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THE following collection of passages from old and modern writers, though the result of considerable labour and research, was originally undertaken rather as an amusement than with a view to publication. As however the work approached completion, it was thought that it possessed qualities of a sufficiently popular character to entitle it to the notice of the general reader. It is intended to exhibit some of the changes which the course of time has effected in the meaning of numerous words in common use, and to set forth such varieties by way of examples which speak for themselves, rather than by the use of lengthy and tedious explanations. The author has not attempted to point out the derivation of the words themselves, or to trace the stages of transformation through which they may have passed, but the object has been simply to bring together instances, arranged in the order of time, showing a whole or partial deviation from the original sense.

Many words may doubtless have had from a remote period a second meaning which has survived the alternative signification, and the obsolete sense may have been of rare occurrence, but that has not been considered a sufficient reason for their exclusion.

It is believed that the present book differs from any

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other of the same character in supplying illustrations of the modern usage by way of contrast to the old, thus enabling the reader himself to compare the various meanings and to detect the subtle changes.

In the present general taste for things belonging to a more or less remote past, the antiquated expressions of our early writers seem to deserve a share of attention, and if the form and spelling of words so keenly occupy the public mind, the study of their meaning, whether ancient or modern, can hardly be of inferior importance.

The works of Nares, Richardson, and other writers have been consulted with reference to certain obscure senses, but the quotations, with some few exceptions, have been derived from the original sources.

It is much to be regretted that the lady who collected most of these examples did not live to complete the MS. for the Press, and the Editor begs the indulgence of the reader in excusing the absence of exact reference to some of the authors quoted, together with other imperfections necessarily arising from the publication of a posthumous work.


'I MAINTAIN the change of words,' wrote Shakspeare, and he in turn might now justly be startled at the vicissitudes of many of his own expressions. The language of a country, no less than its laws and institutions, is subject to the variations of time and fashion. If ideas and opinions, beliefs and superstitions, are constantly being pruned and modified by increased knowledge, culture, and the general force of civilisation, it is not to be wondered at that the words which express those ideas and beliefs should undergo a corresponding transformation.

Words, whilom flourishing,
Pass now no more, but banished from the court
Dwell with disgrace among the vulgar sort:
And those which eld's strict doom did disallow,
And damn for bullion, go for current now*.

In the infancy of the literary history of a nation, its language may be said to be 'in the air.' The materials out of which it is formed are themselves heterogeneous, as the different races which compose the population may have happened to contribute their share to the common

* Sylvester. The old meaning of 'bullion' was inferior metal, which required melting in order to be raised to the proper standard of purity.

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