Amelioration: Definition, Meaning & Example (2023)

Think of the word 'nice', for example. The original meaning of the word was negative - it was a way to describe a person's actions as foolish, simple or ignorant. The word has been ameliorated over time and nowadays we use 'nice' in a positive sense - meaning someone or something that is good and pleasant.

What is amelioration?

Amelioration is a type of semantic change that elevates a word's meaning over time. A word that previously had a negative meaning develops a positive one. Sometimes this process is referred to as semantic melioration or semantic elevation. Amelioration occurs for different extralinguistic reasons, such as cultural factors and changes in society over time. Amelioration is less common than its opposite - pejoration.

What are some examples of amelioration?

You might be surprised to know that there are many words that we use on a daily basis that have been ameliorated. Let's have a look at some examples!

  • Dizzy

    In Old English, the word 'dizzy' meant 'foolish'. This meaning partially survives today in expressions such as 'a dizzy blonde', for example. However, by Middle English, the main meaning of the word 'dizzy' had become 'to suffer from vertigo' which is the meaning we associate with the word nowadays.

Amelioration: Definition, Meaning & Example (1)'Dizzy' is an example of amelioration (Pixabay)

  • Pretty

    The word 'pretty' comes from West Saxon ('prættig'), Kentish ('pretti'), and Mercian ('prettig'). In Old English, the adjective was used to describe someone or something that was 'cunning, skillful, artful, wily, astute.' But by the year 1400, with language developing from Old English to Middle English, the word 'pretty' had taken on a new meaning which was 'manly, gallant'. With time, this meaning changed once again, to 'attractive, skillfully made' until it shifted to 'fine'. By the mid-fifteenth century the adjective 'pretty' was used to describe something or someone 'beautiful in a slight way, good looking' which is the meaning we still have for 'pretty' now.

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  • Knight

    The word 'knight' comes from the Old English word 'cniht' which meant 'boy, youth, servant, attendant.' Around the year 1100, 'knight' came to mean 'military follower of a king or other superior.' Later, during the Hundred Years War, 'knight' took on a more specific military sense until around the sixteenth century when the word was used as a rank in the nobility.

  • Lord

    The roots of the word 'lord' are in Old English. 'Lord' comes from the Old English word 'hlafweard' which meant 'the keeper of the bread, the head of the household', or as we would call it today, the breadwinner. Later the word 'hlafweard' shortened - first it became 'hlaford' and then by the 13th century it was simply 'lord'. Over time, the word 'lord' went up the social ranks until it became indicative of status and power in society and not just in the family. The word reached its peak in hierarchy when it began to be used as a direct translation of 'Dominus' which, in religious tracts, is the Roman word for 'God'.

  • Lady

    Similarly to 'lord', the word 'lady' derives from the Old English word for 'kneader of the bread, the woman of the household' which is 'hlaefdige'. By the 13th century, the meaning of the word had changed to 'a woman of superior position in society'. Nowadays, the word 'lady' has kept its 13th-century meaning but it is also used to describe any woman.

    Consider these two examples that reveal the two different meanings we associate the word 'lady' with:

    Of course she only drinks champagne and wears silk - she is a proper lady!

    Have you seen my grandmother? An old lady with short white hair who usually wears a red coat.

  • Terrific

(Video) What is the meaning of the word AMELIORATION?

The word 'terrific' comes from the Latin word 'terrificus' which meant 'causing terror or fear, frightful'. With time, the negative meaning of the word weakened, and it changed from 'frightful' to 'severe'. The expression 'terrific headache' as in 'severe headache' first appeared in 1809. The sense of the word 'terrific' that we still use now - meaning 'excellent' - began to be used later in the 19th century, in 1888.

Note that another adjective - 'terribly' - that derives from the same source as 'terrific', has also been ameliorated with time. From a word used to describe something that causes fear, terribly is now an alternative for 'very':

I am terribly sorry I'm late.

  • Sick

The case of the word 'sick' is a more recent example of amelioration. 'Sick' derives from the Old English word 'seoc' and from the Proto-Germanic word 'seuka' which meant 'ill, diseased, feeble, weak; corrupt; sad, troubled, deeply affected'.

Today, the original meanings of the word are still in use:

I'm sorry, I can't come to work today. I'm afraid I'm sick, the doctor said I need to stay in bed.

