(1 syl.). This is an example of the strange changes which come over some words. The Slavi were a tribe which once dwelt on the banks of the Dnieper, and were so called from slav (noble, illustrious); but as, in the lower ages of the Roman empire, vast multitudes of them were spread over Europe in the condition of captive servants, the word came to signify a slave. Similarly, Goths means the good or godlike men; but since the invasion of the Goths the word has become synonymous with barbarous, bad, ungodlike.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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