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

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What is a bileue?

I was looking up the word "god" in the Oxford English Dictionary On-Line, which led me to this entry: d. the god of this world : the Devil, Satan. c1384 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce ...
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What French phrase is the origin of “gardyloo?”

The word gardyloo is a warning cry uttered before throwing wastewater (literally and euphemistically) out of a window. Every source I've found has traced this word back to some French phrase ...
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540 views

How should I parse the name of the UK?

I've grown up in the UK and always considered that it is a United Kingdom of four countries: the three countries on the island of Great Britain and the country/province1 of Northern Ireland. ...
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Origin of “So much for that idea”

When a concept is found to be invalid, someone might say "so much for" it, which roughly means "I'm throwing this idea away." Does anyone know where the expression comes from?
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etymology of eavesdropping

there's this word eavesdropping or eavesdrop, which I looked over in oxford and several other places. the closest I got to understanding it was that it originated from an obsolete noun "eavesdrop", ...
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34 views

Origin of the word kowtow? [on hold]

l think it has its origin from the Akan people of Ghana because the Akans have a similar word which means to bow or lay prostrate for a higher person or an authority.
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Etymology: the wings of a bird

I just read about the symbol of Venice, the winged lion of Venice. As a German the German word die Schwingen for wings came to my mind. English has the word in the verb to swing.The connection between ...
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41 views

Spendthrift vs Thrifty - origins

I have always been curious to understand the origin of these two seemingly similar words. Looking at them for the first time, I thought they were synonyms, but ever since I learnt their meanings, ...
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Where does the second “l” come from in “till”? [duplicate]

I've always wondered this: surely an abbreviation of until should abbreviate the word, without subsequently needing to double the last letter? Are there any reasons for this?
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Pronunciation of the words 'height' and 'weight'

Why is "height" an "weight" pronounced differently, when the spellings are so similar? Is there any logical explanation or it evolved that way?
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Etymology-Name Meaning [on hold]

What is the meaning of the name April? Any ideas? Thanks! I have a friend who wants to know the meaning of her name.
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Did I get wrong what she said with ' If you could be my everything.. '? [closed]

After I asked my girlfriend that why she doubts to start again to this relationship, she answered: "Because if you could be my everything, i would not let him come close to me, in the first place". ...
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early on, later on - How to explain “on”?

I have been thinking about these adverbials for a long time to understand this connection of "early/later" with "on". These adverbials are used for introducing a sentence or they are placed at the ...
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34 views

meaning of Republic [closed]

I've been thinking what might be the real meaning of the word Republic? As far as I know the prefix re- gives the base word the meaning of again; as in renew, replace, reclaim. I am wondering what ...
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Which is longer: snooze, nap, kip, 40 winks or siesta?

How long is a snooze? My boyfriend will invariable take an afternoon snooze which might last anything up to two hours. A nap on the other hand, can be short, quick or even long, and sometimes they are ...
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Origin of “to be in fat city”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to be in fat city" meaning "to do well" (financially or otherwise)? A search with an internet search engine suggests that it is of fairly recent vintage, as the two ...
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“Healthy” vs “healthful”— Do fruits and veggies work out?

The OED doesn't say much other than the two words have long been synonyms since the 1500s. healthful - promoting good health healthy - being in good health/condition Why do we say that ...
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What is the origin of the place name Privett vs. plant name Privet?

The Ligustrum vulgare, the English Privet, seems to have a confused history. It was known to the ancient Greeks as an important plant in making their formal gardens or topia "places" which gives us ...
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Origin of the phrase “mother's ruin”?

I was under the impression that the phrase "mother's ruin" came from the England in the 1800's, where many people living in London did so in absolute poverty, and gin (the so-called "mother's ruin") ...
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Why “daily” and not “dayly”?

Checking how adjectives related to time are created, I see: year → yearly month → monthly week → weekly day → daily Why has “day” derivated into “daily” with an ‘i’ instead of “dayly” with a ‘y’? ...
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Why is “agnostic” pronounced “ag-gnostic” as opposed to “a-gnostic”?

Gnosticism, for example, is obviously not pronounced with a hard g. As far as I know the modern English use of agnostic is said to have originated with Thomas Huxley, who surely would have been aware ...
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How did the word “settings” acquire its modern meaning?

When did it pass into common usage to refer to a device's "settings"? It makes perfect sense to call them that, since you "set" them, but such things didn't really exist until the age of electronics. ...
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Conceptual limitations of the English Language? [closed]

In ancient Greece their language presupposed that the use of a term implied the existence of its referent. This inherent limit of their language was the cause of the Aristotelian assumption which took ...
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Why does the phrase “to take the rag off” mean to excel in the classroom?

