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A term in LINGUISTICS for the process of SEMANTIC CHANGE in which there is a depreciation or downward shift in the meaning of a word, phrase, or lexeme: for example, Old English cnafa (boy: compare German Knabe) became Modern English knave someone dishonest; Latin villanus (a farm servant) became Middle English vilain/vilein (a serf with some rights of independence), then Modern English villain (a scoundrel, criminal). .

. PEJORATION (or Deterioration) Pejoration is when a word acquires disagreeable connotations, or negative semantic value e.g. lust in Old English meant desire or pleasure but today implies illicit or intemperate sexual desire. Human nature being what it is, pejoration is commoner than amelioration. Here are some well know examples of pejoration: coy once meant quiet and modest cunning meant skillful, gaudy meant brilliant and cheerful, uncouth meant unknown. Villain, knave and lewd are further examples where words have picked up negative semantic value, examples of pejoration. Many words related to women in society have also accumulated negative semantic value over time.