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The first word in John's "Revelation" is a Greek word 'apokalipsis'. Yet, in modern times the word 'apocalypse' and its equivalents in many languages means 'catastrophe', 'tragedy', etc.

So we can assume that the Greek word is pronounced very much the same as the Greek original but has acquired a different maning. What is more, 'apocalypse' is often used instead of 'revelation', e.g. the Apocalypse of St. John. My question: is there a technical term in semantics to name such a dramatic change of meaning of a loan word.

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    I’m not familiar with a specific term for it, but this sort of thing is not really that uncommon. Consider silly (original meaning ‘lucky, fortunate’) nice (original meaning ‘ignorant’), hussy (reduction of ‘housewife’), hysteric(al) (original meaning ‘related to the womb’), etc. In apocalypse, of course, the change is fairly straightforward, as the end of days/apocalypse is both a catastrophe for the world that will end, but also a time when ‘all will be revealed’ to humanity. Feb 27 at 10:58
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    The generic term for that is semantic shift, and even drastic semantic shifts are far from uncommon. They happen to native words as well as loan words. I am not aware of any more specific term applicable to the given example. Feb 27 at 11:39

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I'm not aware of any term for this sort of change specifically. A change from "a book talking about a thing" to "that thing itself" isn't very common, just because there aren't a lot of books influential enough for their names to catch on like that.

But you could consider it a sort of metonymy, when the term for a part becomes the term for the whole, or vice versa. The apocalypse (in the modern sense) could be called a part of the Revelation of John.

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  • I don’t think the question is asking about a change from ‘book talking about X’ to ‘X itself’, but rather just the rather drastic semantic shift from ‘revelation’ to ‘catastrophe’. Feb 27 at 18:57
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - The story is a bit different than how you seem to see it, it has nothing to do with »a time when ‘all will be revealed’ to humanity«. St. John had a vision, “revelation” of how this world will end, so he recorded it into a book and began it with the words “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” >
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 27 at 22:12
  • @JanusBahsJacquet > So here the meaning shift is from “revelation showing the picture of the end of the world” to simply one word “revelation” (i.e. apocalypse) meaning “the picture of the end of the world”, so it's exactly metonymy, a part for the whole.
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 27 at 22:13
  • @YellowSky Yes, the semantic shift is due to metonymy in this particular case; but metonymy does not mean “a dramatic change of meaning of a loan word”, which is what the question is asking for a word for. I’m not a believer or a Biblical scholar, but the notion that God’s plan will be revealed at the end of days is a very familiar one, at least where I am. It may not be based on anything actually in the Bible, but it’s certainly common enough that I can see how it reinforces the association between ‘revelation’ and ‘end of days’. I’m aware that’s not what the ἀποκάλυψις that initiates the → Feb 27 at 23:01
  • → Book of Revelation refers to, of course. Feb 27 at 23:02

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