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October 27, 2018 Tweet Word of the Week Like Word of the Week on Facebook
Word of the Week--"terrific"
Definition--terrifying or frightful or colloquially marvelous, excellent, or intense.
 
 
Discussion--Few words are antonyms unto themselves. Terrific is one. Its original meaning reflects its Latin roots. Terrific is an adjectival form of terror. Hence the usage: "The earthquake was a terrific disaster." More frequently today we would say: "The earthquake was terrifying."

In the 1800s and 1900s, terrific took on the opposite meaning of terrify. Hence the usage: "Grace is a terrific cook!" Presumably, rather than causing terror, the previous sentence means that Grace is a marvelous cook whose food we would all enjoy.

Vestiges of the old meaning are seen in phrases such as: "Carl has a terrific headache." From Carl's point of view, the headache is probably neither marvelous nor terrifying, though the meaning is much closer to original meaning of causing terror.
 

Etymology--The term terrific is borrowed the Latin terrificus, meaning causing terror or fear. The root is the Latin terrere, meaning to fill with fear.

The languages below lack a direct corollary to the English usage of terrific to mean marvelous or excellent.


   Foreign Translations for Terrific
German:  hervorragend
Dutch:  geweldig
French:  fantastique
Italian: formidabile
Spanish: genial, estupendo, de muerte


The Romance languages below show the Latin roots of the meaning to cause terror.

   Foreign Translations for Terrify
German:  Angst und Schrecken einjagen
Dutch:  schrik aanjagen
French:  terrifier
Italian: terrorizzare
Spanish: aterrorizar, aterrar

Jane Ellis      Tweet Word of the Week Like Word of the Week on Facebook

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