Top 15 Words That Have Completely Changed Meaning Over Time

Between the words that don’t exist, but that we use anyway, those that only saw the light of day in 2021, the rare but stylish words, and now, those that have changed meaning between their birth and today. today: this language is a happy mess. In fact, French is like its population: beautiful and so breakneck at the same time. That’s its charm.

1. “Heat wave”

Today : the heat wave is a period of high heat. Do you see the recent weather with 36° during the day, and 29° at 1am? Well, that’s exactly it.

Before : the term comes from the Latin “canis” which means… Dog. According to the French Trésor de la Langue, “canicula” is the diminutive of “little female dog”. So how to start from the animal to arrive at a meteorological phenomenon? Well, “canicula” is also the name of a particularly bright star, the main body in the constellation Canis Major. However, since Antiquity, we observe that this star rises and sets at the same rate as the sun from July 22 to August 23: the hottest period of the summer.

2. “Melon”

Today : “Big round fruit with juicy and sweet flesh”, also used to designate a very full of himself. The biggest melon 2022 is currently awarded to François, in Koh-lanta.

Before : “melon” also referred to a fruit, but much smaller since it was… an apple! Indeed, the term comes from the Latin “melo, melonis”, itself inherited from the Greek “milo”, meaning “apple”, “fruit”.

gmail.com” cc=”https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html” url=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canteloupe_and_cross_section.jpg” ]Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time

3. “Tragedy”

Today : tragedy designates a dramatic theatrical work, with characters with an unfortunate fate. The concept also refers to a catastrophic event or set of events, such as a fatal accident. Finally, it is also and above all a music group (tragically) disbanded too soon. ” I know you’re there, but you don’t hear, that downstairs I’m calling you, but you don’t answer they would say.

Before : tragedy comes from the Latin tragoedia and from the ancient Greek tragôidía. “Trágos” does not translate “goat” and “ôid? by “song, sung poem”. Literally, “tragedy” therefore designated the “song of the goat”, referring to the ritual song that accompanied the sacrifice of the animal during the feasts of Dionysus, in the archaic period.

4. “Dodger”

Today : the word designates a very sunny place devoid of wind, a scorching sun.

Before : “a dodger” is, until the 19th century, “a miserable shelter”. It was an open refuge, where mainly vagabonds gathered.

Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time

5. “Sofa”

Today : according to Robert’s definition, a sofa is “a long seat with a backrest where several people can sit together”. It seems both very stupid and very fair as a definition, doesn’t it?

Before : “sofa” referred to… a mosquito (yes yes)! We must go back to the Greek “konops”, which then gives “konopein”, meaning “mosquito net”. In the twelfth century, the word comes to us in the form of “conopé”. Our ancestors then go from “bed curtain” to “bed”, then to “sofa”, both allowing to lie down and rest.

Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time

6. “Musk”

Today : it is a very fragrant brown substance, secreted by the abdominal glands of musk deer, used in particular in perfumery.

Before : musk comes from “mosko” (in Greek), itself derived from the Iranian “muska”, which could be translated as “testicles”. A perfume with a burne scent is immediately less of a seller, isn’t it?

Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time
Picture credits: Topito

7. “Mushroom”

Today : still according to Robert, the mushroom is “a plant without leaves, generally formed of a foot surmounted by a hat, with many edible or poisonous species”. A nice definition to define something really amazing, both visually and tastefully.

Before : the primary meaning of “mushroom” is “farm product”. Yep, well… It’s not funny.

Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time

8. “Ciao”

Today : an Italian word that could be translated as “hello”. In France, we borrow the word to say “goodbye”. In Italy, it is also used to say “hello”.

Before : the word “ciao” in Piedmontese Italian comes from the Venetian form “sciavo”, designating, formerly… Slaves. The latter greeted their masters by pronouncing “Sciavo tuo! (“I am your slave, your servant”). The expression is then shortened to “ciao”. It is immediately my warm.

9. “Vanilla”

Today : it is an aroma, very nice for your desserts. Yum yum.

Before : in Spanish “vainilla”, derived from “vaina”, designates a “sheath, an envelope”. This word itself comes from the Latin… Vagina. The word gives “sheath” in French, but also… Well yeah, vagina.

10. “Baboon”

Today : the baboon is “an African monkey with an elongated snout and prominent lips, living in society”.

Before : in Old French, the radical “bab” expresses a movement of the lips and gives words like “babiller” or “babine”. It is therefore not surprising that the word, in the 19th century, designated a “little button close to the lips” in slang.

11. “Food”

Today : the term can have two definitions, in colloquial language. “Getting food” or “food” refers to food. “To take a food” means “to take a slap”. Less friendly.

Before : according to the Trésor de la langue française, “une bouffe” refers to “a swelling of vanity”, in reference and by extension to the “swelling of the cheeks”.

12. “Great”

Today : the word is synonymous with “brilliant”, “super cool”, “extraordinary”, “youhouuuu”

Before : a few hundred years ago, the adjective qualified frightening and repulsive people. It was not until 1826 that Balzac made the word positive in his essay “Physiology of Marriage”.

13. “Violation”

Today : an offense punishable by a fine. Something to have a nice day.

Before : in popular slang, a “ticket” designates… A cookie. Between that and the “plums”, finding your way around is no easy feat!

14. “Bun”

Today : good little pastry, which makes up the breakfast of the box every Monday morning (don’t be jealouuuuus). Also used to refer to your drunk uncle’s beer belly.

Before : still according to Le Figaro, in the 19th century, a brioche meant a blunder. What do you mean, you don’t know what that means? But finally ! A blunder means a “mistake, a gross error due to ignorance or inadvertence”it’s well known.

15. “Pie”

Today : in colloquial language (or in the language of daron who wants to have lunch), a pad is a room.

Before : in the 18th century, the spelling of the word is different: we write “piolle”, the term being inherited from the verb “pier”, which, in old French, translates as “to drink”. At the time, a “piolle” was a cabaret. In the 19th century, the term changed meaning and designated a house.

Top 15 words that have completely changed meaning over time

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