This piece originally appeared in Entropy Magazine.

Author’s note: The date and definition of each word is only the Oxford English Dictionary’s first known recording of the word’s use (in English). The purpose of this is to showcase how and when different definitions for words developed. I found it surprising that in some cases common modern definitions were not used for hundreds of years after the word’s first use.

In each listed word, I have purposefully left out usages and definitions that I found repetitive or irrelevant. As such, this should not be considered an exhaustive or comprehensive list of word use, past meanings, or etymologies. All definitions, dates, and records of publication are directly taken from the OED.

OCEAN, noun

Etymology: French, occean

c1300: The Early South-English Legendary or Lives of Saints : The vast continuous body of salt water covering the greater part of the earth’s surface and surrounding its land masses; the sea, esp. the open sea

1590: Spenser, Faerie Queene: An immense or boundless expanse of something. Also (hyperbolically): a very great or indefinite quantity; (freq. in pl.) lots of.

BIKINI, noun

1947: Daily Telegraph: A large explosion.

1947:  Le Monde Illustré: A scanty two-piece beach garment worn by women.

SUMMER, noun

Etymology: Old English Sumor; Old French Somier

c. 825: The Vespasian Psalter: The second and warmest season of the year, coming between spring and autumn; reckoned astronomically from the summer solstice (21 June) to the autumnal equinox (22 or 23 September); in popular use comprising in the northern hemisphere the period from mid-May to mid-August

1359: R. Chapman’s Sacrist Rolls Ely: A horizontal bearing beam in a building; spec. the main beam supporting the girders or joists of a floor

1592:  T. Nash, Strange Newes: With reference to prosperous, pleasant, or genial conditions; said esp. of friendship that lasts only in times of prosperity

1886: Leslie’s Monthly: Designating tourists or those who visit a place for a summer holiday.

TAN, noun and adjective

Etymology: French tan

1604: Dictionary of French and English Tongues: The crushed bark of the oak or of other trees, an infusion of which is used in converting hides into leather.

1739: The Gardeners Dictionary: Spent bark from the tan-pits, used by gardeners, and for riding-courses, etc.

1749: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure: The bronzed tint imparted to the skin by exposure to the sun or the weather.

1806: An Epitome of Chemistry: The astringent principle contained in oak-bark.

1888: The Daily News: The brown color of tan; tawny.

SUN, noun

Etymology: Old English sunne

c.888: King Alfred’s translation of Boethius’ De Consol. Philosophy: The brightest (as seen from the earth) of the heavenly bodies, the luminary or orb of day; the central body of the solar system, around which the earth and other planets revolve, being kept in their orbits by its attraction and supplied with light and heat by its radiation.

c950: The Lindisfarne Gospels: As a type of brightness or clearness.

c. 1275: Layamon: Brut: As an object of worship in various religions, and thus (and hence generally) personified as a male being, sometimes identified with various gods, esp.

1400: The Destruction of Troy: With reference to the heat produced by the sun.

1579: Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender: Applied to things or conditions; esp. in expressions referring to prosperity or gladness.

Featured image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

About The Author

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Meriwether Clarke is a poet and teacher living in Los Angeles, California. She holds degrees in Poetry from Northwestern University and UC Irvine’s Programs in Writing where she served as the Poetry Editor for Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters. Her poems have recently been seen in Prelude, The Journal, Salt Hill, and Dialogist, among others.