Thursday, December 12, 2013

Language of Confusion: Badder

I did good and better/best, so I might as well do bad and worse/worst.

Now, badder isn’t really a word, but clearly baddest is or we wouldn’t have a description for Shaft. But apparently Shaft-describing is the only vestige of what were once real words. Either because they were disliked or just colloquialisms, badder and baddest haven’t been in use for at least three hundred years. Bad itself showed up in the early thirteenth century, first just meaning inferior, then also meaning evil although the latter definition didn’t catch on for another hundred years. It’s thought to come from the Old English insulting term baeddel, which means…well, it’s a derogatory word, let’s just leave it at that.

Like I said, badder and baddest once were the comparative forms of bad. Worse and worst were just more popular. Worse comes from the Old English wiersa/wyrsa, the Proto Germanic wers-izon, and can even be traced to the Proto Indo European wers, which actually means to mix up. Worst has a similar lineage, coming from the Old English wyrresta and Proto Germanic wers-ista and, like worse, the word wers.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much info about why worse and worst were more popular. However it might have something to do with how bad didn’t initially mean evil, but worse and worst did. I’m sure this mess definitely has to do with the fact that English is a language where we all just pick the words we like to say, screw “definitions”.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. I still hear baddest now and then, but it's almost slang - 'he's the baddest.'

  2. Of course I had to go look up and see what baeddel meant...

  3. Now I'm curious as to what the bad of worse is. That is, if you have bad, worse, worst, what should have been in the "bad" slot that's similar to worse?

  4. Oh, do you mean like literally screw definitions?
    I think I will pick some words that I just like to say and start throwing them into sentences in place of other words. Maybe I can get some to stick.

  5. "English is a language where we all just pick the words we like to say, screw “definitions”."

    ROFLMAO. So true. Go out in a crowd and listen to people talk. Cringe at their grammar and misused words.


Please validate me.