Weird changes in the meaning of words throughout the ages

It’s interesting how some words in the same language change meaning throughout the ages. For example if you would say some word to an English person of the 17th century, they would have a completely different understanding of it than an English person of the 21st century. For example take the meaning of the word “nice”.

The word “nice” in the English language back in the Middle Ages used to mean “foolish”. 🙂 Funny how the meanings of words change. However maybe it’s not that far from the truth, oftentimes, unfortunately in this world, being nice is foolish. 😦 However that is for another discussion.

The word nice, derived from Latin nescius meaning ‘ignorant’, began life in the fourteenth century as a term for ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’. From there it embraced many a negative quality, including wantonness, extravagance, and ostentation, as well as cowardice and sloth. In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve. It was society’s admiration of such qualities in the eighteenth century that brought on the more positively charged meanings of ‘nice’ that had been vying for a place for much of the word’s history, and the values of respectability and virtue began to take over. Such positive associations remain today, when the main meaning of ‘nice’ is ‘pleasant’ (if with a hint of damning with faint praise; it may yet turn full circle).”


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