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

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What does the prefix iso- mean in “isolate”?

My question is referring to the prefix iso- and its meaning in the word isolate. My question is, if the prefix means equal, how does that make sense in the word isolate?
4
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1answer
173 views

What is the etymology of “gatefold”?

What does the word "gatefold" mean? Sure, I know what it is (the whole internet is very eager to tell me what it is), but where does it come from? The "gate" part that is, I can guess the "fold" ...
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26 views

Origin of the phrases “out back” and “out front”?

I'm going through the Song of Ice and Fire books, and although it's mostly written in what appears to be British English, very occasionally Americanisms sneak in. One example that I just noticed is ...
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2answers
171 views

What is the origin of “dibs”?

Etymonline has this entry for dibs: Children's word to express a claim on something, 1932, originally U.S., apparently a contraction of dibstone "a knucklebone or jack in a children's game" ...
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56 views

Etymology of “hysteresis”

Wikipedia (correctly IMHO) defines hysteresis as the dependence of the output of a system not only on its current input, but also on its history of past inputs. The dependence arises because the ...
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I've said it once, I've said it twice, I've said it a thousand times: English doesn't make sense

I had a student moaning at me because I insisted he say twice and not "two times". And he asked "But why?" to which I replied, "Because that's how you say it!" However on reflection, his question was ...
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17 views

How did 'to purport' evolve to connote negativity?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. Please beware that I replicate the noun(al) etymology from Etymonline, and not ...
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47 views

Etymology of “save” in the meaning of “except”, “but”, “unless”

Why does save also mean other than : but or except "We had no hope save one." except for the fact that : only —used with that but, except —used before a word often taken to be the ...
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22 views

How to rationalise the legal definition of 'to procure'?

How can I resolve the contradictions below? What's the right derivation? I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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1answer
65 views

Origin of 'a rising tide lifts all boats'

'A rising tide lifts all boats' is a saying that has become more and more common in recent decades and is often used in economic and political contexts: The aphorism "a rising tide lifts all ...
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1answer
48 views

What is the relation between plastic surgery and plastic? [on hold]

Reading some books, I am wondering if there is any connection between plastic surgery and plastic itself? One definition from OED seems to fit: (Of substances or materials) easily shaped or ...
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22 views

Where are the words “starboard and port” are coming from [closed]

I noticed that the expressions to indicate the right and left side of a boat in English are completely different than their equivalent in Spanish, French and Italian. What is the etymology of these ...
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How did “s***” and “the s***” come to mean opposite things?

Your idea is shit Your idea is bad. Your idea is the shit Your idea is good. The same does not apply to "the crap" or "the poop", or other profanity like "the fuck". I can think of ...
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54 views

Where does the phrase “Job Lot” come from?

The phrase "Job Lot" is used in auctions to mean an often assorted quantity of something, for example a "job lot of bicycle parts" could be a load of tyres, wheels, handlebars, frames, chains, etc. I ...
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1answer
55 views

“Thing” comes from “think”? [on hold]

I'm not a native english speaker. But i am very interested in etymology. So i want to know if "thing" in the sense of a thing you can't named yet but you can think is related with the verb "think"? ...
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39 views

Adjective form of the verb despise?

Saw the title of the movie where minions come out - "Despicable Me" - I was curious, as despicable has the suffix -able, what would be its verb form? Then, I thought, is it de-spice? Which made me ...
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83 views

Etymology of “loose woman”

I was prompted to this question by the question on Skeptics SE regarding sex and stretching of vaginas. A general google search on etymology of "loose woman" did not turn up any reasonable answers ...
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is there any connection between pot and potty [closed]

Usually potty is used in "potty training" etc. I am wondering if there is connection between pot and potty training?
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79 views

What is the origin of “TX” as an abbreviation for “transaction”?

Acronymfinder.com lists TX as a rare abbreviation for "transaction", particularly in the context of computers. It use by the Bitcoin protocol may be its best-known application, but I've also found a ...
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3answers
115 views

To have the world “at your fingertips”

I was watching a YouTube video about eating disorders when the American TV presenter ended a pep talk with the following words: If I had the chance today to spend six weeks somewhere, to better ...
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2answers
69 views

Origin of “happy camper”

How did happy camper and not a happy camper originate? I have been unable to find a definitive source for this phrase.
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52 views

What is the difference in meaning between “complacent” and “complaisant”

They are both derived from the French world complaire, which means "pleased" According to this source, "the two words overlapped in meaning until the middle of the 19th century." How do they differ ...
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106 views

How did 'cordon bleu' come to be applied to cookery?

The cordon bleu -blue ribbon- was a ribbon worn by the Knights Grand Cross of the French Order of the Hoy Ghost, the highest order of chivalry under the Bourbon kings of France. The OED entry on ...
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126 views

Necromancy and nigromancy

Necromancy and nigromancy descibe the act of black magic/ spiritualism. It comes from Greek originally and laterly Latin, according to Wikipedia. The question is, is this the ancient source of the ...
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15 views

New Etymological Knowledge [migrated]

If a scholar or layperson, wanted to submit a discovery of the origin of some obscure word or phrase not previously known, what would be the criteria they should follow acceptable to the academic ...
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51 views

Origin of “kill the ghost”, “killing the ghost”

A British friend of mine who used to work with us came back from London for a short visit to the town.Before going back home again he showed me photographs of the town beach and hotel saying he came ...
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What is the origin of “rat”?

