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

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Word and etymology for “small of one's back”

I've encountered the phrase small of one's back often when I was reading the Divergent series, and recently encountered it again on a Wikipedia article. I've searched its meaning on the internet, but ...
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1answer
45 views

How to rationalise the 'pro-' prefix in 'promiscuous' ?

I ask not about the definition itself, but about the impact or role of the prefix in English: promiscuous (adj.) c.1600, people or things, "mingled confusedly, grouped together without ...
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227 views

What's the origin of the “memory lane”?

Where does this meme come from (as in a trip down memory lane) ? Is it from a book ?
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55 views

English tv programme about the origins of words and idioms [on hold]

Does anyone remember a series of programmes on UK tv about the origins of words and idioms? They focused each programme on a different aspect of society, for example: church, navy, farming, pubs. I've ...
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1answer
55 views

If pogonotrophy means to grow a beard, is there a term for shaving a beard?

If pogonotrophy means "to grow a beard", is there a term for shaving a beard? How would you use pogonotrophy in a sentence? And if there is an antonym for this word, how would you use it in a ...
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14 views

Looking for the source of “SJO” or “South Jersey Original”?

Looking for source of "SJO" or "South Jersey Original" used to describe a person from Southern New Jersey whose behavior (usually idiosyncratic) is startling or otherwise worthy of note.
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1answer
165 views

Etymology of “bizarre”?

bizarre n. "very strange or unusual" I know that it (likely) comes from Basque. Does anyone have a certain knowledge of this? I heard that it comes from Italian from some sources, too.
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71 views

Etymology for “loganamnosis”

It's a condition in which one suffers the inability to remember to the word he or she wants to use and then becomes obsessed with trying to remember it. What is this interesting word's root? Could ...
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1answer
66 views

Etymology for “petrichor”

It means "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather" according to my Oxford Dictionary of English. But if it is broken down or traced, what ...
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1answer
45 views

Connection between arachnid and arachidonic? [on hold]

Is there an etymological connection between words like "arachnid" (related to spiders) and words like "arachidonic" (related to peanuts)?
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1answer
73 views

Where do all the fox references come from? [on hold]

A person can be crazy like a fox, and attractive lady is foxy or even a fox, an old book might have foxing, to outsmart someone is to outfox them, if you are confused you are foxed, and there are ...
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623 views

What is the etymology of 'physician'?

I find myself confusing 'physician' and 'physicist' occasionally. While I know what they both mean, I am a little confused as to the use of 'physics' in 'physician'. How did the term 'physician' come ...
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35 views

what is a word for something that someone can't live/deal/bear with but yet can't live without? [closed]

I'm writing an essay describing the speakers perception on a particular topic and i got stuck at a articular point because in want to keep my answer as brief and articulate as possible
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1answer
53 views

where does the phrase “sitting duck” orgin? [closed]

Where does the phrase "sitting duck" come from? It is a a person or thing with no protection against an attack or other source of danger.
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2answers
83 views

Etymology: bedraggled

"bedraggled" is a past participle adjective from to bedraggle. In the musical My Fair Lady Higgins calls Eliza a bedraggled guttersnipe. I never doubted that bedraggled has some connection with ...
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138 views

What is the etymology of “word!” [duplicate]

Many people have begun to use the word "word" seemingly as an exclamation point or as a means to be emphatic. Where and why did this begin?
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51 views

Hance/Hence connection?

In researching the verb 'hence' I noted the several forms listed in the OED, two of which were: "hennes or henes" from Middle English usage. Similarly with the verb 'hance' I noted that scholars have ...
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1k views

Past tense of wake: is there a difference between “waked”, and “woke”?

I just stumbled over the verb "to wake", which according to various sources has two valid forms for the past tense: "woke" and "waked". Some further research stated, that there seem to be two (Old / ...
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2answers
64 views

Etymology of 'pre-emptive'

Empt or emptive does not exist as a word, and I suppose never has. Pre-empt and pre-emptive according to the OED have their origin in Australian land deals of the late-eighteenth century, where ...
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2k views

Etymology of “a pride of lions”

Etymonline does not hesitate to assume that "a pride of lions" is the same word as pride, noun of adjective proud. There would be other possibilities, e.g. a connection with Latin praeda (prey). A ...
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51 views

Their likes Vs. their ilk

E.g: I can't trust the likes of these politicians. I can't trust these politicians and their ilk. Why is it incorrect to say *like instead of likes or *ilks instead of ilk? Also, does like derive ...
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2answers
38 views

what is the etymology of the word 'afforestation'? [closed]

I can get the deifiniton of 'afforestation' from google but not how this word was created at the first place. Does anyone have an idea about it? Also, the affix is not clear to me. Plz give me ...
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72 views

Calculus vs calculation

It is becoming more popular on American talk shows to say "calculus" instead of "calculation." To my mind, calculus is either a branch of Mathematics or a stone like in the gall bladder. Any comments? ...
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78 views

Explode- Word Parts

So I have a project to do and I have searched EVERYWHERE online. What is the root word for "Explode"? I already know 'ex' means 'out of', but I'm not sure that 'plode' is a real root word--Or even a ...
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3answers
188 views

How was 'hone in on' bastardised to mean 'home in on'?

