Trivia Teaser

Alphabetically, the capital city of which of these countries comes last?


Changing Meanings


By Christine Lovatt

Many of the words in our everyday vocabulary started off life with a very different meaning. Over the years for various reasons, such as errors or a need for a new word, the definition changed.

The word buccaneer originally meant a West Indies woodsman in the seventeenth century, and then came to mean one who cooks on a barbecue. Eventually it became a pirate of the Spanish Main.

Knave was once used for boy, and boy meant knave, that is a dishonest rogue. In the thirteenth century, girl meant a child of either sex.

Brave once meant barbarous or brutal, witty meant sensible and frantic meant insane. Fang meant capture. Worry, believe it or not, used to mean choke and a bully used to be a fine fellow or sweetheart!

These are all yet more examples of a living, breathing language which changes because it’s being used all the time.

In the fourteenth century, hap meant good luck, and happy meant lucky. We still have hapless which means unfortunate.

Nice used to mean foolish. It later meant timid, then  fussy, then delicate, careful, agreeable and finally kind.

So if you were described as a nice brave knave in the past, you may have been a foolish, brutal dishonest rogue. A witty bully on the other hand would have been a sensible sweetheart.


Happy (as in lucky)  puzzling!




1 Response to

Changing Meanings

December 01, 2007 at 9:39 AM


I find all the meanings interesting especially the last one, hap or happy because in the Slovenian language, 'sre─Źno'(pronounced srechno)' means both lucky, happy and also safe . . . . . .