Etymology is the history of the origin of words and phrases.

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Origin of Spread Oneself Too Thin

Three Questions: (1) What is the origin of the English idiom, "spread oneself too thin?" (2) Is this used as frequently in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.? (3) What about Australia and New Zealand: ...
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The etymology of do/does for questions [duplicate]

What is the etymology of the use of do/ does/ did for questions forms as opposed to inverting the subject and verb?
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Why was the word “alluring” much more used in the 1920 than in the 1870 or the 1980?

As per title. This is the Ngram Graph for the word alluring: For comparison, this is the same graph for the word remarkable:
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Why is a calzone called calzone?

I was just researching its etymology and turns out that it comes from calceus the Latin for shoe! How did Latin for shoe end up as the Italian (and subsequently, English) for a snack? They seem so ...
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Where did the sports and game term “rubber” come from?

In sports, a rubber is a series that consists of an odd number of matches where a majority of wins takes the series. Wiktionary and Merriam-Webster both list the etymology of this definition as ...
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Origin, logic, and range of use of the verb ‘untrack’ and the phrase 'get untracked'

One of the terms that appears in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) but not in the Tenth Collegiate (1993) or earlier editions of the Collegiate series is untrack: untrack vt ...
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Phant Latin root and similar words

I ran into an unfamiliar word recently: sycophant. I am wondering now if phant means anything but simple google searches aren't leading me anywhere. Hierophant - someone who shows sacred things ...
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Origin of the disapproval associated with “derivative” used as an adjective?

This is the first meaning of the word derivative used as an adjective(Oxford): 1 (Typically of an artist or work of art) imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for ...
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Term for a word with opposite meaning to its root?

I remember coming across a term for a word which has an opposite (or at least very different) meaning from its etymological root word's meaning, does anyone know what this term is?
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Etymology of 'swan song'

Can someone explain the historical background behind this phrase with context to its usage today? There are several versions of etymology, so which version is most widely accepted? I came across this ...
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84 views

Where did “Spineless” come from?

A spineless person is said to be, "without moral force, resolution, or courage; feeble" - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spineless. So they are cowardly. But where did that term come from? ...
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“Dead Rubber” definitive etymology

What's the etymology of the phrase dead rubber? Googling, I see references to diverse sports as well as a reference in attributes it to some obscure bridge reference. I do not understand it. Edited ...
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What is the difference between “attitude” and “approach”? [on hold]

Merriam-Webster gives the definitions of the words approach and attitude, respectively, as follows: Approach, noun: A way of dealing with something A way of doing or thinking about ...
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49 views

Fruitful? Fruitless? Fruitempty? Fruitmore? [on hold]

I notice that the word fruitful's opposite is fruitless. It's kind of bizarre. Figuratively speaking, if the activity produces no fruit, it is fruit-less. But if it does produce fruit, shouldn't it ...
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Etymology of legal meaning of 'dispositive'

Since Prof. Eugene Volokh has observed its counterintuitiveness, what's an intuitive derivation? Prof. Eugene Volokh: One way of remembering this is by looking at the stem, which turns out to be ...
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51 views

“Mama had a baby and its head popped off” [closed]

This is a short children's song prevalent throughout the U.S. at least during the early 1980s. I couldn't find anything conclusive w/r/t the etymology of the song, but perhaps my Google-fu is too ...
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41 views

Eytymology of the expression “Pissy Pants McGee.” [closed]

What is the origin of the expression "Pissy Pants McGee"? Thanks!
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How did “to derogate” evolve into 3 different definitions?

What are intuitive derivations behind the 3 (disparate) definitions? 1. derogate from = [no object] Detract from 2. derogate from = [no object] Deviate from 3. [with object] Disparage (someone ...
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What is the origin of “burning a hole in my pocket”?

It's an old expression, but when someone used it today it made me wonder about how the phrase came to mean what it does. Coinage would not seem to bear an association to being on fire, though if ...
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Silent letters in English [closed]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z ...
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126 views

Why the word “Circle” doesn't start with “s”?

Today my daughter (goes to kindergarten) asked me this question which made me post here? I felt that was a good question. Can anyone help me with an answer?
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How does “to subsist in” evolve to mean “Be attributable to"?

What's an intuition derivation behind this definition of to subsist, but followed by in: 2.1 subsist in = Be attributable to mid 16th century (in the sense 'continue to exist'): from Latin ...
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Is “denigrate” a racist word? [duplicate]

A few years ago I was told not to use that word because, in addition to its negative meaning, it comes from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare, which means to blacken. Therefore, when you ...
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What's the origin of the phrase “to be young and in love”?

