Think of the word 'nice', for example. The original meaning of the word was negative - it was a way to describe a person's actions as foolish, simple or ignorant. The word has been ameliorated over time and nowadays we use 'nice' in a positive sense - meaning someone or something that is good and pleasant.
What is amelioration?
Amelioration is a type of semantic change that elevates a word's meaning over time. A word that previously had a negative meaning develops a positive one. Sometimes this process is referred to as semantic melioration or semantic elevation. Amelioration occurs for different extralinguistic reasons, such as cultural factors and changes in society over time. Amelioration is less common than its opposite - pejoration.
What are some examples of amelioration?
You might be surprised to know that there are many words that we use on a daily basis that have been ameliorated. Let's have a look at some examples!
In Old English, the word 'dizzy' meant 'foolish'. This meaning partially survives today in expressions such as 'a dizzy blonde', for example. However, by Middle English, the main meaning of the word 'dizzy' had become 'to suffer from vertigo' which is the meaning we associate with the word nowadays.
Fig. 1 - 'Dizzy' is an example of amelioration.
The word 'pretty' comes from West Saxon ('prættig'), Kentish ('pretti'), and Mercian ('prettig'). In Old English, the adjective was used to describe someone or something that was 'cunning, skillful, artful, wily, astute.' But by the year 1400, with language developing from Old English to Middle English, the word 'pretty' had taken on a new meaning which was 'manly, gallant'. With time, this meaning changed once again, to 'attractive, skillfully made' until it shifted to 'fine'. By the mid-fifteenth century the adjective 'pretty' was used to describe something or someone 'beautiful in a slight way, good looking' which is the meaning we still have for 'pretty' now.(Video) Amelioration - Medical Definition
The word 'knight' comes from the Old English word 'cniht' which meant 'boy, youth, servant, attendant.' Around the year 1100, 'knight' came to mean 'military follower of a king or other superior.' Later, during the Hundred Years War, 'knight' took on a more specific military sense until around the sixteenth century when the word was used as a rank in the nobility.
The roots of the word 'lord' are in Old English. 'Lord' comes from the Old English word 'hlafweard' which meant 'the keeper of the bread, the head of the household', or as we would call it today, the breadwinner. Later the word 'hlafweard' shortened - first it became 'hlaford' and then by the 13th century it was simply 'lord'. Over time, the word 'lord' went up the social ranks until it became indicative of status and power in society and not just in the family. The word reached its peak in hierarchy when it began to be used as a direct translation of 'Dominus' which, in religious tracts, is the Roman word for 'God'.
Similarly to 'lord', the word 'lady' derives from the Old English word for 'kneader of the bread, the woman of the household' which is 'hlaefdige'. By the 13th century, the meaning of the word had changed to 'a woman of superior position in society'. Nowadays, the word 'lady' has kept its 13th-century meaning but it is also used to describe any woman.
Consider these two examples that reveal the two different meanings we associate the word 'lady' with:
Of course she only drinks champagne and wears silk - she is a proper lady!
Have you seen my grandmother? An old lady with short white hair who usually wears a red coat.
The word 'terrific' comes from the Latin word 'terrificus' which meant 'causing terror or fear, frightful'. With time, the negative meaning of the word weakened, and it changed from 'frightful' to 'severe'. The expression 'terrific headache' as in 'severe headache' first appeared in 1809. The sense of the word 'terrific' that we still use now - meaning 'excellent' - began to be used later in the 19th century, in 1888.
Note that another adjective - 'terribly' - that derives from the same source as 'terrific', has also been ameliorated with time. From a word used to describe something that causes fear, terribly is now an alternative for 'very':
I am terribly sorry I'm late.
The case of the word 'sick' is a more recent example of amelioration. 'Sick' derives from the Old English word 'seoc' and from the Proto-Germanic word 'seuka' which meant 'ill, diseased, feeble, weak; corrupt; sad, troubled, deeply affected'.
