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

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A frog in the throat

While the French refer to the temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat as having a cat in the throat, the English version of the expression is to have a frog in the throat. I ...
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How did “party” come to mean “gathering”?

Is it just related to the fact that people participate in it?
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How did the term “X's finest” come to mean the police force of a city X?

I have often come across terms like London's finest, New York's finest, etc., intended to mean the police forces of the respective cities. I think in the case of Scotland Yard, the term even has some ...
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What is the origin of 'bird'

Bird: (Brit.) a girl or young woman, esp one's girlfriend (Collins Dict. ) According to Etymonline, bird: "maiden, young girl," c.1300, confused with burd (q.v.), but felt by ...
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Etymology of “queue” from “cue” [migrated]

Queue has such a strange spelling (80% of it is vowels!) that I wanted to see where the word came from. I searched for its origin at Etymonline.com, which had this to say: queue (n.): late 15c., ...
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What is the origin of “Kris Kringle”?

In Canada, we use the term "Kris Kringle" for gift exchange tradition in Christmas. It is also spelled as "Kriss Kringle". In US and UK, it is called Secret Santa. Wikipedia says "Secret Santa" is ...
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45 views

Where does the response “Anytime” come from? [on hold]

When someone says "Thank you" whenever I have helped them out, I naturally respond with "Anytime". I recently started thinking about this and couldn't quite figure out where this word originates from. ...
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What’s a “handegg”?

What’s a handegg? NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary. There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that ...
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Etymology of 'commencement' (as in university commencement)

Some guy claims that I'll tell you why graduation is called Commencement (and no, it's not because it's the beginning of your "real life"). In the large halls where students and faculty ate, the ...
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Origins of “up the duff”

In British English, the term "up the duff" is used to describe a pregnant lady. I've tried to research as to why this is the case but I can't find anything concrete. Oxford has it as: 1940s ...
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What does “fleek” mean and when was it first used? [on hold]

The word fleek is all over Twitter. The @lovihatibot Twitterbot routinely finds it in searches for "I love the word [X]" and "I hate the word [X]", in fact it's the third most hated word over the ...
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why do we say “deaf ears”- Is it not pleonasm [closed]

If one is deaf, he/she can't hear or have extremely limited hearing abilities. And since hearing is about ears or vice-versa... Can we say "deaf ears" when we refer to people?
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How did the “erogation” word end up on displays of coffee machines?

According to many dictionaries, erogation comes from the Latin for "the art of giving out or bestowing", but currently seems to be heavily linked to the coffee business. I'd like to know how this ...
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When was “emoji” first used?

Emoji is a small digital image or icon used in electronic communication. It is also mentioned as a standardized emoticon (emotion + icon) but emojis are usually depicted as pictographs and emoticons ...
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Origin of the phrase: “they went back to the well”

I am fairly happy with the meaning of this phrase but am wondering are there any good theories on where it originated? I have one theory that makes sense in an Irish context. Dotted around Ireland we ...
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Why is the action of removing a digital file named “Delete”?

After reading these questions: Difference between "delete" and "remove" How much use did the word 'delete' get before the technological boom? Delete or Remove (ell.SE) ...
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When did “phone” become accepted as its own word?

In older print publications, I have come across telephone shortened to 'phone, with an apostrophe to mark where the beginning of the word had been omitted. Now, however, phone does not need an ...
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118 views

Etymology of orchard

Etymology of orchard As a German I would assume that orchard is related to German Obstgarten (a garden with fruit trees), and as Obstgarten has a consonant group of four consonants bst+g the bst was ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “bullet points”?

In particular, was the expression coined by a single individual or is it attributed to a document? The only thing I've been able to find was a non-cited reference to its origins in the 19th century ...
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Does the word blackmail have a racist connotation? [duplicate]

I searched for the origin of the word and found out that the reason why it's called Blackmail not a different colour is because black fits the evil nature of the practice. But why is black considered ...
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How do I use “The screaming abdabs”?

I have recently come across the phrase "the screaming abdabs". It is used in sentences such as "it gave me the screaming abdabs", abdabs being and old-fashioned word meaning 'a case of extreme ...
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“tube” vs. “tubing”

I have always run into word twins like tube vs. tubing. More pairs: fence vs. fencing, pipe vs. piping, cable vs. cabling, rail vs. railing, etc. This is an interesting phemonenon. Most of these ...
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Who originated “Merry Christmas”?

The first reference I can find in the OED to "Merry Christmas" is from 1534. This date very roughly corresponds with the English Reformation and Henry VIII's breach with Rome. From that time the ...
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Etymology of legend (as used in a chart/map)?

Related question: “Legend” or “key”? Legend, also known as a Chart's Key, often located on the right hand side of the chart or graph. It took me some time to understand what the legend was when ...
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What's the etymology of the words “sweater” and “sweatshirt”? [closed]

The title already says it all. By way of explanation, for me as a non-native speaker it sounds pretty weird to associate the name of a decent piece of clothing with something nasty like sweat.
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In what context did the noun 'countdown' first emerge, and when did the word first appear in print?

