Number one for English language teachers

Word of the week: Weird

Type: Reference material

Ever wondered about weird noises in the middle of the night or encountered a bit of a weirdo on the bus? Tim Bowen explains the history of this wonderfully weird Word of the week.

This word has an interesting history. In medieval English it meant ‘controlling the destinies of men’ and was related to the German verb werden, meaning ‘to become’. It appears in Nordic mythology as the representation of fate. One possible explanation for its radical change in meaning to ‘mysterious’ or ‘uncanny’ is its appearance in Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the form of the Weird Sisters. Perhaps later audiences of the play simply interpreted them and their actions as strange or mysterious and the modern-day use of weird stems from this.

Today it can have associations with strange or even supernatural events, as in ‘I heard some weird noises in the middle of the night’, but is more often used to mean ‘unusual’ or ‘odd’, as in ‘What a weird thing to say!’ or ‘This wine tastes a bit weird’. This meaning has also given rise to an associated noun weirdo, used to describe a strange or eccentric person, usually with a negative connotation, as in ‘Watch out for him. He’s a bit of a weirdo’.


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