View Full Version : why doesn't terrific mean terror-like?

04-14-2000, 04:09 PM
if horrific and horrible are related to horror, why isn't terrific related to
terror or terrible?

04-14-2000, 04:18 PM
It is, or in any case it was:

Main Entry: ter·rif·ic
Pronunciation: t&-'ri-fik
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin terrificus, from terrEre to frighten
Date: 1667
1 a : very bad : FRIGHTFUL b : exciting or fit to excite fear or awe
2 : EXTRAORDINARY <terrific speed>
3 : unusually fine : MAGNIFICENT <terrific weather>
- ter·rif·i·cal·ly /-fi-k(&-)lE/ adverb

It seems to have evolved from "frightening" to "awe-inspiring," and now simply is used as a synonym for "excellent." I seem to recall Cecil covering this once, but I haven't searched the archives for it yet.

04-14-2000, 04:18 PM
It used to. Coined in the late 1600s. The meaning shifted over the intervening centuries.

04-14-2000, 04:19 PM
My first ever simulpost!

04-14-2000, 04:21 PM
Terrific, like terror and terrify , comes from the Latin, terrere, "to frighten." In fact, the first definition listed in my dictionary for terrific is "causing terror or great fear." It can also mean "to a great degree," as in "a terrific speed" or "a terrific headache."

I know we usually use it to mean "great" in a positive sense. My WAG is that this comes from the second definition above.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to fail the class. --A WallyM7 creation

04-14-2000, 04:22 PM
D'oh! (Note to self: Must type faster.)

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to fail the class. --A WallyM7 creation

04-14-2000, 06:43 PM
So is the fact that words depart from their literal definitions awful or wonderful?

04-14-2000, 07:19 PM
Enormity and magnificent also have common semeantic roots (great size) but have diverged in connotation.


04-15-2000, 12:43 AM
Let's not forget fantastic which used to mean imaginary.

04-15-2000, 03:07 AM
All this is just fabulous...

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