24 Words That Used to Mean Something Negative

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Sometimes words move up in the world. Their meanings change with time, becoming more positive—a process linguists call amelioration. Here are some ameliorated words that were a pinch more negative back in the day.

1. Amaze: Make crazy; confuse with terror (1200s; 1770s)

2. Amuse: Cheat, delude, or deceive (1400s)

3. Awesome: Terrifying (1670s)

4. Boy: A servant, knave, or commoner (1250s)

5. Brave: Uncivilized or savage; showy (1400s)

6. Careful: Mournful, woeful; full of anxiousness (1100s)

7. Comical: Epileptic (~1100s)

8. Cool: Calmly Audacious (1825)

9. Courage: Temper (1300s)

10. Croon: To groan or lament (1400s)

11. Dizzy: Stupid (~1100s)

12. Eager: Fierce or angry; sour, harsh, or bitter (1200s)

13. Fond: Foolish, silly (1350s)

14. Fun: Cheat, trick, or hoax (1680s)

15. Glorious: Boastful (1400s)

16. Knight: A male servant; boy (~1000s)

17. Meticulous: Fearful, timid, and full of dread (1530s)

18. Mischievous: Disastrous (1300s)

19. Nice: Stupid or ignorant; careless or clumsy (1200s)

20. Pragmatic: Meddlesome; tastelessly busy (1600s)

21. Pretty: Deceitful, tricky, or sly (~1200s)

22. Sophisticated: Unnatural; contaminated (1600s)

23. Sustainable: Bearable (1610s)

24. Ravishing: Extremely hungry (1350s)

See Also...

11 Words That Don't Mean What They Sound Like
38 Wonderful Foreign Words With No English Equivalent
50 Collective Nouns to Bolster Your Vocabulary

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July 19, 2013 - 8:10am
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