(Video) Amelioration - Medical Definition

This example sentence uses the word 'sick' in the sense of 'mentally unwell, ill'.

How can you kill bunnies just for fun ?! You're sick!

In the context of this sentence, the word 'sick' means 'corrupt, troubled'.

Both of these contemporary uses of 'sick' have negative connotations. However, as a modern slang term, the word has been elevated and has taken on the positive meaning of 'great':

What is the importance of amelioration?

Just like any other type of semantic change, improvement is an important process in the development of language. Through amelioration, some words in the English language have adapted to the changing times and to the sociocultural situations. Learning about which words have been elevated and taken on a positive meaning shows us how societal perceptions of language have changed over time.

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It's interesting to imagine and guess what words that we associate with something negative today would be ameliorated with time. For example, imagine if, in 200 years, the word 'stupid' changes its meaning and refers to someone or something good or even clever.

Amelioration vs pejoration

Pejoration is a type of semantic change that is more common than amelioration. Pejoration involves the process of degenerating meaning over time so that a word takes on more negative connotations. To put it simply, pejoration is the opposite of amelioration. While amelioration is a process in which a word that used to have a more negative meaning develops a more positive one over time, pejoration occurs when the once positive meaning of a word changes into a more negative one.

The word 'attitude' is an example of pejoration. The original meaning of 'attitude' was 'position, pose'. Later, the sense of the word shifted and it was associated with 'mental state, mode of thinking' until its meaning took on more negative connotations and it began to be associated with what we understand by 'attitude' today - 'confronting, uncooperative manner'.

Let's compare two sentences - one uses a word that has gone through the process of amelioration, while the other uses a word that has gone through the opposite process of pejoration.

Amelioration: I'm having a lovely time - today is a nice day!

The word 'nice' that used to be negative a long time ago, now clearly has a positive meaning - in this sentence, 'nice' indicates that the person is having a good day.

Pejoration: I must tell you that your kid has been misbehaving - he's got an attitude problem.

(Video) Amelioration Meaning

The word 'attitude' that used to simply refer to a person's position and state of mind, is now associated with negative behavior, as shown in this sentence.

Amelioration - Key takeaways

  • Amelioration is a type of semantic change that elevates a word's meaning over time, so that a word that previously had a negative meaning develops a positive one.
  • Amelioration is also referred to as semantic melioration or semantic elevation.
  • Some examples of amelioration are words we use on a daily basis, such as 'nice', 'pretty' and 'lady'. Some slang words, such as 'sick' and 'wicked', have also been elevated.
  • Amelioration is an important process in the development of language which shows us how societal perceptions have changed over time.
  • Amelioration is less common than its opposite process - pejoration. Pejoration is a type of semantic change that degenerates the meaning of a word over time so that word takes on more negative connotations.


Whats the definition of amelioration? ›

1 : to make better or more tolerable 2 : to grow better : improve.

How do you use amelioration in a sentence? ›

How to use Amelioration in a sentence. Any amelioration of the existing anarchy must be extra-parliamentary and proceed from the throne. It would be fully as true to facts to describe this religion as a vast scheme for the amelioration of the condition of humanity.

What is the synonym of amelioration? ›

Some common synonyms of ameliorate are better, help, and improve. While all these words mean "to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard," ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure.

How do you ameliorate? ›

To ameliorate is to step in and make a bad situation better. You could try introducing a second lollipop to ameliorate a battle between two toddlers over a single lollipop. The verb ameliorate comes from the Latin word meliorare, meaning “improve.” Food drives can ameliorate hunger.

What is amelioration in slavery? ›

In the history of the former British territories in the Caribbean, the term Amelioration (literally, "making better") refers to the efforts of the Imperial government to improve the situation of the enslaved people in its colonies during the decade between 1823 and the abolition of slavery by Parliament in 1834.

Is ameliorate the same as improve? ›

IMPROVE, AMELIORATE, BETTER imply bringing to a more desirable state. IMPROVE usually implies remedying a lack or a felt need: to improve a process, oneself (as by gaining more knowledge). AMELIORATE, a formal word, implies improving oppressive, unjust, or difficult conditions: to ameliorate working conditions.