A Collection of College Words and Customs (1851) by Benjamin Homer Hall defines to take the rag off as "to excel; to compose much better than one's classmates." I understand the phrase is quite old; ...
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comfiture and discomfiture - etymology

discomfiture anxious embarrassment comfiture a candy containing a nut or piece of fruit. Are these two "false friends", words seeming to be related but of completely different ...
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Origin of “Knocked” in “Have (Got) It Knocked”

I read the 11 Nov. 1978 panel of Garfield, in which the phrase "have got it knocked" is used. Transcript: Panel 1 [Garfield is in bed but mobile] Garfield: Oh-oh. I feel a nap attack ...
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Knocked up, two very different meanings. But why and how did the phrase split? [duplicate]

In American English, "Knocked up" means "pregnant." I just found out via an article regarding jobs that no longer exist that in British English, they use use the phrase "Knocked up in a completely ...
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106 views

Why is it called “slippery dick”?

No, no, it is not what you think! It is a poor fish called slippery dick: The slippery dick, Halichoeres bivittatus, is a species of wrasse native to shallow, tropical waters of the western ...
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What's the origin of the word party pooper?

A party pooper is defined as: a person who refuses to join in the fun of a party; broadly : one who refuses to go along with everyone else I'm interested to know about the origin of this term and ...
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Where did the term 'moral fiber' come from?

I was reading a novel that used the term moral fiber - defined as strength of character - the other day and it occurred to me that it was a somewhat strange conjunction of terms. It sort of conjured ...
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Bora Bora, Here We Come

Saw this phrase/expression in CIBC advertisement. The pleased client asked, "should we re-investment or expand", and the bank clerk said, "you can do both", then the old lady in the back happily ...
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Etymology of the word 'ax'

Does the word 'ax' originate from Anglo-Saxon [eax, aex] or from Greek [axo, ax, from axon, axis- A combining form]. From the source I researched scholars have linked these separate languages at this ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On”?

I hear this too many times at work and figured it meant is this the battle I choose to fight today? But this is used too many times on the interwebs to google down to the origins of it. Can some one ...
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Where did the phrase You “have a really punchable face” originate?

MS Paint Adventures references this phrase on this page in homestuck: http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002224 I also distinctly remember hearing the same phrase in one of the three first ...
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Why are social drinks referred to as cocktails?

Why are social drinks referred to as cocktails?
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How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could if a woodchuck could chuck wood! What is the origin of this ...
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What is the origin of the term “In Spades”? [duplicate]

Near as I can tell, this phrase seems to be based on the idea that the suit of spades is of higher value than any other card - which I believe is only true in the card game "Spades". Is this card ...
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regarding “Oriented” vs. “orientated” [duplicate]

I couldn't help but add an additional frame of reference. Though I personally find the utterance of "orientated" to be a failed attempt at the proper word "oriented", the collective commentary is ...
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Why do the words ducky and jake mean fine or satisfactory?

Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary acknowledges both ducky and jake as acceptable terms meaning fine or satisfactory and it dates the word ducky back to 1897 and jake to 1914. Does anyone know how ...
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Why is the English devil “old”?

Looking up the etymology of the Devil's nickname, Old Nick, I came across this article in OUPblog written by Anatoly Liberman For some reason, devils, at least in English, are often called old: ...
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Is Shakespeare really the source of our modern meaning for odd?

In a recent article, the Guardian states that Shakespeare is also responsible for the modern meaning of "odd". What is the evidence for this? The textual evidence alone is thin and unconvincing. ...
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What's the reason, words like “Thou” and “Thee” are no longer used in English language

When going through old English literature, especially stories and poems, we can see they have been full of words like "thou" and "thee" etc. Some of my English teachers told me that they were used ...
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52 views

What is the origin of the reference to the “ancient Marks”

From the historical reference included: "Kemble, in his (appendix) list of "patronymical names," which he regards as "those of ancient Marks," has two references, from the "Codex Diplomaticus"...", ...
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Bike Race question - Loser gets to be the girl [closed]

I don't remember which movie it was in, but there were two men (filled with testosterone), and they had this bet that the loser would be the girl. It was never specified what ''gets to be the girl'' ...
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What does “no love lost” mean and where does it come from?

I have trouble with the idiom "no love lost". I understand that it is used when people are at odds or don't get along, but I don't understand why. Interpreted literally it sounds like there should be ...
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105 views

Does “eff” mean to describe in words?

If one dissects the word "ineffable", there are three main roots in - not able - able to be done eff The meaning of the root able implies that some part of the word before it must refer to an ...
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Where does “incensed” originate from?

I was wondering whether the adjective "incensed" meaning "enraged" had any relation with the noun "incense" meaning "a product producing a smell when burnt" Can anybody answer this ? Maybe it has ...
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Origin of oe pronounced as /i/?

/i/ is usually pronounced in English with the vowels: e, ee, ea, ei, ie, and y. What is the origin of the pronunciation of words such as amoeba, phoenix or onomatopoeia? I got curious about this ...
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Where does the word “button-down” come from?

I was wondering where the term 'button-down' comes from. I tried to do some research but I was not very successful... How was the word button-down formed? Is it a compound ? Does it originate from ...
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On the evolution of the meaning of “few”

Was the word "few" used exclusively to refer to groups of eight people (or things) at some point of time? There is a well-known verse in the New Testament which implies the plausibility of such a ...