We’ve all created our own personal histories, marked by highs and lows, that we share with the world — and we can shape them to live with more meaning and purpose.

“Words over time have a way of just oozing around,” says linguist John McWhorter. He traces the evolution of five words that have spent millennia drifting from one meaning into another.

It turns out, many, many words in English don’t have a dictionary definition. Lexicographer Erin McKean and her team at Wordnik are on a mission to change that.

Words change meaning all the time — and over time. Language historian Anne Curzan takes a closer look at this phenomenon, and shares some words that used to mean something totally different.

Andrew Solomon regularly writes — beautifully — of people coping in unthinkable conditions: a woman who learns to love the daughter she bore after being raped; the father who tries to come to terms with his murderous son. Figuring out a way to cope with purposeless tragedy poses a real challenge for meaning-making humans. Thu Ha digs in.