Today, the original meanings of the word are still in use:
I'm sorry, I can't come to work today. I'm afraid I'm sick, the doctor said I need to stay in bed.
This example sentence uses the word 'sick' in the sense of 'mentally unwell, ill'.
How can you kill bunnies just for fun ?! You're sick!
In the context of this sentence, the word 'sick' means 'corrupt, troubled'.
Both of these contemporary uses of 'sick' have negative connotations. However, as a modern slang term, the word has been elevated and has taken on the positive meaning of 'great':
You have the new iPhone! That's sick!
Think of other slang words that have gone through a similar process like 'wicked', for example.
What is the importance of amelioration?
Just like any other type of semantic change, improvement is an important process in the development of language. Through amelioration, some words in the English language have adapted to the changing times and to the sociocultural situations. Learning about which words have been elevated and taken on a positive meaning shows us how societal perceptions of language have changed over time.
It's interesting to imagine and guess what words that we associate with something negative today would be ameliorated with time. For example, imagine if, in 200 years, the word 'stupid' changes its meaning and refers to someone or something good or even clever.
Amelioration vs pejoration
Pejoration is a type of semantic change that is more common than amelioration. Pejoration involves the process of degenerating meaning over time so that a word takes on more negative connotations. To put it simply, pejoration is the opposite of amelioration. While amelioration is a process in which a word that used to have a more negative meaning develops a more positive one over time, pejoration occurs when the once positive meaning of a word changes into a more negative one.
The word 'attitude' is an example of pejoration. The original meaning of 'attitude' was 'position, pose'. Later, the sense of the word shifted and it was associated with 'mental state, mode of thinking' until its meaning took on more negative connotations and it began to be associated with what we understand by 'attitude' today - 'confronting, uncooperative manner'.
Let's compare two sentences - one uses a word that has gone through the process of amelioration, while the other uses a word that has gone through the opposite process of pejoration.
Amelioration: I'm having a lovely time - today is a nice day!
The word 'nice' that used to be negative a long time ago, now clearly has a positive meaning - in this sentence, 'nice' indicates that the person is having a good day.
Pejoration: I must tell you that your kid has been misbehaving - he's got an attitude problem.
The word 'attitude' that used to simply refer to a person's position and state of mind, is now associated with negative behavior, as shown in this sentence.
Amelioration - Key takeaways
- Amelioration is a type of semantic change that elevates a word's meaning over time, so that a word that previously had a negative meaning develops a positive one.
- Amelioration is also referred to as semantic melioration or semantic elevation.
- Some examples of amelioration are words we use on a daily basis, such as 'nice', 'pretty' and 'lady'. Some slang words, such as 'sick' and 'wicked', have also been elevated.
- Amelioration is an important process in the development of language which shows us how societal perceptions have changed over time.
- Amelioration is less common than its opposite process - pejoration. Pejoration is a type of semantic change that degenerates the meaning of a word over time so that word takes on more negative connotations.
1 : to make better or more tolerable 2 : to grow better : improve.How is nice an example of amelioration? ›
3. Amelioration: a process whereby a positive meaning is associated with a word. An example from Middle English is nice which used to denote 'foolish' and now denotes 'pleasant'.How do you use amelioration in a sentence? ›
Regular exercise can provide gradual amelioration of anxiety. Treatment for her allergies led to the amelioration of her symptoms.What is the synonym of amelioration? ›
Some common synonyms of ameliorate are better, help, and improve. While all these words mean "to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard," ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure. tried to ameliorate the lives of people in the tenements.What is the purpose of ameliorate? ›
Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals by either killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Bacteria are germs. They live in the environment and all over the inside and outside of our bodies.What is difference between ameliorate and improvement? ›
IMPROVE usually implies remedying a lack or a felt need: to improve a process, oneself (as by gaining more knowledge). AMELIORATE, a formal word, implies improving oppressive, unjust, or difficult conditions: to ameliorate working conditions.What's the difference between pejoration and amelioration? ›
In language, one can see a dialectical movement, and it occurs through pejoration and amelioration. In pejoration, a word becomes more vulgar over time. In amelioration, a word is elevated over time, so that it loses vulgar connotations.What is imitate and examples? ›
: to follow as a pattern, model, or example. : mimic, counterfeit. can imitate his father's booming voice. 3. : to be or appear like : resemble.What part of speech is ameliorate? ›
The verb ameliorate comes from the Latin word meliorare, meaning “improve.” Food drives can ameliorate hunger.Which word means to make better to improve? ›
enhance. verb. to improve something, or to make it more attractive or more valuable.
