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

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Why do people in the scientific community use terminology such as renal, hepatic, and cardiac instead of kidney, liver, and heart?

Why is there the need to map these everyday words onto another set of words when it seems to complicate matters? Is it just done out of tradition, or is there some underlying logic to it?
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1answer
236 views

Why “thanks” Can Never Be Singular as a Noun?

While looking at the part of speech of the noun "thanks" in an online dictionary I noticed that it was a plural noun and wondered if it could be used in singular form. Glancing at the origin it ...
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41 views

On professional bias

The well-known expression professional bias appears to date back to the very first years when professions started to exist: "Professional bias" designates a mental conditioning brought ...
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885 views

Why does “footing the bill” mean “to pay”?

I hear people using the term footing the bill used to describe paying for something. Why is the verb foot used to describe the meaning of paying?
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29 views

How does 'but for' mean 'if it were not for'? [on hold]

but for = 1. Except for = 1.1. If it were not for Please help me dig deeper than definition 1.1 , which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. OED just ...
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How does 'but' mean 'without its being the case that'?

but = 5. {with negative} {archaic} Without its being the case that I tried OED but its length overwhelmed me. Etymonline doesn't mention this definition. If helpful, would someone please explain, ...
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44 views

Where did the incorrect spelling 'explaination' come from and where is it still used? [on hold]

The word explanation is often spelt as explaination. Where did this come from? Which part of the world commonly uses this?
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101 views

How did 'pick' evolve to mean 'read'?

Initially, I wished to know the etymology of eclectic. Then I saw that it refers to lecture {noun}: late 14c., "action of reading, that which is read," from Medieval Latin lectura "a reading, ...
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27 views

How did 'purchase' evolve to mean 'firm contact or grip'?

[1] purchase = 2. [mass noun] Firm contact or grip I've been trying to understand how the noun purchase evolved to mean definition 2 above. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. I tried OED but it's ...
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134 views

Is 'bug' a term or a slang word?

In my answer to the question about the opposite for bug in programming, I referred to 'bug' as a slang word. Shaun Wilson, in his comment insists on 'bug' being a term that derived from a historical ...
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Meaning and Origin of word “Pantheon”?

I spotted the word "Pantheon" here on the first and second paragraph on The Hindu but not able to understand the editor's view. On the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, on April 14, ...
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When did “More tea vicar?” start to be used after farting? Where did it come from?

In England when someone farts they might say "More tea vicar?" When did this start, and how did it come about? It feels unusual enough to have a definite creation - some comedian perhaps? Web ...
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Is there simple method to determine a word's origin? [on hold]

I've looked at etymology wherein there is a brief description of several methods for that purpose: philological research, comparative method, study of semantic change, use of dialectological data. In ...
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86 views

Etymology of “high” and “low” notes

The words "high" and "low" generally refer to magnitude or vertical distance. How did these words come to be associated with pitch? We can draw comparison to high ("large") or low ("small") ...
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50 views

The origin of “break of day”

I was quite surprised to know that "break of day" actually means "dawn", that is, the beginning of the day. But, the phrase "break of day" sounds much more like the end of the day, not the beginning ...
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86 views

Origin of “Stick to your knitting”

I know that "Stick to your knitting" means to stick with what you're familiar with/good at rather than giving your opinion or trying your hand at something out of your area of expertise. But I can't ...
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How to identify if a word is positive, negative, or neutral?

I am studying for SAT and English is not my first language. I really struggle with vocabulary. I memorized about 1000 words for the test, but only a few showed up on the test. I am planning on taking ...
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Most of us had a piggy bank! But what is the origin of its name?

Piggy (n.): "a little pig," 1799, from pig (n.) + -y (3). Related: Piggies. Piggy bank attested from 1941 (pig bank from 1937). (Etymonline) The origin of this expression in unclear. ...
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Why did English adopt both 'estrange' and 'strange'?

I'm not asking about the definitions of estrange and strange, and I realise that modern usage isn't a strict function of the original meaning of a word. I wish to know why English appropriated both ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “hot take”?

I've been seeing this phrase pop up more and more in social media. I wasn't sure of what it meant, so of course I googled it: http://www.vox.com/2014/12/29/7417055/best-worst-words-2014 ...
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How did 'estate' evolve to mean 'area of land or property'?

estate {noun} = 1. An area or amount of land or property, in particular = 3. {archaic or literary} A particular state, period, or condition in life [Etymonline:] early 13c., "rank, ...
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What is the origin of “woof!”?

We know that woof is the sound a dog makes when barking. It is used both as a noun and a verb. The word is onomatopoeic but it is also used as an interjection. People woof too when they are attracted ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “playing hooky”?

What does the word "hooky" mean in the phrase "play hooky" (skipping class/truancy) and where did it come from?
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We might have to do some “fiddling”

I like the word fiddle, and I quite like the musical instrument too. If you're fiddling with a device, it means you're trying to repair it. It might be tricky because of all the tiny bits and pieces ...
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How did French “cacher” divide into English “cache” and “cachet”?