The comments under this CBC article impelled me to check the definitions of the verbs home in on, under which a para discusses this debasement, vs hone in on. Yet it doesn't explain this corruption's ...
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5answers
245 views

What is the origin of the phrase, “I'm Game”

I'm trying to understand the origins of the phrase, "I'm game". Now, I understand how the phrase is used in everyday English, but what are the origins of this phrase? How did it come to imply a ...
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45 views

Why are some “-ist” suffixed words used as the adjective form over the more common “-istic”?

Generally speaking, for any kind of "-ism", the suffix "-ist" produces the noun form and "-istic" produces the adjective form. But there are some "-ist" suffixes that are acceptable or even more ...
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84 views

Why is “late” used in reference to a deceased person? [closed]

I get how and when it's used but what is its origin? Why the word "late"?
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89 views

The introduction of manmade structures in the etymology of harbor

In a Stackexchange post, a commenter offers a distinction between ports and harbors: Or to put it another way, "harbor" is a description of the natural geography, while "port" is something made ...
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52 views

What does it mean when someone has “golden pipes” and how did it originate?

I believe I saw this mentioned in an article/blog post I read a while ago. From what I remember, the article was about a person's amazing singing voice. However, I looked it up recently and didn't ...
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2answers
55 views

Canny means shrewd or wise how does uncanny turn out to be mysterious? [closed]

Canny means 'shrewd' while uncanny means mysterious. How?
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68 views

Why do we say “Fever broke”?

When someone is suffering from fever, at some point in time when it stops or it starts getting better, we say the fever has broken. His fever broke last night. He's going to be alright. What's ...
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115 views

The meaning of the word 'Han'?

In referencing Webster's dictionary of 1828 I came across the entry for the word 'Han'. The definition was stated as: "for have, in the plural." Source: Spenser. What does this mean and how was it ...
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67 views

Does 'lending' an object require its relocation?

I was recently in an argument with a friend who - equipped with an apparent understanding of the etymology of the words lend and borrow - insisted that to lend an object required not just the ...
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2answers
38 views

Etymology of type cast

What is the etymology of cast in the sense of type cast in programming languages? In Merriam Webster I found nothing suitable: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cast
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7k views

Why is it “behead” and not “dehead”?

The be- prefix in behead doesn't seem to match similar words like become, besmirch, or befuddle. Of course, the same prefix could serve different roles depending on the word. What role is be- serving ...
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2answers
370 views

Origin of milquetoast and the negative meaning of milk in modern usage

I searched the word milquetoast and found out that it is a very pejorative term used in American English (after a cartoon character- Casper Milquetoast) to refer to someone of an unusually meek, ...
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59 views

Is there an etymon for scam? [closed]

Is the word escamotage which is found in English dictionaries etymologically related to the word scam?
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52 views

Why are you saying something “for” yourself when your parent asks you what you have to say for yourself?

I was listening to a podcast today and heard someone mockingly ask the guest "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?". The conversation spun off in some other direction, but I momentarily ...
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56 views

Trendline for historical usage of “prick” [closed]

How can I view one of those handy-dandy trend lines for the historical usage of the word "prick"? I am currently editing a book and need to know when and how (or how common) the use of the word was to ...
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2answers
85 views

Does 'knockoff', meaning 'copy', come from the German word 'nach'? [closed]

Does the English expression 'knockoff', meaning 'copy', come from the German word 'nach'? I am researching an old flute which is marked 'nach Myer', and it turns out that it signifies something like ...
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3answers
299 views

What does the verb “nig” mean?

I have seen a photo on the Internet of a customer filling a large empty jug from a soda fountain at a fast food restaurant. It had caption that someone is "gonna nig". What does "nig" mean? Among ...
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114 views

What is the origin of auxiliary verbs?

When and why did we start using auxiliary verbs, particularly "do", to ask questions and make negatives?
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56 views

Which came first, “Inception” or “inception” [closed]

Most people will know about the film Inception, about planting an idea into a mans head so that he thinks that it is his own. Possibly fewer people will know that inception is actually a real word. ...
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1answer
145 views

Isn't the term bully pulpit an oxymoron? [closed]

bully pulpit: A public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue. bully: A person who uses strength or power to harm or ...
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1answer
100 views

Does rational come from ratio or ratio come from rational?

Going through law school we often used the latin phrase ratio decideni - meaning the reasoning of a decision. In this context we took the latin word ratio to mean thinking process. Recently I saw an ...
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2answers
75 views

How, when and where did the phrase 'state of the art' originate? [closed]

How, when and where did the phrase 'state of the art' originate?
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2answers
146 views

origin of “gingerly”

For years I thought gingerly meant "with spirit or liveliness," I suppose because "spirit and liveliness" define the noun ginger. But no; gingerly means "cautiously or carefully." How did it take on ...
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77 views

Etymology: Dutch Curry [closed]

I've heard of Continental's Dutch Curry and Rice Soup; and I've seen it mentioned here and there... I'm soon to have it later tonight... But seriously, what makes a Dutch Curry... "Dutch"? It's not ...
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107 views

Since the Latin for 'manus' is 'hand' - does that make 'mankind' a non-sexist expression? [closed]

I heard the following view expressed today: Mankind is not a sexist expression, because it comes from the latin manus, which means hand, as in [genderless] means of action. Is this a false ...