What part of speech is ameliorate? ›

verb (used with or without object), a·mel·io·rat·ed, a·mel·io·rat·ing.

How do you use amenable? ›

How to use Amenable in a sentence
  1. He was amenable to change. ...
  2. The employees were not amenable to the control measures which were suggested. ...
  3. Women are more amenable to compromise than men. ...
  4. The doctors were to teach the faithful in sound learning, to guard purity of doctrine, and to be amenable to discipline.

What is it called when you improve something? ›

fortify, intensify, reinforce. (also reenforce), strengthen.

What is it called when you give into something? ›

acquiesce (to), concede (to)

What is the synonym of the word amenable? ›

Some common synonyms of amenable are docile, obedient, and tractable. While all these words mean "submissive to the will of another," amenable suggests a willingness to yield or cooperate because of a desire to be agreeable or because of a natural open-mindedness.

Which means synonym? ›

Find another word for which. In this page you can discover 23 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for which, like: that, thus, therefore, for-which, whereby, so-that, these, to-some-extent, in this way, whatever and what.

What does it mean to make a situation better? ›

verb. formal to correct a problem or mistake, or to make a bad situation better.

What do you call a bad situation? ›

crisis. noun. an urgent, difficult, or dangerous situation.

Who started amelioration? ›

Amelioration proposals were introduced in 1823 in the British and French Caribbean islands. They were introduced by the members of the West India Interest to improve the lives of the slaves. - Slaves were to have Saturday for market and Sunday to attend mass.

What was the main purpose of the amelioration act? ›

The Act prohibited marriages between slaves according to Christian religious ceremony. The Act was effectively repealed by the Slave Trade Act 1807, which made it illegal to trade in slaves in any British territory.

What year was the amelioration act? ›

In 1798, the Leeward Islands passed the Amelioration Act. The intent was similar to Barbados' Consolidated Slave Law in that it was to improve the conditions of slaves.

Are ameliorate and mitigate synonyms? ›

synonyms for ameliorate
  • alleviate.
  • lighten.
  • mitigate.
  • amend.
  • help.
  • improve.
  • meliorate.
  • relieve.

Is exacerbate the opposite of ameliorate? ›

“Stress is believed to impair one's ability to regulate moods.”
What is the opposite of ameliorate?
make worseagitate
14 more rows

Which is the closest antonym for the word amenable? ›

antonyms for amenable
  • irresponsible.
  • nonconforming.
  • not responsible.
  • unaccountable.
  • unanswerable.
  • unchargeable.
  • uncooperative.
  • unwilling.

What is the synonym of alleviate? ›

synonyms for alleviate
  • allay.
  • assuage.
  • ease.
  • mitigate.
  • lighten.
  • mollify.
  • pacify.
  • soft pedal.

How do you pronounce ameliorated? ›

How to Pronounce Ameliorate? (CORRECTLY) - YouTube

What is the synonym of agreeable? ›

acceptable, delicious, delightful, enjoyable, gratifying, mild, pleasant, satisfying, proper, congenial, consenting, favorable, sympathetic, dandy, fair, fine, hunky-dory, nice, peach, peachy.

What part of speech is the word amenable? ›

Amenable is an adjective - Word Type.

How do you use agreeable in a sentence? ›

Examples of agreeable in a Sentence

He's a very agreeable young man. Traffic is one of the less agreeable aspects of city life. They spent an agreeable evening together. I suggested that we leave early, and she seemed agreeable.

What do you call someone who is always trying to improve? ›

undaunted, undismayed, unshaken.

What is another word for self-improvement? ›

In this page you can discover 5 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for self-improvement, like: self-reformation, self-development, self-fulfilment, self-realisation and null.

How can I improve myself? ›

Here's a look at some ways to build self-improvement into your daily routine and let go of negative thoughts about yourself.
  1. Cultivate gratitude. ...
  2. Greet everyone you meet. ...
  3. Try a digital detox. ...
  4. Use positive self-talk. ...
  5. Practice random acts of kindness. ...
  6. Eat at least one meal mindfully. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Breathe consciously.
24 Apr 2019

What is a word for not giving in? ›

Some common synonyms of refuse are decline, reject, repudiate, and spurn. While all these words mean "to turn away by not accepting, receiving, or considering," refuse suggests more positiveness or ungraciousness and often implies the denial of something asked for. refused to lend them the money.

