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

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Why is the 't' silent in 'christen'?

The audio clips at ODO do not vocalise any sound resembling a 't', and the IPA contains no 't': BrE  /ˈkrɪsn/   ;   NAmE  /ˈkrɪsn The 't' in 'christen' and 'hasten' (mooted by this comment in a ...
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43 views

On the origin of “exit poll”

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar ...
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54 views

Origin of the phrase “it’s been years if it’s been a day”?

I first heard this phrase in an episode of Family Guy, and they're typically fans of referencing older shows and movies, especially from the 80s. So I'd assumed it was a fairly commonly known thing. ...
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41 views

What is origin of the word “fluent”?

We often hear people say he speak English fluently. fluent:(of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately.(dict) But what did that word come from? did it came from fluid or flow? ...
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100 views

Pure Applesauce: What does it mean and when/how was it created?

I could find out what jiggery–pokery means (dishonest or suspicious activity), but what does "pure applesauce" mean? And when, where, by whom, and how was this expression created? Context: ...
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58 views

Where does this usage “and you” as in titles come from?

So I'm noticing there are some occurrences of a fixed usage of “and you,” mainly in titles of articles introducing something new or important to reader. It goes like “object inheritance, ...
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24 views

History and meaning of the word “clientelist” as in “clientelist politics”

In relation to news reports about modern Greece I see the term "clientelist politics" which I assume to refer to some sort of corruption. In order to learn more I looked up clientelist in the OED only ...
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113 views

Why are the buttons on computer keyboards called “keys”? [on hold]

A computer keyboard is a board of keys. Why are these buttons called keys? Is it related to the usage of piano "keys"?
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35 views

How did 'of' 's figurative meanings evolve from 'away, away from'?

of (prep.) [⇐] Old English of, unstressed form of æf (prep., adv.) "away, away from," [...], from PIE *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Primary sense in Old English still was "away," but shifted in ...
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24 views

After verbs, how does 'from' compare with 'of'?

(TL;DR) 1. I've been plagued by the postverbal use of the preposition 'of'. After verbs, when describing attributes like origin or source, what are the differences between 'from' and 'of'? The verbs ...
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30 views

What's the etymology of 'of' after verbs?

(TL;DR) While reading about preposition of on OED (eg avail of, enquire of), I encountered a possible explanation: quoted below, OED claims that the postverbal of originates from the genitive case, ...
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46 views

Describing People as from (or belonging to) a Country [duplicate]

People from India are Indians People from Rwanda are Rwandans People from Japan are Japanese People from China are Chinese What are these words (indicating citizenship of some country) known as ? ...
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734 views

Who is the originator of the proverb, “be (not) worth the candle?

There is the following passage in Jeffery Archer’s fiction, “Be careful what you wish for”: “If Diego failed to turn up, Cedric had already decided that the game wouldn’t be worth the candle, to ...
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53 views

Usage of Disproven

How would you use disproven in a sentence please? Is disproven interchangeable with disproved?
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74 views

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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45 views

Is there a term for words that are holdovers from an old technology that aren't apt for a new, superseding technology? [duplicate]

(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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1answer
42 views

Origin of “If X, you are in the wrong place” [on hold]

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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85 views

Non standard english: Slang. “That sucks man.” [on hold]

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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84 views

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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133 views

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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189 views

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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284 views

“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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67 views

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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1answer
84 views

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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1answer
38 views

Any connection between “escheat” and “cheat”? [closed]

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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41 views

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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29 views

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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206 views

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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52 views

Where did the word 'and' come from? [closed]

Where does the word "and" come from? What are its roots?
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53 views

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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29 views

Is “S.Sgt.” an Acronym or a Compound Noun? [closed]

Can anybody tell me the answer? Thanks.
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54 views

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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29 views

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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1answer
122 views

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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68 views

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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155 views

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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72 views

How might 'to play the flute' have evolved to mean 'flout'? [closed]

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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46 views

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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20 views

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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338 views

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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81 views

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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28 views

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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226 views

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 ...