I've noticed that English has many words for "very good" and most of them have an additional meaning as well. For example:

  • great (more than normal)
  • fantastic (fanciful)
  • phenomenal (being a notable phenomenon)
  • amazing (causing amazement)
  • wonderful (causing wonder)
  • dope (cannabis/heroin/opium)
  • sick (ill)

It is my impression that none of these words were originally used to mean "very good", but now they have all been adopted for that use in colloquial speech.

I realize that words shift in meaning all the time, and I can see how most of those words would have shifted as they have. But it's funny to me that there are so many of them. It feels like English speakers are continually looking for new ways to say "very good", more so than any other idea.

Assuming my assessment above is correct, do other languages have this same tendency to frequently adopt other words to mean "very good"?

(My personal hypothesis is that it happens because we assess things as being good or bad all the time in our conversation, and it gets repetitive if there are only a few ways to say something was good. That seems like a phenomenon that wouldn't be limited to English)

1 Answer 1


The words you give as examples have direct Russian equivalents and also can mean "very good". And it seems to me totally natural, given their meanings.

great ~ великолепный

fantastic ~ фантастический

phenomenal ~ феноменальный

amazing ~ потрясающий

wonderful ~ чудесный

impressive ~ впечатляющий

etc. The meaning "very good in certain sense" follows quite directly from their basic meaning. I mean, if something impresses people, it is straightforward that it can impress by being very good. If something looks like a wonder, it can be because it is very good as well.

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