When the word egregious was borrowed into English in the late 1500s, it meant "splendid" or "distinguished"! However, over time, the definition shifted to the modern meaning of "outstandingly bad" because it was frequently used in a sarcastic context, and the other sense was relegated to the annals of history. It seems that the adjective was taken directly from Latin egregius, which also meant "excellent" but more literally translates to "out of the flock": that's composed of the prefix e-, meaning "out of" (from Proto-Indo-European eghs, also "out") and the root grex, meaning "flock" (from Proto-Indo-European ger, "to gather"). After peaking in the year 1590, literary usage of the word egregious has generally declined, although there's been a slight resurgence since the late twentieth century.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.