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

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Etymology of “dutchman” to mean a carpentry patch?

The term dutchman is used to describe a repair patch used in carpentry. Various dictionaries define it along the lines of Something used to fill or cover a gap, especially a block of wood or ...
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Is there a term for words that are holdovers from an old technology that aren't apt for a new, superseding technology?

(Old title: Is there a word for: A new word for a new technology is simplified, and the resultant word well describes the old technology, but not the new.) The example I have in mind is "to ...
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Origin of “If X, you are in the wrong place”

The phrase "If [X], you are in the wrong place" seems to occur frequently enough in some circumstances (but not others) that it seems to be a specific phrase. If so, what's the origin of it? An ...
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Non standard english: Slang. “That sucks man.”

Where does the term 'That sucks!' and putting 'man' on the end of sentences come from? "aw that sucks, man!" Thanks!
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Is “lexophilia” a word?

I've been using the word "lexophilia" for years, but only just realized that it might not actually be in popular use at all. I've even had heated arguments with fellow pedants over the veracity of ...
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Expectaltee: A person who expects something

The word of the day: † expectaltee, n. Obs. rare. A person who expects something. [OED] You might ask how on the earth expectaltee is a word. Well, apparently it is a word but the origin is ...
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Why is the plural of “aircraft” not “aircrafts”?

I came along this sentence: Today, we have used a large number of assets, comprising of 34 aircraft, 40 ships, hundreds of men, thousands of man-hours has been deployed I consulted dictionaries ...
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“Jiggery-pokery” - Can Anyone Remedy this Paucity?

Reading U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent (p. 8) from the majority in King et al. v. Burwell, I encountered the following term (emphasis mine), “The Court’s next bit of ...
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Why 'blood vessels' and not 'blood tubes'?

I have a silly question. The way I imagine arteries and veins are as tubes that arise from one part and carry blood to the other part. Why do we call them 'vessels' (which reminds us of cooking ...
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What to call words with permanent prefix, but no unprefixed form? (ex: nonchalant, untoward) [duplicate]

What do you call prefixed words with no unprefixed counterpart? For example, there's no such thing as a "chalant person". Bad behavior may be "untoward", good behavior is never "toward". What are ...
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37 views

Any connection between “escheat” and “cheat”? [on hold]

According to Google, "Escheat is a common law doctrine which transfers the property of a person who dies without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in "limbo" ...
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What is the origin of the word digicam? When and where did it originate?

Supposedly the word digicam (digital camera) originated in 1989 as a trade name in England, but I have not found any further information.
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What does “to-” in today, tomorrow, tonight mean?

As in the title. Does it mean anything? Does it mean the same thing in all of these words? What is its origin? Are there any other words with "to-"?
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If “propriety” is from the French for “property”, why is it now about proper comportment?

I was trying to reverse-translate a quote I mistakenly believed to be originally in French that I saw in English, so as to find the source. (It turned out to be from Jeremy Bentham.) In the process, I ...
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SWF Seeks Strong Single-word Synonym

I’m a single female and lately all I do is work, work, work. Truth be told, I’m lonely and bored to tears. Desperate for relief, I decided to take out a classified advertisement but got stuck on the ...
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Where did the word 'and' come from? [closed]

Where does the word "and" come from? What are its roots?
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How are the words 'Suburb' and 'Superb' related to 'Superbas'?

All are Latin, or I guess come from Latin, but is it a direct shot to say that whenever Suburbs first became recognized and named, that they were given the status of being Superb? At one point was ...
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Is “S.Sgt.” an Acronym or a Compound Noun? [closed]

Can anybody tell me the answer? Thanks.
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How did the preposition “by” evolve its sense of “length x [by] width”?

The preposition "by" has a lot of special uses, but its etymology is not so easy as Etymonline wants us to believe. How did "by" develop as a preposition for areas, giving the length and breadth?
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Why is white noise called 'static'?

People often use the term 'static' or 'static noise' to describe the sound of an untuned radio - which is more accuractely called white/pink/brown noise depending on the frequencies present. I'm ...
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How did 'but' evolve from Old English? [closed]

but (adv., prep.) [<--] Old English butan, buton "unless, except; without, outside," from West Germanic * be-utan, a compound of * be- "by" (see by) + * utana "out, outside; from without," ...
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Non-determinism vs nondeterminism

Reading articles I came across the word non-determinism written in different ways (non-determinism and nondeterminism). I was wondering if there is a difference, or if one is incorrect? May be one is ...
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How did 'for' originate in 'to ask for'?

[OED:] 9. a. simply. To ask a thing. (Now more familiarly to ask for: see 16.) 16. a. To ask (after obs.) for a thing. OED appears to claim the equivalence of 9 and 16. However, 16 does ...
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Etymology of 'patch' in the verb 'dispatch'

dispatch (v.) [<--] 1510s, "to send off in a hurry," from a word in Spanish (despachar "expedite, hasten") or Italian (dispacciare "to dispatch"). For first element, see dis-. The exact ...
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What does over-the-counter mean literally?

I've found references that this term is originally used for the purchase of stocks that not listed on the stock exchange. From etymology.com: Adjective phrase over-the-counter is attested from ...
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Origin of “Hype”

So I looked up the definition of "Hype": From Dictionary.com (surprisingly). to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually ...
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Origin of “sitting there like Lord Fermoy”

What is the origin of sitting there like Lord Fermoy? This had been a stock phrase in our family.
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What is the origin of “GO + VERB + ING”?

