meaning “wide,” combined with the verb “cast,” to figuratively mean “flinging seed.”

Modern media adopted the term in 1921 with the radio.

How English went from the natural and tangible, like seeds, to radio waves, well, the world may never know.”

Click here to read the article in full.