A simple little word for a common little fella. Yet, the origin is unknown (or not?). Both OED and Etymonline are bold enough to say "of uncertain origin"; but, of course, they try to explain the ...
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99 views

Why is “decimate” still linked to its number-specific definition when other similar words are not? [closed]

As any pedant will tell you, decimate means “to destroy a tenth of something.” Of course, its modern usage has been expanded to this: to destroy a large number of (plants, animals, people, ...
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A word that describes different forms of the same word?

Is there a word that describes the many different forms of a root word (and I don't mean tense). In this example specifically the root word would be compare...and the form of it is comparatively. But ...
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Of Yuppies and Yippies and Hippies

While innocently passing by on my way to Big Rep City, I happened to overhear (alright! I was dropping eaves) a dialogue in some podunk Commentary Cafe wherein two fellow ELU consumers were debating ...
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113 views

What was the command of “Fire at will” before gunpowder? [duplicate]

I've seen some discussions about the command of "fire" before gunpowder was invented. That may be "shoot", "loose", "throw" etc. But what was the command of "fire at will"? Are there any clues? ...
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59 views

Why are some football clubs known as Wanderers?

Why are Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers etc so known? The OED seems to be silent on the matter, so I searched elsewhere on line. The following answer came up. Does it ...
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Why do we 'return' a member to parliament?

OED sense 12b, of the verb to return deals with the matter of returning a member, at one time by the sheriff, nowadays by a returning officer. It is is part of the wider paragraph 12 meaning headed ...
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51 views

History of ‘smile one's thanks’

I'm interested to know when the actual phrase smile one's thanks was first registered in the English language, as well as smile agreement and nod agreement.
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1answer
112 views

Knock me over with a feather

Where does the expression "you could have knocked me over with a feather" come from? My students had never heard it when I used it in class the other day.
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Are there any contemporary English words derived from same root as Euterpe & Terpsichore?

Euterpe & Terpsichore both contain the same etymological word root: Euterpe muse of music, from Greek Euterpe, literally "well-pleasing," from eu "well" (see eu-) + terpein "to delight, ...
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1answer
83 views

What is origin of the phrase “tits up”

I like this phrase a lot but wonder where it comes from.
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131 views

Why are Irish people called “turk” and “turkey”?

Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (edited by John Ayto, John Simpson) lists the below slang words used for Irish people: bog-trotter, harp, Mick, Paddy, Pat, turk, turkey I can guess why these ...
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Why is “all . . . not” apparently more common than “not all ”?

For example, All that glitters is not gold is sort of a fixed term, and people often use the same “all . . . not” form when talking about things. See also the question “Is it wrong to use ‘not’ in ...
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93 views

The meaning and etymology of the exclamation “Lawdy me!”

What does a speaker mean if he/she exclaims "Lawdy me!"? I noticed this exclamation when I was reading a short story "the Conscience of the Court" by Zora Neale Hurston. There was one brown-skinned ...
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170 views

What is the origin of “pre-plan”?

Although I searched fairly extensively, I couldn't find any references as to the origins of pre-plan. According to Online Etymology Dictionary, pre-arranged and prearranged have existed since 1792 ...
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104 views

Origin of My thing

When did the term "my thing" as in "that is my thing" come into usage?
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57 views

Why does the word “dodgeball” focus on the defensive skills instead of the offensive skills?

I'm a Dutch user, and in Dutch, dodgeball is called "trefbal" (literally hitball), referring to what the person with the ball is trying to do. In English, Dodgeball refers to the action that the ...
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3answers
105 views

Where did the expression “it's lonely at the top” come from?

Some variations of this are it's lonely at the top but you eat better and it's lonely at the top but the view is nice a look at google ngrams seems to suggest it started to pick up in the ...
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1answer
69 views

Is the -old morpheme in 'threshold' an OE locative?

I remember in days of yore being told by a professor that threshold held the meaning of "stepping (or more literally, treading) through," implying a locative sense to the remaining -old morpheme. ...
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14answers
5k views

Feminism being referred to as equality for all, as opposed to equality for women [closed]

In a recent debate with a colleague, a self-proclaimed feminist, she described feminists as seeking equality for all, and not simply just women. I thought that this was inherently wrong considering ...
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1answer
59 views

Is there an etymological relationship between “obvious” and “obviate” [closed]

It is obvious to me that the words are related, just by spelling. Yet, no dictionary I glanced though reveals the link. I guess that obvious is something that eliminates (obviates) the uncertainty. It ...
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Origin of “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”?

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. - Confucious What is the origin, and evolution, of this popular quote? It has a nice air of pseudo-profundity to it; one problem ...
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what is the origin of the term travel [closed]

What is the origin of the term travel and how broad is the term travel? What is it intended to encompass?
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1answer
57 views

Can I be “friendfully yours” [closed]

friendly (advs). : Used to mean 'in a friendly manner. I am wondering if "friendfully" was/is in standard usage and would I sound primitive or ungrammatical if I dare write "friendfully yours" ...