What's the origin of the phrase "to be young and in love"? I speculate that it's a quote from something influential, but I can't find a source. Anyone know?
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Etymology of “plough back” meaning to reinvest

What is the etymology of the phrasal verb plough back which Macmillan Dictionary defines as plough back: to put any profits made by a business back into it in order to make it more successful ...
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The relationship between negative numbers and moral negatives

What is the origin of the analogy between numbers less than zero and bad things? This question just occurred to me. I have been using this analogy without thinking about its history.
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How did 'procure' evolve to mean 'cause' and 'obtain'? [closed]

TL; DR: What's an intuitive, true derivation behind ODO's definitions (Abbreviated as dfns) 1 and 2 that helps to remember the meanings of procure? to procure = [with object] 1. Obtain ...
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101 views

Number of dots in an ellipsis

It might be an odd question, but I'm trying to comprehend why do we use three dots in an ellipsis. Wouldn't two dots suffice? An ellipsis serves a dual purpose, it can be used to either denote an ...
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There is any relation between “I'm fired” and “I'm on fire”? [closed]

I'm not english native speaker, and joking with a collague in my work we start a wordgame between "You are on fire?" "No, I'm fired". Because I'm spanish bachelor I want to know if there is any ...
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How to analyse/parse 'come what may'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, which I instead want to burrow into: come what may = No matter what happens Is this a case of anastrophe? Then come what may <= what ...
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What is the etymology of 'munge'?

My own brief investigation into the etymology of munge yielded the following entry from The New Hacker's Dictionary: [derogatory] To imperfectly transform information. A comprehensive ...
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1answer
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United Kingdom's three-name-cities; is there a generic way to write them?

There are city names in the United Kingdom like "Stratford-upon-Avon" or "Newcastle upon Tyne". Then, I wonder: is there any general rule on how they should be written? Case: In general, I see the ...
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Where does the word “turkey baster” come from? [closed]

Does it have anything to do with a turkey? (A side question: how is it different from a spoid?)
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where does the expression “not to worry” come from?

I never heard the expression "not to worry" when I was young (I am 78 yrs old). Now i seem to hear it all the time. It sounds like a literal translation from some language where the infinitive is ...
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“In general,…”: do mathematicians use this phrase oppositely from everyone else?

In mathematical writings, one often encounters statements involving the phrase "in general" in the following sense: After the number 2, the next few prime numbers (3,5,7) are each odd numbers, and ...
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Was the blue screen of death ever just a blue screen?

Etymologically speaking, at least according to Wikipedia, the term Blue Screen of Death: originated during OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc, the makers of an early Windows ...
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Is there a relation between the words “import” (trade) and “important” (valuable)?

Is there a relation between the words import (in a trade sense) and important (special, etc)? It seems to me that there is, or rather that there should be, but I was wondering if anyone can give some ...
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Origin of terms Passed Away and Deceased

I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough. This from a Low Episcopalian.....
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How did 'wise' evolve from 'to know' to 'manner/extent'?

Please explain the relationship between the existent adjective wise and the archaic noun wise? Etymonline shows that the noun originated 'from the same source as wise (adj.)', but how does '"to ...
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What is the word - A secret that passes on from a person to person

I forgot this word. I tell a person a secret and ask him not to tell it to anyone else. That 2nd person tells another person and tells him not to disclose it to anyone else. But this goes on. ...
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How did 'hold' evolve into its more forceful legal meaning?

5.6. [with clause] (Of a judge or court) rule; decide When I first encountered this meaning, I thought that it only meant the connotations of 'to contain, grasp; retain; foster, cherish'. For ...
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Use of the phrase with abandon

I came across this phrase on Stack Overflow and I was a little confused as to its meaning: Every major browser now has a built in console which your would-be hacker can use with abandon... I ...
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When did dogs start “wagging” their tails?

An earlier question of mine What does a cat's tail do? got me thinking. When did dogs begin to wag their tails? And do any other animals wag? According to Google, very few books have ever been ...
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How to remember the terms for noun declensions?

I'm aware of the etymological fallacy, but would knowing the etymology of the following words help me understand them? I'm always confused as to which is which, and I need to consult a dictionary ...
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What is the origin of the term “crash hot”?

The term "crash hot" is often used in the negative, such as "I'm not feeling too crash hot today". I am trying to find out when the term was first used and why. I have used Internet search but have ...
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3answers
144 views

Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English? [duplicate]

In general English doesn't seem to cater well for identifying relationships between people, and the classic example seems to be the term 'cousin' because you can't really work out whether it is ...
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121 views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
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“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
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How did 'undertake' evolve to mean 'take on'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: undertake = [with object] 1. Commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); take on: ...
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How does 'together + to bear' cause 'confer' to mean 'grant something'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? confer = 1. [with object] [with object] Grant (a title, degree, benefit, or right): Etymonline: ...