Adjective. Able to repair or ameliorate.What's the opposite word for ameliorate? ›
Ameliorate means 'make better' the opposite being worsen meaning 'going bad'.What are ameliorate symptoms? ›
Amelioration: Improvement in a patient's condition, or the activity of making an effort to correct, or at least make more acceptable, conditions that are difficult to endure related to patient's conditions.What is it called when you give into something? ›
synonyms for give in to
adjust. admit. agree. bow. submit.
Alternatively, you can also remember it as the opposite of “deteriorate” which means to worsen things. Synonyms? Improve; Amend; Better; Enhance; Enrich; Help; Meliorate; Refine; Upgrade. For more words, click here! Ameliorate your learning skills, buddy!What does ameliorate mean in psychology? ›
n. a change for the better in a condition, especially one involving a disease or disorder.What are the example of sentences? ›
A simple sentence has the most basic elements that make it a sentence: a subject, a verb, and a completed thought. Examples of simple sentences include the following: Joe waited for the train. The train was late.What is a good synonym for imitate? ›
- act like.
There are two types of theories of imitation, transformational and associative.What do you call someone who makes life better? ›
altruistic Add to list Share. Someone who is altruistic always puts others first. An altruistic firefighter risks his life to save another's life, while an altruistic mom gives up the last bite of pie so her kid will be happy.
Someone who is conceited thinks that they are the best. Conceited is not as common as pompous, and it is disapproving except in the more informal phrase not to be conceited.How do you say you did your best? ›
I'm proud of the way you worked today. You're doing that much better today. You've just about got it. That's the best you've ever done.What is it called when you improve a skill? ›
develop. verb. to improve your abilities, skills, or knowledge.Is Stylism a word? ›
Noun. Excessive concern or preoccupation with style.Is Blitheful a word? ›
Full of gaiety; joyous.Is Misedit a word? ›
Verb. To edit badly or wrongly.Is ameliorate the same as mitigate? ›
Particularly used as mitigate a problem or flaw. Contrast with ameliorate (“make better”). This word is often misused to mean “operate” or “influence”.What is an ameliorative adjective? ›
adjective. making or intended to make something better, more bearable, or more satisfactory: Our objective is to make ameliorative changes that protect children more effectively and build a safer future for families.What is it called when you take someone's ideas? ›
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means. • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own • to use (another's production) without crediting the source • to commit literary theft • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.What is it called when you make someone do something for you? ›
force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield.
synonyms for get used to
Compare Synonyms. acclimate. accustom. acquaint. adapt.
Amelioration is a process that makes something better. A philanthropist might devote her life to the amelioration of poverty and hunger. Any time there's amelioration, something negative is becoming more positive. If your landlord improves the water pressure and lowers the rent, that's amelioration.What is the difference between pejoration and amelioration? ›
In language, one can see a dialectical movement, and it occurs through pejoration and amelioration. In pejoration, a word becomes more vulgar over time. In amelioration, a word is elevated over time, so that it loses vulgar connotations.What part of speech is amelioration? ›
verb (used with or without object), a·mel·io·rat·ed, a·mel·io·rat·ing. to make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory;improve: strategies to ameliorate negative effects on the environment.