2
   

Why doesn't "awful" mean full of wonder and delight?

 
 
Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2011 08:48 pm
Why doesn't it mean "full of awe"?

Is there a Latin or Greek root that I'm missing?

What are some other words that sound like the opposite of what they mean?
 
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2011 08:57 pm
@boomerang,
Quote:
awe
[aw]
- noun 1. respectful fear and wonder - verb (used with object)awedawing 2. to fill with awe

It's highly likely that awe had a different slant or tone long time ago where it didn't share the same positive vibe as it does now.

There used to be a great 1927ish Webster-Merriam online dictionary that I can no longer find that might have helped here or point us to the right direction.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2011 09:03 pm
@tsarstepan,
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)
http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=Awful&use1913=on&use1828=on
ARTFL > Webster's Dictionary > Searching for Awful:
Try your search on Wordnik!
Displaying 1 result(s) from the 1913 edition:
Awful (Page: 107)
Aw"ful (?), a.

1. Oppressing with fear or horror; appalling; terrible; as, an awful scene. The hour of Nature's awful throes." Hemans.

2. Inspiring awe; filling with profound reverence, or with fear and admiration; fitted to inspire reverential fear; profoundly impressive.

Heaven's awful Monarch. Milton.
3. Struck or filled with awe; terror-stricken. [Obs.]

A weak and awful reverence for antiquity. I. Watts.
4. Worshipful; reverential; law-abiding. [Obs.]

Thrust from the company of awful men. Shak.
5. Frightful; exceedingly bad; great; -- applied intensively; as, an awful bonnet; an awful boaster. [Slang] Syn. -- See Frightful.

Displaying 1 result(s) from the 1828 edition:
AWFUL, a. [awe and full.]

1. That strikes with awe; that fills with profound reverence; as the awful majesty of Jehovah.
2. That fills with terror and dread; as the awful approach of death.
3. Struck with awe; scrupulous.
A weak and awful reverence for antiquity.
Shakespeare uses it for worshipful, inspiring respect by authority or dignity.
Our common people use this word in the sense of frightful, ugly, detestable.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2011 09:05 pm
@tsarstepan,
And
Quote:
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)
ARTFL > Webster's Dictionary > Searching for Awe:
Try your search on Wordnik!
Displaying 2 result(s) from the 1913 edition:
Awe (Page: 107)
Awe (?), n. [OE. ae, aghe, fr. Icel. agi; akin to AS. ege, ga, Goth. agis, Dan. ave chastisement, fear, Gr. pain, distress, from the same root as E. ail. 3. Cf. Ugly.]

1. Dread; great fear mingled with respect. [Obs. or Obsolescent]

His frown was full of terror, and his voice Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe. Cowper.
2. The emotion inspired by something dreadful and sublime; an undefined sense of the dreadful and the sublime; reverential fear, or solemn wonder; profound reverence.

There is an awe in mortals' joy, A deep mysterious fear. Keble.
To tame the pride of that power which held the Continent in awe. Macaulay.
The solitude of the desert, or the loftiness of the mountain, may fill the mind with awe -- the sense of our own littleness in some greater presence or power. C. J. Smith.
To stand in awe of, to fear greatly; to reverence profoundly. Syn. -- See Reverence.
Awe (Page: 107)
Awe (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Awed (); p. pr. & vb. n. Awing.] To strike with fear and reverence; to inspire with awe; to control by inspiring dread.

That same eye whose bend doth awe the world. Shak.
His solemn and pathetic exhortation awed and melted the bystanders. Macaulay.
Displaying 1 result(s) from the 1828 edition:
AWE, n. aw. [Gr. to be astonished.]

1. Fear mingled with admiration or reverence; reverential fear.
Stand in awe and sin not. Ps. 4.
2. Fear; dread inspired by something great, or terrific.
AWE, v.t. To strike with fear and reverence; to influence by fear, terror or respect; as, his majesty awed them into silence.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  3  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 12:56 am
@boomerang,
The short answer is that language, like fashion, changes over time.
The current use of "wicked" (by UK kids) to mean "really good" is a case in point.

0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  4  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 04:58 am
Nice . . . now there's a word which has changed entirely.

This site discusses a lot of word origins, and evolutions, including awful. Nice is there, too. It's an awfully nice site.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 06:01 am
Interesting!

Thank you all for the explanation.

It seems that words that change meaning, like "wicked", or "bad", do so in a slangy way. I've never thought of "awful" as being slangy. "Nice" does have "awful" beat in the changed meaning category. That's a fun site, thanks for the link, Set.
dlowan
 
  3  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 06:04 am
@boomerang,
You can watch awful changing meaning over the years in literature....and yes, awe had a fearfulness associated with it that has kind of, but not completely, disappeared.

Fond used to mean foolish, and naughty used to mean serious badness.

I still use nice in it's original meaning, but you can't guarantee you'll npbe understood.
Setanta
 
  5  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 06:19 am
@boomerang,
I love **** like that. At university, i had a double major in history and literature, so naturally i learned Old English, and studied up on the history of words. If Chaucer said a woman was nice, he meant she was a whore!
0 Replies
 
subtleties
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Aug, 2012 01:27 pm
@boomerang,
Simple. The word you're looking for is 'awesome.' You may not immediately see the difference because of how unbelievably overused this word is today.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Aug, 2012 07:52 pm
@dlowan,
Quote:
I still use nice in it's original meaning


That's nice.
0 Replies
 
 

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