A recent EL&U question (What does “counting” in “Bits of plastic in oceans: 5.25 trillion and counting” mean?) led to a discussion of counting up versus counting down. In the course of that ...
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origin of “chuck” (as in throw and/or throw away)

I'm curious about the origins of the word "chuck" to mean "throw," as in: Billy chucked a snowball at the bus. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives me this: "to throw," 1590s, variant of ...
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wrecking vs wracking vs wreaking

What I understand so far: Wrecking - to trash/destroy/be destroyed Wracking - to be tortured, possibly from variant of "rack". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=wrack also seems to mention ...
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What is the etymology of the word “shanked”? [closed]

I have heard the verb "shanked" use to mean pulling down someone's pants, and the noun "shank" to mean stabbing someone. What is they etymology of "shanked"? From researching online, it appears that ...
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Definition of a person who “knows not he knows not.”

Is there a word for someone who wants to appear learned or knowledgeable but has no clue he isn't?
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What is the etymological history behind the mathematical “induction” versus the philosophical “inductive [reasoning]”? [closed]

Was talking about it in a (particularly off topic) university lecture on Emperical reasoning (deductive - our logic-math course, vs inductive - "gravity gets taken for granted"). A reason we were ...
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Does “caffeinated” make any sense?

A while back, when we learnt how to remove the caffeine from coffee beans, we coined the word decaffeinated to denote coffee that's had the caffeine taken out. I've noticed more and more recently, as ...
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What does “cotton on” mean? [closed]

I was reading a book, and found the the phrase cotton on as in "Aha!" he said, when he cottoned on. At first I assumed this was a misspelling, and it should have been "as he catched on". ...
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“Sport” vs “Sports” Origin

I was recently reading this article on the use of "math" vs. "maths" as a collective noun (Americans use the former, Brits the latter). However, the trend seen in "math/maths" is reversed in ...
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Why “pastime” but not “passtime”?

pastime n. An activity that occupies one's spare time pleasantly: Sailing is her favorite pastime. [TFD] Etymonline says that it is from pass + time: late 15c., passe tyme "recreation, ...
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What's the origin of the phrase “men are pigs”?

I believe every man and woman has either read about or heard this phrase been spoken at least once in their lifetime. Besides the obvious connotation ascribing men to pigs, what is the reasoning ...
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Origin of “Innocent” to mean “Sexually Inexperienced”

I was thinking about the way "innocent" is often used (in both casual and moderately formal contexts) to mean "sexually inexperienced/oblivious", and came to the conclusion that using the phrase in ...
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Etymology of “compiler” (computer term)

A friend and I were debating on the origin of the word "compiler". A quick google search led me to discover that Grace Hopper coined the term. But I'm not sure how or on what basis did she coin the ...
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What is the origin of “choke in the clutch”?

I've seen this phrase in several sports stories recently, and I believe it goes back several decades. The phrase can probably be broken into two parts: choke and clutch. I know choking refers to ...
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Is 'keep someone across' a new phrasal verb?

How common is the expression 'to keep someone across' the news. Is this a new phrasal verb? I've noticed it mostly in the last four years on British news programmes, such as the BBC. It seems to mean ...
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Which rules define how to pronounce a consonant? [closed]

My question might appear silly and pointless to some, but I find it pretty interesting myself. If we look at the word 'circus', it has 3 consonants and 2 vowels. However, the 2 c in the words are ...
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Why is Steam/Cyber/…-punk called “punk”?

Cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk: why is it called "punk"? Related but not helpful: Etymology of "punk"?
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What does the idiom “for good” come from? [duplicate]

I'd like to know why this means forever. As a foreign English speaker, when I heard this idiom I thought it meant like for something good. What was the origin of "for good" ?
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Philip Phillip Philips Phillips - Etymology

Is there any reason for these four different spellings of what seem to be a very similar name? (One 'l' vs double 'l'; and 's' vs no 's')
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Titus Andronicus: “-She is delivered, lords, she is delivered. -To whom?”

This is about trying to understand the etymology, meaning and current usage(if any) of a specific form for the word deliver. Is deli'ver, to deliver, delivered There was an old form1 which was ...
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Why does the word “coffee” have two “e’s”?

We know what coffee is and where the word comes from. Coffee was originally borrowed from: The word "coffee" entered English language in 1582 via Dutch koffie,[4] borrowed from Turkish kahve, in ...
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Why did “ctte” become the popular abbreviation of “committee”? [closed]

The word “committee” is a long and tedious one to type or write; I can easily understand the motivation to invent an abbreviation. When and why, though, did “ctte” become popular? What alternatives ...
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Meaning of Top Gun quote

In the movie Top Gun Maverick says: "I'm gonna need a beer to put these flames out." This was part of a compilation of quotes supporting the gay theme of the movie. Urbandictionary doesn't have a ...
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Why the oddity of speculative/non-specified large numbers

When there is a large number to describe, without knowing the specific number, we can report "millions," or "thousands," or "hundreds." Why do we then break that base-ten (seeming) pattern with ...
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Where did the phrase “hack job” come from?

I've been doing quite a bit of reading and research on the etymology of the word "hack" and its off-shoots, but I can't seem to find any evidence of the first instance of the phrase "hack job." I've ...