Semantic broadening (also known as generalisation)
When the meaning of a word broadens, retaining the old meaning but taking on a new meaning.
Example: 'holiday' originally meant 'holy day' broadened to mean any day off work
Opposite of broadening
Example: 'meat' originally meant all solid food, but now refers to the flesh of any animal
Example: 'girl' originally used for all young people regardless of sex
A change when the meaning of a word becomes more positive
Example: 'pretty' once meant 'sly'/'cunning' but now means 'attractive'
Example: 'wicked' now means 'cool'
Example: 'naughty' from Middle English 'nauht' (meaning worthless), used to mean 'immediately' now means 'sometime in the near future'
Example: 'brave' used to mean 'uncivilised'
When the definition of a word becomes less favourable
Example: 'cowboy' now means someone who does not do a good job
Example: 'impertinent' (which used to mean 'irrelevant') now means 'inappropriate'/'rude'
Example: 'gay' meant happy but now means 'homosexual'
Example: 'juvenile' was more associated with youth, nowadays connected to deviancy and immaturity
When the force of the original meaning is weakened
Example: 'soon' used to mean 'immediately', now means 'sometime in the near future'
Words sometimes acquire new meanings when used metaphorically
Example: 'onion bag' is now used to denote a football net
Expressions/sayings comprised of existing words and often have a metaphorical base
'in the doghouse'
'wake up and smell the coffee'
'rise and shine'
'spill the beans'
'don't let the bed bugs bite'
A mild in-offensive way of describing something distasteful or unpleasant
'powdering your nose'
'having a moment'
Making an expression sound more unpleasant
Example: 'kicked the bucket'
No longer having any use
A process of linguistic change over a period of time
An old word or phrase no longer in general of written use
Term derives from Greek 'arkhaios' meaning ancient
Drive to replace words and expressions that are considered to be offensive or demeaning to disadvantaged members of society
'people with learning difficulties'
'actor' (non gender-specific)
The word 'golliwog' coined by Bertha Upton for a series of children's books at the end of the last century is now so negatively connotated that it is rarely seen.