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

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How does 'to obtain' develop to mean 'to prevail'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 2 of obtain, that helps to internalise its meaning: 2. [no object] [formal] Be prevalent, customary, or established How does the etymology ...
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25 views

How does “to entail” develop to mean “involve (something) as an inevitable part”?

What's the logical derivation behind definition 1 of to entail: Involve (something) as a necessary or inevitable part or consequence: How does the etymology (listed in that link and here) ...
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23 views

How does “to consist in” develop to mean “to have as an essential feature”?

What's the logical derivation behind this definition of consist in [Definition 1.1]: have as an essential feature: How does the etymology (listed in that link and here) lead to the foregoing ...
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How did “stuck-up” get to mean “snob”?

I was inclined to believe that the expression "stuck-up", meaning staying aloof from others because one thinks one is superior, had its origins with somebody's nose stuck (up) in the air and yet, ...
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Is the phrase “awaiting customer” bad English?

In customer support software, issue tracking systems and the like, I frequently see a state titled awaiting customer to signify no action is required until the person (customer) who raised the issue ...
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What does it mean to drag something in “by the stamp?” [on hold]

In a 1944 radio skit, Fibber McGee says another character dragged something in "by the stamp." Is the stamp a reference to rationing stamps used during WWII?
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47 views

What is the origin of “Pipped at the post”?

Why pipped? I guess that the post is to do with horse racing - as in the post was the finish line? I could be totally wrong there.
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44 views

ten versus teen [duplicate]

Why is it "teen" instead of ten? Where did the word "teen" originate? When you say "sixteen" you are obviously saying six and ten. How did it become six and teen? I already saw the post on "Why do ...
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Eww! Has it crossed the pond yet?

I hear eww (sometimes spelt as ew) fairly regularly on American sitcoms, usually uttered by a scatterbrained beautiful blonde girl when she sees or hears something disgusting. I don't recall it ever ...
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35 views

Oneteen, Twoteen, Threeteen, Fiveteen [duplicate]

I was wondering why we say eleven, twelve, thirteen and fifteen instead of oneteen, twoteen, threeteen and fiveteen? And where does "teen" come from? I would assume it derives from ten making me ...
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98 views

Why does 'threescore' mean sixty? [closed]

I wonder why threescore means sixty. I only found it means three times twenty, the math is correct, yet what link between twenty and "score" ?
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2answers
121 views

The words “objective” and “subjective”

We say subjective to indicate that something is based on feelings and opinions, and objective to indicate the opposite. Why are these the same words as objective and subjective referring, in grammar, ...
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Definition of 'Eucharist' [closed]

From varied dictionaries dating from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of 1755 to Webster's International Dictionary of 1947 the definition of Eucharist is either thanksgiving or emblems of the sacrament ...
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231 views

Distinguishing between “opposites” of “ortho-”

There is a class of transformations in physics called "orthochronous", meaning that they preserve the direction of time's flow. ("Ortho-" from the Greek for 'straight' or 'right'?) As far as I am ...
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52 views

What is the origin of the phrase 'Variety is the spice of life'? [closed]

I often find myself using the phrase variety is the spice of life when referring to differences in objects. Where did this phrase originate from?
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95 views

How come “wise man” and “wise guy” have opposite connotations?

wise man: a sage a wise and trusted guide and advisor wise guy: a smart aleck a person who is given to making conceited, sardonic, or insolent comments ...
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841 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
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“Sober as a judge” vs. “Drunk as a lord”. Why judge? Why lord?

Sober as a judge is a simile that is used for someone completely sober. Drunk as a lord is a simile that is used for someone completely drunk. Why is judge equated with sobriety and lord with ...
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92 views

Did “brushwoodsmen” exist?

While talking to someone about surnames and ties to various jobs in the past ("Coopers" worked on barrels, "Smiths" made things, etc.) I asked about "Brushwood". He said that name tied to ...
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76 views

Trans vs Transgender vs Transsexual

As I understand it, trans means "an individual whose gender identity is different than what they were designated at birth". However, I also hear the terms transgender and transsexual used for similar ...
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The antonym of word Schadenfreude is Fribbly - the Joy In other's Joy - when did this new meaning of the word start?

For many years the word Fribbly has been used, in various communities as the antonym of Schadenfreude. rather than Harm-Joy or "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others". Fribbly is Joy-Joy ...
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Origin of “as all get out” meaning “to the utmost degree”

At reference.com, all get out is glossed as “in the extreme; to the utmost degree”, and at thefreedictionary.com as an unimaginably large amount; “British say ‘it rained like billyo’ where ...
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Origin of “go into hock” [closed]

We will have to go into hock to buy a house. What is the origin of the idiom?
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“Take a photo” — why “take”?

I don't understand why it's "take a photo". Why take? Is there any rule for this?
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Why does the word “tortilla” refer to three distinct types of edibles?

