Words That Used to Mean “Untrue” Now Mean Very Good

Complete Fantasy
Creative Commons License photo credit: RLHyde

Words that mean “VERY GOOD” but also mean (or used to mean) “Not to be Believed”:

Fantastic: I.e., fantasy, i.e., not true.

Incredible: I.e., not credible, i.e., not believable.

Unbelievable: I’ll let you work this one out.

Fabulous: From a fable, i.e., not true.

Other types of “Very Good” words:

Amazing: Shares an ancestor with “maze.” Both meant something that confuses.

Awesome: Inspiring awe.

Wonderful: Inspiring wonder. (Incidentally, “wonderful” is my answer to people who say that “Hopefully” simply must refer to something done “while full of hope” because of logic. Logic has nothing to do with language, and long may it last. The movie was wonderful, but I wasn’t wonderful while watching the movie.)

Terrific: Shares an ancestor with “terrify.” Both meant frightening.

Of course, there are lots of other words that I won’t bother with today. A smattering from the thesaurus:

sensational, outstanding, superb, super, excellent, first-rate, first-class, dazzling, breathtaking; great, ace, wicked, brilliant, killer.


8 Responses to “Words That Used to Mean “Untrue” Now Mean Very Good”

  1. February 7, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Great job.

  2. February 8, 2009 at 7:02 am #

    “Great,” of course, meaning large.

  3. February 8, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    What are you going to do without Oxford online?!

  4. February 8, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Cry a lot.

  5. February 10, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    And here I thought “great” meant wicked good! You’re not just being mean, are you?

    If a man’s a “great guy” he’s very good, right?

    Is it at all significant that the first comment I post after your “Comments Are Fixed” post is to the thread “I Do Not Believe You”? How about the fact that it didn’t work the first time?

  6. February 11, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    I don’t believe you.

  7. May 26, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    I struggle to express times when I’m filled with awe. Neither awful nor awesome works.

    Same goes for when something is fantasy-like.

    I don’t mind “hopefully,” but I did smile when a comedian pointed out that he hoped the airplane would remain airborne much longer than “momentarily,” despite what the flight attendant said.

  8. May 26, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    Man, Jeffrey, don’t get me started on airline speak. (I mentioned it in this post.)

    Between “deplane” and “beverages” and yeah, “we’ll be in the air momentarily,” they’ve got a whole uber-formal and weird language thing going that I don’t like.

    It’s certainly not meant to put people at ease.

Leave a Reply