Can You Guess What These Words Used to Mean?

Some words don’t mean what they used to, so much so that it can be difficult to guess what a certain word signified when it first appeared in the language. Since English is an extremely ancient and multicultural language, there are so many words in the English vocabulary that changed their meaning in the course of history. Do you dare try to guess what the following 14 English words originally meant? Fair warning, it’s a challenging one.
food
 
 
Which one of the following used to mean food in general?
Meat
Potato
Porridge
Breakfast
math
 
 
What field of mathematics originated from the name of a medical technique used to set fractured bones?
Algebra
Geometry
Trigonometry
Calculus
clue
 
 
Which Ancient Greek myth changed the meaning of the word ‘clue’?
Theseus and the Minotaur
Kind Midas and the golden touch
The Twelve Labours of Hercules
Perseus and Medusa
Chaucer
 
 
Geoffrey Chaucer used the word ‘jargon’ in his writings in 1386. What did he mean by it?
A bird song
Insult
Surgeon
Silence
pub
 
 
Which of the following was once a name for an unlicensed pub?
Tiddlywink
Marble
Darts
Table
animals
 
 
Which one of the following animals actually just meant ‘animal’ in the past?
Deer
Wolf
Peacock
Giraffe
treadmill
 
 
Who was the original treadmill invented for?
Prisoners
Children
Actors
Doctors
girl
 
 
Who could you call a girl in Middle English?
A young person (both male and female)
A young woman
A female cat
A young female (both person and animal)
clock
 
 
A ‘moment’ used to denote quite a definite time. How long did the original moment last?
90 seconds
1 hour
1 second
5 minutes
bullfighter
 
 
Of these 4 words all denoting fanatics, which one originally meant an amateur bullfighter?
Aficionado
Expert
Connoisseur
Fan
church
 
 
One of the following words used to mean "to break church rules" in a dialect of Scots. Which one?
Skulduggery
Chicanery
Hanky-panky
Swashbuckling
horse grooming
 
 
Which of these common expressions used to literally mean ‘to groom a chestnut horse’?
To curry favour
To spin a cat
To steal thunder
To pop your clogs
cloud
 
 
Cloud didn’t mean ‘cloud’ in Old English. What did it refer to?
Rock
Grass
Wind
Rain
question
 
 
What, quite literally, is ‘bumph’?
Toilet paper
A baby's diapers
Bandages
Underwear
surprised dog
Try Again!
Are you as surprised as this cute collie to find out that your score is not as high as you expected? No worries, it must be a mistake, just try again, or simply learn all of these word origins by looking at your results.
well done
Nearly perfect!
You can definitely surprise a few people at parties with your knowledge of the English language, but you're not quite on expert level yet. Look through the results to learn even more about a few more interesting word origins.
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You're the best!
You have a perfect command of the English language and know a lot about language history as well. Flawless victory!
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