Monday, January 27, 2014

Word of the Week - Escalate

Patent diagram of the first escalator ("revolving stairs") - 1859

This one got me. I admit it. I looked it up during edits on a WhiteFire book because I wasn't sure it was quite early enough in the sense used. And what do I find? A surprise!

Escalate is new. Darn new. As in, from 1922--and that's in the literal sense. It's actually a back-formation of escalator (from 1900). Before that, the verb had been escalade. Not so different a word, right? Except that escalade has exactly one meaning: "to use ladders to scale a fortified wall." Yeah, um...not how I use escalate!

So what of that meaning? The "to raise," or "to intensify" meaning? Well...that didn't come around until the Cold War! 1959 to be exact. I had no idea it was so new!


  1. Wow! The evolution of languages is so interesting; new words appearing or changing their meanings all the time. My favourite use of escalate is in the phrase: 'well that escalated quickly'. ... no ladders to be seen :)

  2. Wow! Never would have guessed! Love these posts (but I think you knew that lol)

  3. Very cool! I never would have guessed it was so new. I just love these posts.