Copyeditors Must Appreciate All of a Word's Meanings
Until you’ve explored several usage guides and dictionaries, it can be hard to appreciate how a simple word can have many nuanced meanings over its lifetime.
The word appreciate, as used above, means be aware of. It can mean value or be grateful for. With an object, it means to increase in value. We’d like a word to have a meaning and stick to it, but that’s not always the way our language works.
The root is the Latin pretium, or price. The earliest use of the word, recorded in the sixteenth century, meant to set a price on something, the same as appraise. In the seventeenth century, appreciate was used to suggest recognition that a thing had value, and in the eighteenth century it meant recognition regardless of value (recognition of danger, in the Oxford English Dictionary's earliest example).
The more common use of appreciate in current use seems to have to do with gratitude, as when we appreciate the candy we get at Halloween. That meaning is also the most recent. The OED’s first example is from 1823. The idea of something increasing in value is not much older. That form comes from a desire to express the opposite of depreciate; it’s first recorded in 18th century America.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage points out that both these more-recent meanings have been decried by one language expert or another.
“One century of criticism has produced no clear, consistent, and legitimate concern,” the usage guide’s editors say. The entry concludes “Trust your dictionary.” All the definitions are to be appreciated.
While we ask appreciate to do several different things, the word appreciable is not as flexible. It only means capable of being perceived, and it does not make a value judgment. You can hear an appreciable difference in noise from under your hood or sense an appreciable increase in odd smells coming from the refrigerator.