monster

Definitions

General English

Medical

  • noun a former term for a fetus or infant with severe developmental malformations, usually not able to live

Slang

  • exclamation
    (written as monster!)
    excellent. A popular expression of enthusiasm or admiration, mostly heard among middle-aged speakers in the 1990s.
  • noun an unattractive and/or unpleasant person. Defined as ‘someone who looks disgusting and smells’, this is an item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

Origin & History of “monster”

Monster originated as a word for a ‘divine omen or warning’. It goes back via Old French monstre to Latin mōnstrum, a derivative of the verb monēre ‘warn’. From its original sense ‘warning of misfortune, evil omen’, mōnstrum was transferred to the sort of thing that could function as such an omen – a ‘prodigy’, or a ‘misshapen or horrifying creature’ – whence the meaning of English monster. The word’s connotations of ‘largeness’ seem to be rather more recent, first emerging in English in the 16th century.

Other English derivatives of mōnstrum, some of them reflecting a later sense of monēre, ‘show, inform’, rather than the original ‘warn’, include demonstrate (16th c.), monstrance (16th c.), muster (13th c.) (which originally meant ‘display’), and remonstrate (16th c.). And from monēre itself come admonish, monitor (16th c.), monument (13th c.), premonition (16th c.), and summon (13th c.).
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