Wednesday, December 29, 2010

etymologists , unite!

A buddy wrote me an interesting question (to which I did not have an answer):

It's been driving me crazy, is there a term of art for when the etymological root of a word is the opposite of the word's modern meaning?  For example, asbestos means "an unquenchable fire"; philander means "a lover of men" etc. Cheers, A.,

Anyone know this?

5 comments:

Ryan said...

Maybe diachronic autantonymy?

Chris said...

Excellent, I'd never heard the term autantonym beflore, but of course, there's a Wiki page on it here.

mettle said...

I don't know the term, but the semantic process by which it happens, which is what you might be thinking of, is called pejoration.

stancarey said...

I like "diachronic autantonymy", though I'd be inclined to go with the equivalent "diachronic auto-antonymy" because I find it a little clearer. For what it's worth, I wrote about auto-antonyms a few months ago.

Chris said...

mettle, thanks for the hint, pejoration is useful here.

Stan, interesting post.I was not familiar with the term chuffed and to my ears, I would have assumed it had a negative connotation.

A linguist asks some questions about word vectors

I have at best a passing familiarity with word vectors, strictly from a 30,000 foot view. I've never directly used them outside a handfu...