It was difficult to phrase what I mean in an accurate and precise way here.

This is similar to a fossil word, but fossil words are words which have fallen out of general use except where they are preserved in an expression. (for example fro in the expression to and fro)

I'm talking about a word that is still in general use for its prior purpose, is also used for something directly derived from this meaning, but that this derivation no longer makes sense.

  • there is an English phrase "just around the bend", hope it counts. May 4 '17 at 13:58
  • Could you explain this a little further?
    – Some_Guy
    May 4 '17 at 15:59
  • Not necessarily related to your example, but to try and clarify the question a further: a metaphor to something now uncommon wouldn't qualify as such. So calling a software product a "flagship" wouldn't be an example. But (stretching here) describing a future battle spaceship in a space-navy (bear with me) as a "flagship" despite the fact that it bears no physical flag would be an example.
    – Some_Guy
    May 4 '17 at 16:00
  • I'd give other real examples, but I'm drawing a blank. In fact, the reason I asked the question in the first place is because I want to find some other examples, but I don't know what to call the category of word/phrase I'm looking for.
    – Some_Guy
    May 4 '17 at 16:01
  • 1
    Are these examples of what you're thinking of: to "hang up" a cell phone; the "gear shift" lever on a CVT automobile; US Army Armored "Cavalry"? May 4 '17 at 16:22

That's called the 'generalization / extension / broadening' of meaning: words with concrete meaning (like 'dialing' meaning 'calling by turning the round wheel on the phone') begin to mean more general things (now 'dialing' means 'calling from any kind of phone'). There are many examples of such generalization: manuscript once meant only handwritten documents, now it means any authorized copy, both handwritten and printed; picture once meant only a painting, now it means any kind of image, even photos; pipe used to mean "a musical wind instrument" now it can mean "any hollow oblong cylindrical body"(e. g. water pipes); in Russian стрелять (from стрела 'arrow') used to mean only 'to shoot arrows', now it means shooting from any kind of weapon, even from tanks and with missiles.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.