5 Important Historical Events That Changed Language

Language is most certainly a living thing, and boy, has it lived through a lot. There’s no doubt that key events throughout history have not only jarred the world in extreme ways, but they have also changed the ways in which people speak. So, we searched for (and found) a few words to share that actually came about in an interesting historical way (and they are still around today).

We'll give you the summary ... but our friends at Study.com will give you the full course of these historical events, so sit back and enjoy the learning.

WATCH: Quotes That Show How Our Greatest US Presidents Coined Our Most Common Words


basket case

Although it’s used today as a (mostly) lighthearted way of calling someone crazy, the term basket case has origins shades darker.

During the First World War (Study.com's WWI history course will give you all the sordid details), soldiers would call those that were severely injured “basket cases,” referring to the fact that they would have to be carried from the battlefield in a wheelbarrow or basket due to the severity of their injuries, many of which involved loss of limbs. Morbid.



Although in today’s world it may be referring to someone with a near-fanatical attitude toward a particular mindset (or a Bruce Willis franchise), when diehard first popped up it had a more literal meaning.

Although first iterations referred to those who struggled the longest while being hanged, the phrase reached new levels of recognition during the Napoleonic Wars (Study.com can give you more insight into those battlefields).

William Inglis, a British Army officer, urged his men of the 57th Regiment to “Die hard, 57th, die hard!” as they faced the formidable French, becoming known to the world as the “Die Hards.” 


turn a blind eye

If someone turns a blind eye, it usually means that they’re willfully refusing to acknowledge a certain situation. For the famous British naval hero Horatio Nelson, however, it was literal.

During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, Nelson failed to see one of his superior officers flagging for him to withdraw from the battle due to his failing eyesight. In the end he proclaimed to his men, “I really do not see the signal," and ended up scoring a victory. Supposedly it’s nothing but a myth, but to turn a blind eye has remained a staple idiom to this day.  

(This battle happened in the War of the Third Coalition. Learn more about the victories and defeats of the War of the Third Coalition from Study.com's overview of the subject.)

Huck Magazine


To be “teen-aged” is a concept that has been lingering around since 1818 ... although the phrase didn’t become popularized until post-War America. (What other things popped up post-War? Study.com has some answers ...)

With an economy flowing with more disposable income, it gave rise to the teenager, the Billys and Susies that could enjoy an extended childhood without the hardships of war or labor before reaching adulthood.

VCoins Community

crossing the Rubicon

In 49 BC, this guy by the name of Julius Caesar took a casual—okay, big—step when he decided to cross the Rubicon River. Why was this such a big deal?

Caesar and his 13th legion deliberately broke the Roman law of imperium, or invading territory to which Caesar had no legal right. This event spurred the rise of Caesar into dictatorship and the end of the Roman republic, and it remains a euphemism for something which has reached the point of no return.  

(Do you remember more about Julius Caesar from HBO than from the history class? Well, hit the books because he was real and you can learn more about him from Study.com's course all about his life)

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.