Most of the time, we speak about what’s popular. However, today we’ll be talking about a word that could become popular soon.
What does “Mayhaps” mean?
“Mayhaps” has a similar meaning to “perhaps” or “possibly”, it’s a very old fashioned adverb that some people are saying is making a comeback.
In this article, I want to talk about where it comes from, how you might use it in a sentence, what some alternatives are, what other old words are coming back, and whether or not “mayhaps” is back for good.
By the end of this article, you can get a glimpse into the English language’s past.
What I thought “Mayhaps” meant
When I first came across this, I made the mistake of thinking it was a cross between “Maybe” and “Perhaps”.
And I don’t think I can be blamed for making this assumption.
“Maybe” and “Perhaps” are two words with the same meaning, so it makes sense that there would be a word to combine the two into one via a portmanteau.
In a way “Mayhaps” does have the same meaning as “Maybe” and “Perhaps”, however, it is not a combination of the two words.
Being a modern man, this is the kind of mistake I could be forgiven for making.
What “Mayhaps” actually means
Okay, but if “Mayhaps” does not come from “Maybe and perhaps” where does it come from?
Well, when I assumed it was a portmanteau, I was technically correct. However, what I was incorrect about is what it’s a portmanteau of.
Mayhaps is a portmanteau of “May” and “haps” or a shortening of the sentence “It may hap”. And in the next section, we’ll talk about what that means.
The reason why “mayhaps” isn’t used anymore is that “haps” isn’t either. We can’t expect a word to be used if it’s from another world that isn’t used anymore.
What does “hap” mean?
But what does “haps” mean?
If you read old texts, you might read that something could “Come about by haps”, which means that it comes about by chance.
I find this interesting because often in our blogs, we talk about modern terms and wonder if they’ll last. But we never talk about older words that have gone out of our vocabulary. It goes to show just how quickly and easily the English language can change.
If time travel were possible, it would be interesting to have a modern and older linguist sit down to talk about the English language.
What’s the difference between Hap and Happen
“Hap” sounds awfully similar to another word in English. I am, of course, talking about “happen”. While there could well be an etymological link between the two words, they have different meanings.
When something happens, it could have any cause. It could have been controlled by people, or be a result of our actions. However, when something comes about by hap, it comes about by chance, by luck if you like- it could be good luck or bad luck.
You can control what happens. But you can’t control what comes about by hap.
Examples of “Mayhaps” in sentences
To fully understand “mayhaps”, I want to use the word in a few sentences.
“Mayhaps you’re right”. Here, the speaker is saying that the listener could be right. But if he is, it’s by chance.
“Mayhaps the person here is not who we thought she was”. In this example, the speaker says that is a chance the person they’re after if not the person they found. This is not due to human error, but an unavoidable mistake.
“Mayhaps it will rain tomorrow”. No human has any control over what the weather will be like. And there is a chance it will rain tomorrow.
Alternatives to “Mayhaps”
As with most of the words we have, there are synonyms, words with the same (or at least similar) meanings. But could have different impacts in different sentences.
When something could possibly happen, that means it’s not impossible for it to happen. There is nothing in nature that would prevent it from happening.
If a thing is “obtainable”, it’s usually a physical object that we there is a chance of us getting.
“Credible” is usually a word we would use to describe a story someone has just told us. To say that someone’s account is “credible” is to say that they might not be lying.
We also have conceivably, and feasibly.
Other old words that have come back
Let’s take a quick look at some older words that are starting to make a comeback. When someone is a “hipster”, we might think of them as someone who prides themselves on their individuality whilst dressing and acting like all other hipsters.
But the term goes all the way back to the 1940s when it meant “a trendily dressed young person”.
“Savage” goes all the way back to the 13th century. For most of that time, it’s been related to the wild and uncivilised. However, recently, it’s taken on a new meaning, to be “savage” is to be confident and a little bit brutal.
Is “mayhaps” back for good?
In my personal view, it’s unlikely that “mayhaps” will find its way back into our regular lexicon. We have too many words that convey the same point, and getting old words back is even more challenging than making a new word popular.
It’s likely to see a small surge among certain people, but I doubt it’ll be back to being used as often as it used to be.
However, language is unpredictable, and just because I don’t think something will catch on, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Only time will tell whether I’m right.
Mayhaps, I will be proven utterly wrong.
“Mayhaps” is a very old adverb, it has a similar meaning to “perhaps”.
“Mayhaps” is a shortening of the phrase, “it may hap”, and “hap” means come about by chance.
Whilst other old words have come back such as hipster, savage, bespoke, and hella, you’ll have far more luck creating a new word than you would be reviving a dead one.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. But I also hope you’ve learnt a bit more about how language evolves, how it changes, and how it used to be. Now, if I’m wrong, and it does come back, you can know what those kids will be talking about.