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Jul 28, 2014
This week's theme
Words that have changed with time

This week's words

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with Anu Garg

The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure once said, "Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law."

A living language, just like humans, adapts with time. All words change, some more than others. In the beginning, to broadcast was to sow seeds by scattering, a diaper was a kind of fabric, and a matrix was a womb.

This week we'll see a few more words that ain't what they used to be.



noun: One that foreshadows the approach of something.
verb tr.: To signal the arrival of something.

Originally, a harbinger was a host, a person who provided lodging. With time the sense changed to a person sent in advance to find lodging for an army. From Old French herbergier (to provide lodging for), from herberge (lodging). Ultimately from the Indo-European root koro- (war, host, army) which also gave us harbor, herald, harness, hurry, harangue, and harry. Earliest documented use: 1175.

"It is hard to elude the suspicion that it is a harbinger of further things to come."
Colby Cosh; Trigger Warnings are Easy to Ridicule; Maclean's (Toronto, Canada); Jun 2, 2014.

See more usage examples of harbinger in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

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