How word meanings change over time

December 30, 2013

While doing some genealogical research, I saw this usage of ‘relict’ in a bereavement notice in a newspaper from the 1910s:

relict01 I think I saw it used in some of the 1920s newspapers too, but rarely — if at all – after the 1930s. I’ve come across the word ‘relict’ before in a totally different context and thought I knew what it meant, but when I saw it in this unfamiliar context I had to look it up.

This is the definition of ‘relict’ according to Google, which lists the usage above as ‘archaic’:

relict02So it’s a word that was an acceptable substitute for ‘widow’ in the early 1900s, but not later on, when only ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ were used, as they still are today. I wonder when ‘relict’ started to be used and when it dropped out of favour? Of course, these days, even if you used ‘relict’ correctly, it’s likely that others will hear ‘relic’ instead. And that would be deemed ‘politically incorrect’ when speaking of a person who has lost their spouse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: