click to call
(937) 867-9673 (WORD)

'Terrific' can be a Bad Word!

in Word Use

As a wordsmith, I am passionate about using the right words for the right circumstances. Proper word usage is why I'm excited about launching this blog, "Avoid Using Bad Words." This title may be disappointing to some people expecting to read about, let's say, "foul, colorful language." This blog posting and the ones that follow identify and clarify frequently abused and misused words. The word featured this month is:


When we say someone looks "terrific," it's interpreted as a compliment, suggesting he or she has an appealing appearance, for example. A gleaming new car may be described as being "terrific" in an advertisement that entices consumers to buy it.

The definition of "terrific" used today found its way into our vernacular at the start of the 20th Century.

This word experienced a near flip-flop from its origins in the 1660s. For some context, look at the first two syllables, which brings the word "terror" to mind.

 According to EtymOnline, the word "errific" was used to describe situations that were frightening or evoked fear.

Historically speaking, the American colonies were being settled by the Europeans during this timeframe when "errific" described challenges such as building shelters, dealing with a preponderance of biting insects, and foraging for food.

They may have described the rigors of conquering the untamed wilderness in the 1660s as "errific." Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of the settlers that later transformed this untamed land into the United States of America as being "terrific!"