The construction GO + V + ING is among one of the first things a learner is taught. Take for instance the verb swim, very often English expresses the activity in the present simple like this: I go ...
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How might 'to play the flute' have evolved to mean 'flout'? [on hold]

flout (v.) [<--] "treat with disdain or contempt" (transitive), 1550s, intransitive sense "mock, jeer, scoff" is from 1570s; of uncertain origin; perhaps a special use of Middle English flowten ...
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Difference between “infinite” and “indefinite”

I have found that infinite means "very great in amount of degree" while indefinite refers to "a period of time that has no defined end." Is there a subtle, nuanced difference between these terms, or ...
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How did the postverbal prepositions originate in 'to treat of' and 'to treat on'?

[OED:] [2.] a. {intransitive} To deal with some matter in speech or writing; to discourse. (In quot. 1517 transf. of pictorial representation.) Const. of, formerly also on, upon. How did of or ...
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Why is a “Mystery in the Alley” a side of hash?

American 'Diner Lingo' seems to consist largely of humorous crossword-style references (Noah's boy = Slice of Ham, Mother and child reunion = chicken and egg sandwich, Dog soup = water, etc). Most ...
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Why is it called “to not pull any punches” and how did this phrase originate?

If one does not pull any punches, he speaks bluntly. Why is this idiom phrased this way? Is it because the motion of a punch, i.e., to speak bluntly, can be described as a push, which is the ...
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How did 'organic' evolve to mean 'characterized by gradual or natural development'?

[OED:] 6. e. Characterized by continuous or natural development; (Business) designating expansion generated by a company's own resources, as opposed to that resulting from the acquisition of ...
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Did 'inter-' evolve to mean 'together'?

entertain (v.) (<--) late 15c., "to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind," from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir "hold together, stick ...
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Where does the phrase “hold down the fort” come from? [closed]

When someone speaks of "holding down the fort," it basically means keeping an eye on things temporarily while the person in charge is away. The expression seems rather nonsensical, though; a fort is ...
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What is special about Anglo-French legal usage of [the] infinitive as a noun?

I was reading the etymology of attainder (n.), when I saw its reference to: use of French infinitives as nouns, especially in legal language, see waiver. waiver (n.) [<--] [...] Other ...
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How did screaming as loud as you can become screaming “at the top of your lungs”?

What is it about the top of one's lungs that has to do with especially loud screaming? Every time I hear this idiom I imagine a little man screaming atop a giant lung.
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Etymology of the word “Pansy”

Per Merriam-Webster Online, Pansy is defined as 1. : a garden plant (Viola wittrockiana) derived chiefly from the hybridization of the European Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor) with other wild ...
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Definition and etymology of 'disingratiate'

In Bradbury's story 'The Burning Man' I found: In just two minutes of leaping into the red-hot car, with his jungle hair and jungle smell, he had managed to disingratiate himself with the climate, ...
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candid candor, splendid splendor, squalid squalor, rigid rigor — finding examples

The etymological fallacy is exposed by examples as humid/humor, liquid/liquor, and, I think, some others. This pattern, at least as applied to the examples in the subject line, is familiar to ...
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How did 'of' originate in 'to conceive of'?

[OED:] [8.] d. intr. to conceive of : To form or have a conception of, think of, imagine. I'm trying to compare 'to conceive' with (the prepositional verb) 'to conceive of'. To me, both appear to ...
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How did 'against the outside' (without) evolve to mean 'outside'?

without (adv., prep.) [<--] Old English wiðutan "outside of, from outside," literally "against the outside" (opposite of within), see with + out (adv.). [...] I am guessing that here, ...
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How far 'outside' was 'beside'?

[Source:] Note that the substitute of “beside” for “outside” was perfectly appropriate since, at that time (although today obsolete), “outside” was one of the well-used meanings of “beside,” having ...
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How to distinguish “wherefore” from “therefore” [closed]

I'm aware that the word "wherefore" can be used in the same way as "why", as in classic Shakespeare: "Wherefore art thou Romeo" (NOT meaning where). However how else can it be properly used? Please ...
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Where does the phrase “thats not a kick in the shirt away from…” come from?

Do we know the etymology of the above phrase? Myself and a colleague know that it means "not far away from" but we are unsure where it comes from.
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'want' vs 'want for' vs 'want of'

[OED:] want {verb} = 1. a. intr. To be lacking or missing; not to exist; not to be forthcoming; to be deficient in quantity or degree. In early use const. with dative or to. rare since the 17th ...
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How did “out, away” + “to play” combine to mean 'elude'?

elude (v.) = 1530s, "delude, make a fool of," from Latin eludere "finish play, win at play; escape from or parry (a blow), make a fool of, mock, frustrate; win from at play," from ...
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Why Greek morphemes over Latin, or Latin over Greek? *A Call to Lexicographers*

Is there a rationale behind why certain English words take Greek morphemes (or affixes) over Latin morphemes, and vice versa? Why do certain Greek morphemes become standard English idiom over Latin ...
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Can “in alpha” be used as an antonym to “in beta,” or it’s a totally different animal?

I was drown to the phrase, “in beta” in the following passage of New York Times’ (June 16) publicity of their own new scheme, Trending: “The Times unveils a new tool, Trending, that shows you ...