What's a word for not giving up? ›

Having or showing tenacity and grim persistence. dogged. staunch. perseverant. resolute.

What is the opposite of giving in? ›

What is the opposite of give in?
resisthold off
withholdhold out
stand your ground
5 more rows

What is not amenable? ›

Nonamenable or non-amenable species are exotic species under voluntary inspection. Examples include bison, domestic rabbits, domestic deer, pheasant, quail, and captive raised waterfowl. Voluntary inspection is handled under the Agriculture Marketing Act.

What does amenable to treatment mean? ›

1 open or susceptible to suggestion; likely to listen, cooperate, etc. 2 accountable for behaviour to some authority; answerable.

What does amenable mean in medical terms? ›

amenableadjective. open to being acted upon in a certain way. "an amenable hospitalization should not result in untimely death"; "the tumor was not amenable to surgical treatment"

What is an example of pejoration? ›

In historical linguistics, the process of an inoffensive word becoming pejorative is a form of semantic drift known as pejoration. An example of pejoration is the shift in meaning of the word silly from meaning that a person was happy and fortunate to meaning that they are foolish and unsophisticated.

When was the Amelioration Act passed? ›

The Amelioration Act 1798 (sometimes referred to as the Melioration Act or the Slavery Amelioration Act) was a statute passed by the Leeward Islands to improve the conditions of slaves in the British Caribbean colonies.

What is climate amelioration? ›

climate amelioration. The positive influence of forest on the climate change.

What is narrowing in linguistics? ›

Semantic narrowing is a type of semantic change by which the meaning of a word becomes less general or inclusive than its earlier meaning. Also known as specialization or restriction. The opposite process is called broadening or semantic generalization.

What is pejoration in semantics? ›

Pejoration is a type of semantic change that happens when a word's meaning becomes more negative.

What is the opposite of pejoration? ›

The opposite of pejoration is amelioration or elevation.

What is an example of an euphemism? ›

A euphemism is a word or phrase that is rife within everyday language and conversation. They allow us to have uncomfortable conversations without using unsettling language. For example, a boss telling an employee they are “let go” instead of “fired” aims to soften the blow.

Who started amelioration? ›

Amelioration proposals were introduced in 1823 in the British and French Caribbean islands. They were introduced by the members of the West India Interest to improve the lives of the slaves. - Slaves were to have Saturday for market and Sunday to attend mass.

What were slaves not allowed to do? ›

There were numerous restrictions to enforce social control: slaves could not be away from their owner's premises without permission; they could not assemble unless a white person was present; they could not own firearms; they could not be taught to read or write, nor could they transmit or possess “inflammatory” ...

Why were planters unhappy with amelioration? ›

Planters opposed this nexus between the amelioration proposals and the East Indian challenge. They saw it as a diabolical plot to ruin them. They strongly objected to being betrayed by those who were the chief beneficiaries of their struggles – the British capitalists.

How can we ameliorate global warming? ›

10 Ways to Stop Global Warming
  1. Change a light. Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  2. Drive less. ...
  3. Recycle more. ...
  4. Check your tires. ...
  5. Use less hot water. ...
  6. Avoid products with a lot of packaging. ...
  7. Adjust your thermostat. ...
  8. Plant a tree.

How can we ameliorate climate change? ›

  1. Put a price on carbon.
  2. End fossil fuel subsidies.
  3. Build low-carbon, resilient cities.
  4. Increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.
  5. Implement climate-smart agriculture and nurture forest landscapes.
18 Mar 2015

What is microclimate amelioration? ›

Simply put, microclimate amelioration is the difference between the local climatic conditions organisms are experiencing and their macroclimate, or the “free-air” conditions of well-mixed air in nearby open areas (De Frenne et al., 2019).

What is it called when a words meaning changes over time? ›

Updated on November 04, 2019. In semantics and historical linguistics, semantic change refers to any change in the meaning(s) of a word over the course of time. Also called semantic shift, lexical change, and semantic progression.

What is an example of semantic? ›

Semantics is the study of meaning in language. It can be applied to entire texts or to single words. For example, "destination" and "last stop" technically mean the same thing, but students of semantics analyze their subtle shades of meaning.


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