Changes in English Language Over Time Essay


  • Definition (past): to strike
  • Sentence: The baseball player needs to sly the ball before running towards the goal.
  • Definition (present): showing cleverness; ingenious; furtive; good at hiding plans
  • Sentence: The wife has no idea how sly his husband is until she finally finds out his mistress
  • Changes: The first use of the word sly was during the 13th century. The Middle English used sleighe or sli, attributed by the Old Norse slœgr. It was also similar to the Old English word slēan, which meant to strike
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): from the Middle Dutch – active, nimble
  • Sentence: The humming bird is a dapper animal.
  • Definition (present): neat, smart, trim and active
  • Sentence: The gentleman looks dapper in his black suit.
  • Changes: the word dapper was first used during the 15th century (1400–1450). The late Middle English used the word daper / dapyr, while the Middle Dutch used dapper as nimble, stalwart, quick, strong. It was later related with the German tapfer, which meant heavy and with the Old Church Slavonic debelu (thick)
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): a woman who spins thread and yarn; a single woman
  • Sentence: She was known as a spinster in her town.
  • Definition (present): refers to a woman whose job is spinning thread or yarn; an unmarried woman with past age for marriage
  • Sentence: The young, handsome guy unbelievably married a spinster.
  • Changes: The word spinster was first used in the 14th century. In the late Middle period, women traders who were married had a higher chance of attaining high social status and better jobs than unmarried ones. Unmarried women usually worked in spinning wool industries — thus, often called as spinster. There were two significant historical attributes that brought the use of the word spinster: 1) most of the spinners in the Middle Age were women 2) the occupation of the person as written in legal documents was commonly derived from one’s surname (such as Smiths, Bakers, and Tanners). That is, women who spun thread were mostly called spinster in legal documents. Nonetheless, in the 17th century, the word spinster was legally attributed as unmarried women.
  • URL:

Custom Essay Writing on Any Topic

  • Definition (past): distinguished
  • Sentence: Almost everyone wants to be egregious especially in one’s chosen career.
  • Definition (present): 1. conspicuously bad; flagrant
  • Sentence: The accountant committed egregious errors in the corporate financial report.
  • Changes: Egregious originally came from the Latin word egregious, which meant distinguished or eminent. In fact, it was mostly used as a compliment for a person with remarkable goodness or eminence. Nonetheless, as time passed, its meaning became less as a compliment, which was ironic to its original reference
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): cull; filtered
  • Sentence: The spices were culled before mixing them in the dish.
  • Definition (present): to alter or distort; change the meaning or impression
  • Sentence: The witness in the court obviously garbles the story of evidence
  • Changes: The verb “garble” was first used in the 15th century, while as a noun, it was first defined in 1502. The Middle English word garbelen referred to as the removal of impurities (such as in the case of spices). It was probably borrowed from the Anglo-French word garbeler or from the Italian garbellare. Garbellare was used in the Medieval Latin of Verona in 1319. Moreover, it could also have been derived from the Arabic word gharbala, which was to sift, screen or ghirbal (sieve). That is, garble could have been passed from Arabia to Europe because of the trade of Eastern spices. The word garbellare and garbellum were recorded in a statue situated in the city of Marseille in 1269. On the other hand, garbale was written in a document of Bruges in Flanders dated 1304. Possibly, the word originally derived from Arabia based on the afore-mentioned words in the Marseille statue – grana assaonada (or ripened grains).
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): to encircle using the arms for measurement; embrace
  • Sentence: The engineer fathoms the portion of the building wall.
  • Definition (present): 1) a measure of length which is equal to six feet ( or 1.83 meters); commonly associated in measuring the depth of water; 2) understanding
  • Sentence: The well-known scientist could not unbelievably fathom the experimental result.
  • Changes: Fathom probably originated from the Old English word fæthm, which meant “outstretched arms.” It was also related to the Old Norse fathmr fathom, to the Latin word patēre (to be open), pandere to spread out, and to the Greek word petannynai. On the other hand, fathom as a noun typically referred to as a measurement (in the case of depth, distance) and equaled to six feet. It is used for measurement by stretching the arms. The earliest meanings of the word connoted to embrace or to encircle with the arms. Nonetheless in 1600, fathom was used to indicate a sounding line, instead, to measure depth. Furthermore, the meaning also changed as time passed, which was similar to probe, investigate or understand.
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): failure; collapse
  • Sentence: The building suddenly faced a strong fizzle due to the intense earthquake.
  • Definition (present): noun – abortive; failure
  • Sentence: The unexpected fizzle of her pregnancy was bad news to everyone.
  • Changes: fizzle as a verb was first used in 1840, while as a noun, it was probably first used in 1846. The most probable close derivation of the word was from fist, which meant to break wind.
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): old-fashioned; offensive; a woman who is immoral, improper based on other people’s judgment
  • Sentence: That old man prefers to date a hussy.
  • Definition (present): 1: a lewd or brazen woman; 2: a saucy or mischievous girl
  • Sentence: Nobody suspects that our neighbor is a hussy.
  • Changes: the word hussy was probably first used in 1505 as the alteration of the Middle English word huswif (housewife) and from hus (house) + wif (wife) and woman.
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): to torture; to kill; to hurt
  • Sentence: The police unjustifiably quelled the suspect until he admitted the crime.
  • Definition (present): to make passive; to pacify
  • Sentence: The mother quells the crying baby
  • Changes: quell as a verb was probably first used in the 13th century. On the other hand, as a noun, the word quell was later used in the 15th century. It was possibly derived from the Middle English to kill and from Old English cwellan (also) to kill. The word was closely related to Old High German quellen to torture / to kill, quāla (torment), and to the Lithuanian gelti (to hurt).
  • URL:


  • Definition (past): old man
  • Sentence: The man seems senile; yet, he showed strength in lifting the heavy buckets
  • Definition (present): showing the attributes of old age (weakness)
  • Sentence: My grandmother did not look senile at she reached the age of 70 years old.
  • Changes: the word was first used in 1661 from the Latin word senilis and from sen-, senex, which meant old, like in the sense – old man
  • URL:

References (n.d.). Dapper. In Retrieved August 5, 2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Dapper. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Fathom. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Fizzle. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Garble. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Hussy. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Senile. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Spinster. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Sly. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Quell. In dictionary. Retrieved August 5,
2020, from
Where does the term ‘spinster’ come from? (n.d). In dictionary.
Retrieved from play/spinster-meaning-origin