For example: "aggressive recruitment", "aggressive cleaning" or "more aggressive guidelines".

  • The question is clear enough, but I'm not sure how your example is using the word in a broader sense?
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 10, 2018 at 4:18
  • The term aggressive i guess Feb 10, 2018 at 6:40
  • 4
    Semantic widening? Feb 10, 2018 at 6:51
  • Just to say that this usage of "aggressive" belongs to sub-standard English, basically advertising jargon. "Aggressive cleaning" works only as a deliberate joke.
    – fdb
    Feb 13, 2018 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


As mentioned by @guifa, a commonly used term is semantic widening (as opposed to narrowing), dating to Arsène Darmesteter (1887) at least and also used by Leonardo Bloomfield, Stephen Ullman and many others. An equivalent term is generalization (as opposed to specialization), used by Paul Hermann (1880) and also by Bréal, Blank and many others. Depending on the specific semantic theory, these technical terms may be given more specialized or narrower (wink) meanings. The Wikipedia page has more examples.

  • Ha, I just took a stab based on semantic drift a term I'm more familiar with (hence my question mark). Didn't realize it was an established term :-) Feb 11, 2018 at 13:41

A term often used synonymously to "generalisation" is bleaching. Joan Bybee in his Cambridge Textbook in Linguistics on Language Change defines it as "a meaning change in which specific features of meaning are lost" (p. 267).

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