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More on the strange history of "pregnant"

Posted by R. Berg on January 11, 2001

In Reply to: Pregnant Pause posted by R. Berg on January 11, 2001

: : What is the origin of the phrase 'pregnant pause'?

: Metaphor. Some pauses resemble literal pregnancies in that they are filled with meaning, as a pregnant body is filled with the offspring to be born; and they are forward-looking--that is, they have the listener waiting for the next utterance--in something of the same way that a pregnancy portends the forthcoming birth. The Oxford English Dictionary gives examples of the word "pregnant" used with the sense of "full of meaning" beginning in the 15th century.

An addendum without which my explanation above is misleading: Historically, the literal and metaphorical meanings of "pregnant" have traded places. Although modern dictionaries give the biological sense first, the word meant "full of significance" (and some other things) before it meant "with child." Source: OED.