I complain often as words of my youth change meaning or become lost – and am pretty sure my parents and grandparents etc indeed Chaucer himself commented on it in Troilus and Criseyde. I shouldn’t complain because I also profess to like the idea our language as a living moving entity but, really, sometimes I just have to mouth off!:)
Although there are many hundreds of words from our distant and not so distant past which have remained basically the same – there are a surprising list that have changed their meanings either in a subtle sideways movement changed to the complete opposite. Si if we spoke to someone from five hundred years ago we could well end up in trouble or offend mightily.
Anyway a few offerings today
Mortify once meant
Reported in John Bullokar 1616 An English Expoitor Of The Hardest Words Used In Our Language
As recorded by Joseph wright 1896-1905 in The English Dialectic Dictionary
Origin of mortify: late Latin = mortificare – to put to death, – from Latin morti – death
A nest-egg once meant
An egg put into a nest to encourage a chicken to lay. Certainly around as early as the 14th century.
By the 1686 it had began to be used as the savings that we know today.
James Halliwell Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words
Night-Vision once meant
A dream (vision) that occurs at night 1300s-1700s
James Murray et al 1888-1928 in A New England Dictionary on Historical Principles
the abode of demons and evil spirits.
Begun By Milton in Paradise Lost 1667 when it first appeared as the capital of Hell
Origins Greek –pan = all + daimon = demon
Helped by Altered English by Jeffrey Kacirk and The Oxford English Dictionary