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The True Meaning of "Weird"

Updated on December 16, 2012
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Weird

This article is weird, but in a weird way. It was fated to happen, and “boom” here it is. But it’s not weird in the common weird way that many may perceive. If, for example, a death were described as weird, one would imagine that the death was abnormal, uncanny, or downright strange, yet this was not always true. The meaning of the word “weird” has changed with the centuries. The original meaning of the word “weird” meant to be fated or destined. It was not until the Shakespeare’s Macbeth that “weird” took on its modern definition of oddity. So, when I describe this paper as weird, I am saying that it is odd, abnormal, and a disgrace to the human race, yet 400 years ago, I would be saying that this paper is fated, part of destiny, something that was meant to happen in this lifetime.

History

It may seem odd to think that the word “weird” really meant fated or destined only 400 years ago.The initial meaning of the word “weird” has its roots from an Indo-European word wert meaning “to turn,” which evolved into a sense of how something will turn out. The word weird has had different definitions throughout history. The word weird was used as a verb by the Scots in the 14th century. The Scots perceived the word “weird” in a sense of “to preordain be degree of fate." Its use as an adjective developed in the 15th century, in the sense of "having the power to control fate," originally in the name of the Weird Sisters, mythological witches who could tell the future. If, in 1735, I were to refer to “that weird phenomenon,” I would, in a sense, be referring to a destined event that took place. The word weird was not viewed as something freakish, nor was the word abnormal. “Weird” almost seemed to have a religious connotation, for if something is fated, it’s meant to be, and someone meant it to be that way.

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Shakespeare's Influence

Over the course of history the original meaning of the word “weird” has morphed into something vastly different. The word weird has been transformed from its meaning of destiny, to a new description, for weird is now used to describe everything that is odd, unusual, or supernatural. The metamorphosis of this word can be accredited, or blamed, on Shakespeare. Around 1607, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, and it was in this play that Shakespeare referred to the “Weird Sisters”. Shakespeare’s depicted “the weird sisters, hand in hand, posters of the sea and land,” and described them as “so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that [they] look not like the inhabitants o' the earth.”Shakespeare’s depiction of the “Weird Sisters” included an unusual word choice, a strong sense of the supernatural, and an ability to see someone’s destiny, which led to an association with the word “weird." Weird described the fate or destiny that was perceived in the past, yet, as with most things, it was “distorted by time, robbed of truth by cynicism, yet gifted with splendor by imagination” (Coulter).

Modern Day

Now, in our modern day society, weird has taken a new, slang, meaning. When I refer to something as being weird, I mean that it is odd, unusual, creepy, or supernatural. I think my brother is weird (there is nothing destined about him), and many would agree. This paper is weird in the weird way that I am describing its weirdness. Weird is a popular word among teens these days. It would be a weird day indeed if I went a whole day at school without hearing the word weird to describe the weirdness of an event, person, or assignment. Even today the word seems to be changing. When I use the word weird, it is often to describe something odd or someone who is being unusually hyper or funny, or as one anonymous thinker once valiantly put it, “life isn't weird: it's just the people in it.” Meanings are always changing. While I gaze at the second hand ticking away, the root meaning of my entire language is slipping from my grasp.

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Etymology

Over time, things, ideas, and words will change. The path that they will travel in the future is unknown. To predict what a word will mean in twenty years, is like trying to predict history. We can only go back in time through text to view what words meant in the past. We can trace words through their history, to what they have become today. “Weird” meant fated or destined in the past, then it went through a metamorphosis due to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now, in present day, to be weird is to be something abnormal or odd, and in the next 100 years it may change into something else, only time will tell.

Works

Coulter, Catherine. Night Storm. New York: Avon Books, 1990. Print.

Harper, Douglas. “Weird.” Online Entomology Dictionary. 2001-2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2010.

Hodgson, Charles. “Weird.” Prodictionary. 2010. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. 1607. The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. 2010.Web. 29 Nov. 2010.

“Weird.” Word-Origins. WebFinancer Inc. 2010. Web. 28, Oct, 2010.

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    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya annajazz, awesome read. I sometimes use the word "weird" to describe myself, as in "My kids think their mom is weird." I'm not really weird, just a little odd, not really fated or destined to be weird either, as I am IMHO quite normal. lol Voted up, interesting and definitely informative.

      Welcome to Hubpages, and thanks so much for the follow. Here's wishing you all the best here on Hubpages... Cheers!

      Have a nice day,

      Rosie

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 4 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      This hub is cool, in the slang sense of the word!

      Nicely done!

    • annajazz profile image
      Author

      Anna Marie 4 years ago from Connecticut

      Thankz Guys!

      I strive to bring about a new sense of vocabulary lol

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Man, that was one really weird article! Very enjoyable and fascinating read. I wasn't fully aware of the origins of the word. I learn something new, and knowing things is good. Knowledge is half the battle.

    • profile image

      Nana Rox 2 years ago

      Years ago, I read that the original meaning of weird was "wise" but don't remember where. Great article.

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