Check here how the meaning of English words changed over time!
Did you know that in English:
* the word "with" meant "against". This meaning is still preserved in phrases such as "to fight with".
* gay, originally meant "merry", but because some people are a little too merry came to mean "wanton", and because some people are a little too wanton came to mean "homosexual", which is the sense almost exclusively used now.
* the word silly meant in Old English times "blessed". But how did a word meaning "blessed" come to mean "silly"? Well, since people who are blessed are often innocent and guileless, the word gradually came to mean "innocent". And some of those who are innocent might be innocent because they haven't the brains to be anything else. And some of those who are innocent might be innocent because they knowingly reject opportunities for temptation. In either case, since the more worldly-wise would take advantage of their opportunities, the innocents must therefore be foolish, which of course is the current primary meaning of the word silly.
* The word gaudy was derived from the Latin word gaudium, "joy", which was applied to praying (as a type of rejoicing). Because the most common prayers in Middle English times were the prayers of the rosary, Middle English gaude came to be associated with the rosary and came to mean "an ornamental rosary bead". Unfortunately, not all who prayed with the rosary were genuinely pious; many were like the Pharisees of old and just wanted to be seen praying -- religion for them was decorative (ornamental) rather than functional. As a result, modern English gaudy gradually acquired its current meaning of tasteless or ostentatious ornamentation.
* priest is descended from the Greek word presbuteros, "older man, elder", a comparative form of the word presbus, "old man". Because churches of most religions are headed by elders and not youth, and because age is often equated with wisdom, the Greek word gradually acquired the meaning of "church leader, priest".
The following words show other examples:
* enthusiasm meant "abuse"
* queen meant "woman"
* vulgar meant "popular"
* crafty meant "strong"
* harlot meant "a boy"
On the next post, I will be talking about the processes that influence these changes. Don't miss it! It will be available on the blog on Nov 10.