Just when you think people’s casual uses of “awesome” are too far from this word’s origin linked with “awe” of the miraculous, let me turn you to another word that’s wandered even further from its starting point.
When you think that something’s “terrific,” that something doesn’t terrify you, does it? It doesn’t put you into a state of terror, right?
Well, your answers to these questions would be different if you lived only a few centuries ago. Each of these words–terrific, terrify, and terror–comes from the same Latin root, terrēre, meaning to frighten. And we can’t forget “terrible,” which also should be included in this bunch. When they entered the English language in the late 1600s, each spoke of fear so great it made you tremble.
A terrific monster wasn’t something well done by a creative child in art class. A terrific monster was something that would strike terror into the depths of your bones.
My, how a word can change over time.
Isn’t learning about words and their histories just terrific?
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