I encountered Merriam-Webster's article on cache vs cachet (while researching another word). I understand it and other websites that broach the confusion caused by these two nouns, but none explain ...
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Broth of a boy etymology

Could anybody explain the etymology of the phrase broth of a boy? I know the meaning but cannot understand how it happens that it means what it means.
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Is the “B” in Brussels Sprouts capitalized? [closed]

It's not standard to capitalize "F" in french fries... In that case what is the proper way to write it?
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832 views

Where on Earth is “penguin” from?

Fact or fallacy? It's one of those things you hear or casually read somewhere that sticks with you. The word penguin is derived from Welsh; pen refers to "head", while gywn means "white". Well, it's ...
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What is origin of suffix '-stan', as in Hindustan, Afghanistan? [closed]

As a supplementary, is -stan related to 'sthan' (Sanskrit)?
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766 views

Where does the expression “cod indignation” originate from?

I've bumped into the expression "cod indignation" now and again, for example: "And just when Ed has upped his personal ratings by proving not to be as gawky as the media pretend, he blows it by ...
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616 views

Etymology of “let us” and “let's”

The verb let means “allow”, “permit”, “not prevent or forbid”, “pass, go or come” and it's used with an object and the bare infinitive. Are you going to let me drive or not? Don't let ...
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'pescatarian': synonyms & etymology

Even if most Americans would take 'pescatarian' to be some odd Calvinist sect, according to MW it is a noun which means 'one whose diet includes fish but no other meat' and its derivation is 'probably ...
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Milanese Loop - origin of term?

A company is using the term "Milanese Loop" for one of the watch armbands for the digital Watch. I understand that Milanese is related to the Italian city of Milan. Yet my Internet research has not ...
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'to be concerned to'

ODO: 1.4. be concerned ... to do something = Regard it as important to do something: OED: III. Passive, to be concerned. This occurs in some senses which are non-existent or obsolete in the ...
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How did “Matron” and “Patron” come to mean different things?

Matron: (1) a married woman, especially one who is mature and staid or dignified and has an established social position; (2) a woman who has charge of the domestic affairs of a hospital, prison, or ...
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What is the origin/history of “you do you” (or “do you”)?

A recent New York Times Magazine piece focused on the expression "you do you" (and its variant "do you"), meaning something like a strong affirmation to "be yourself." The article associates the ...
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How did “sweet tooth” originate?

Given it's nearly Easter, I was eating some fruity Jelly Beans (I had forgotten how good they are) and my Indian friend said that he loved them because he had "sweet teeth". I corrected him, saying ...
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Etymology of the word 'choreography'

So here in India, in context of movies, choreography relates to direction of dance sequences, but I'm given to understand that in the west, the word is used to describe direction of fight sequences. ...
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The history of the phrase, “to drop the ball.” [closed]

How (if at all) does the phrase "to drop the ball" relate to the Times Square dropping of the midnight ball on New Year's Eve? If they are unrelated, where does the phrase come from?
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60 views

How does 'contingent' mean 'subject to chance'? [closed]

contingent = {adjective} 1. Subject to chance Etymonline: late 14c., from Old French contingent or directly from Latin contingentem (nominative contingens) "happening, touching," present ...
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How does 'to deport' mean 'to conduct oneself' ?

2. deport {verb} {archaic} = Conduct oneself in a specified manner: deport (v.1): late 15c., "to behave," from Old French deporter "behave, deport (oneself)" (12c.), also with a wide range of ...
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Etymology of 'genus'

Etymonline: (plural genera), 1550s as a term of logic, [3.] "kind or class of things" (biological sense dates from c.1600), [2.] from Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; ...
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How did 'ply' evolve into these 4 different definitions?

ply = {with object} 1. Work steadily with (a tool) 2. {no object, with adverbial of direction} (Of a vessel or vehicle) travel regularly over a route, typically for commercial purposes ...
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Education begins at home

What (from where or whom) is the origin of the phrase, "Education begins at home?" I've tried a general "google" search but have not found any clear attribution yet. It is a basic statement many ...
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41 views

How did the spelling of 'mien' evolve?

I ask only about mien's definition of 'A person’s look or manner', and not the Yao people. OED: Etymology: Probably a merging of two words of distinct origins: (i) shortened < demean n.; ...
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Origin of using “left” as something we still have [closed]

People express a quantity of something they still have (but is finding away) by using the word "left". Time left: 2 hours Where does this usage originates from. If one depicts a timeline, it ...
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How did 'wan' evolve from 'lacking lustre' to 'pale' ?

I wish to delve into the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are some right ways of interpreting the noun 'lustre', so that the etymology ...
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1answer
143 views

Is my name English? [closed]

I have a question regarding my name and English language. My family's last name is Maiorana and were from Yorkshire (or so I thought). The other day my new girlfriend asked where my name was from and ...
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What is the etymology of “run like a dog”?

I've used the phrase "runs like a dog" to mean that my car is on its last legs and can't, sometimes, run anywhere near as fast as a dog can. Can anyone shed light on where this meaning of the phrase ...
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“Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)”

"Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)" (idiom, used to agree to a suggestion that you think is good) It seems to be of relatively recent origin, if there's really a sound origin, that is. Main Q: What ...