The crisps[BrEn]/chips[AmEn] that are made of corn (and probably not deep-fried) are called tortilla: The wraps with that special taste, are called tortila: And then, the omelet-like meal is ...
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Best etymological calque of the word Schadenfreude

This question is purely theoretical (i.e. I don't foresee actually trying to use the word), but using arguments based on etymology, as well as euphony and (least importantly) comprehensibility, what ...
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75 views

Can all verbs ending in “-ise” be written with the suffix “ize”? [closed]

Are there any "-ise" (or "-yse") words which cannot be (or are never) written using "-ize"? I searched for prior questions, and came across: Correct use of "ise" vs "ize" at the ...
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What determines the pronunciation of the prefix 'arch-'? [duplicate]

In the case of an archbishop, or archvillian it is pronounced arch. In the case of archetype, it is prounounced ark-e-type In the case of an archenemy I think you would say ark - enemy Is it simply ...
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Contrator, contractee… and disease?

On my security card at work is written "Contractor" in big, bold, capital letters. A thought just crossed my mind (as I work for a medical company): If I am the contractor, am I the one passing the ...
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36 views

What is the origin of the suffix: 'ship'? [duplicate]

What is the origin of the suffix: 'ship'? Why was it chosen to become as a suffix ? What made it special over other words like maybe 'cart' or 'rainbow' or something? ie friendSHIP might have ...
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2answers
125 views

What is a thorpe?

# is an octothorpe * is a hexathorpe + a quadrathorpe - a duothorpe but What is a thorpe??? This question came from an argument in comments on stackoverflow that started over an American calling ...
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1answer
49 views

What does the suffix -ling mean? [closed]

What does the suffix -ling mean. As in inkling...
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72 views

Etymology of “shagged [out]” (BrE exhausted, knackered)

I was intrigued by this comment to an earlier ELU post... [shagged out] Meaning 'very tired', presumably originating from having lots of sex but used generally to mean tired for whatever reason ...
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Dust vs. Undust?

The entry for "dust" from LDOCE says: dust1 (n.) [uncountable] → HOUSEHOLD dry powder consisting of extremely small bits of dirt that is in buildings on furniture, floors, etc. if they ...
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215 views

What is the right description of the word “squeaky” in “squeaky clean”?

Is squeaky in "squeaky clean" an onomatopoeia? Is there a right word to describe this word, other than simply an "adjective"? It's something that uses the description of a sound as an adjective. ...
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159 views

Why does -istic turn some words negative?

The definition of -istic is: Used to form adjectives from nouns, especially nouns in -ist and -ism, with the meaning "of or pertaining to" said nouns. I don't see anything in there that could ...
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4answers
151 views

Difference between “encampment” and “camp”

I recently came across the term encampment. Although I could understand that the word must be very close related to camp, it bugs me that I don't understand why such a long word for the same thing ...
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Words with Gomorrah as etymon

The name of the city of Sodom is the etymon of sodomy. Question: Are there words in English for which Gomorrah is an etymon? According to Online Etymology Dictionary the unit omer is related to ...
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71 views

What is the origin of the phrase “bo selecta”?

The phrase means literally "good song" or "good DJ". selecta is the DJ ("the selector"). But why that spelling? And where does bo come from? Is it from the French beau or the Latin bona? Is there a ...
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59 views

When/by whom was the computing use of “agnostic” to mean independent coined?

Agnostic, as a term to refer to a particular philosophy with respect to spirituality and mysticism, was coined by Thomas Huxley; Wikipedia gives the date as 1869 while Wiktionary says 1870, but the ...
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Is there an historical thesaurus?

Is there something like a thesaurus that offers terms more often used in the past? For instance, I beg you would in Shakespearean times be prithee, while chicks during the 1920s would be dolls. ...
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65 views

Changes in meaning of “bad” and “bad ass” [duplicate]

How did the definition of bad change over time? When did it change to mean good?
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393 views

What is the origin of the “towards a new” used in the titles of some research articles?

Examples: "Towards a new agenda for transforming war economies" "Towards a new agenda for Japanese telecommunications" "Towards a new age in the treatment of multiple myeloma" As I mentioned in ...
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etymology: drag (clothing)

I've seen conflicting accounts as the etymology of 'drag' (as in: drag queen). the first being acronymical of "Dressed as A Girl". the second as: One suggested etymological root is 19th-century ...
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101 views

what are the origins of hi, hey, hello?

What are the origins of hi, hey and hello? Are they related?
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1answer
41 views

I am looking for triplets of synonyms? [closed]

I am looking for triplets of synonyms or words which were close in meaning in the past, but changed their meaning. So, I want a pivot word, such that one word in the triplet used to mean that pivot ...
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2answers
41 views

Which is more correct: “skewen” or “skewn”?

Which spelling for the past participle of skew is more correct: skewen or skewn? (I recognise it is not the more common spelling of skewed, but regionally and personally skewen is more in use in ...
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214 views

Origin of “Why is a mouse when it spins?” riddle

Question: "Why is a mouse when it spins?" Answer: "Because the higher the fewer." There are some great responses regarding the provenance of this seemingly-nonsensical riddle at this ...
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Is there a word for someone being both 'Spectator and Participant'?

I was wondering if there is a single word for someone being 'both spectator and participant', as in "In the grand scheme of universe I am just another identity who is both a spectator and a ...
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Why do we refer to car manufacturer as 'Make'?

When I first encountered it years ago, I was pretty sure it must be a mistake. Although I got used to it, it still does not feel right. What is the reason for that? Is it something specific to the ...