What Does Renew Really Mean? {Blogger of the Month}

by Jamie Smith, Miss April 2015

What do you think of when you hear the word renew? I have mixed reactions, to be honest.

ARWB Renew definition graphic

On one hand, I see it as a way of conveying life returning or revitalizing. Even though it brings on allergies, I love how Spring is a season of renewal. I see a renewal in the foliage and feel a renewal in my soul as the Winter fades away. For many of us, Spring and renewal go hand-in-hand because of Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

But there’s also a slightly negative connotation, at least in my mind. Think about it—you have to renew your driver’s license, right? For most of us that means picking a number and waiting in a long line.

And another reference is renewing wedding vows. Now hear me out here! I don’t think anything negative when I hear of friends renewing their vows. It’s romantic, touching and meaningful. But when I think of doing it myself, I keep thinking “how can I renew something that doesn’t expire?” My husband and I plan to do a similar thing and repeat our vows and celebrate our marriage. The first time will probably be at the 10-year mark (we’ve been married almost 7 years). But I just can’t call it a vow renewal. I want to call it a refresher. At least I felt that way before I started looking into it more for the sake of this blog.

Here’s the thing with most words—there is a real meaning and then there’s connotation. In other words, what the dictionary says and what people think the word means. So I looked it up.

This probably won’t surprise you, but renew has several similar definitions (I grouped them all together):
• to make (something) new, fresh, or strong again
• to make (a promise, vow, etc.) again
• to begin (something) again especially with more force or enthusiasm
• to make like new : restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection
• to make new spiritually
• to restore to existence
• to make extensive changes in
• to do again
• to begin again
• to grant or obtain an extension of or on
• to grant or obtain an extension on the loan of.
Whew! That’s a lot of potential uses of the word renew. But I see a lot of common threads there.

Do you notice that most of the definitions speak of something that existed but is either continuing or is starting again? And that when that thing, whatever it is, is coming out the other side stronger, better and possibly even more amazing?

I love that about the word renew. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that what was before was bad. In fact, it could be so great it’s worth repeating. Or even if whatever is being renewed changes, it implies that whatever was before provided a strong foundation.

To me, that’s not negative at all. It helps me reframe the whole idea of renew, even when it felt “off” to me before. Yes, even that long line at the DMV. After all, I didn’t lose my driver’s license with bad driving so I can look at it as the state saying “we still think you should be allowed to drive. Now go do it better.”

And the whole wedding vow thing? I now envision the idea of a vow renewal as talking about all these definitions above (OK, maybe not all). We can talk about how our marriage vows didn’t expire; instead we are restating them and strengthening them as we revisit our goals. In all honesty, it’s the exact same concept as before I’m just OK with the connotation now.

I’m interested to know, what do you think of when you hear the word renew? Is there anything in your life you want to renew as we come into Spring?


  1. Katharine says:

    Ha, Jamie! How, indeed, can one renew something that does not expire! 🙂
    For some people, it is a renewal or freshening of something that almost expired.

    When you two do renew, at the ten-year mark, invite me?

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