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

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What's the word meaning “exact to the definition and distinction of words”?

If I correctly recall, that was the definition to a word I looked up, I believe it to be a very uncommon adjective or noun starting with C. It meant something along the lines of being very fine tuned ...
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36 views

Source of “miscarriage of justice”

What may be the source of the phrase "miscarriage of justice"? I keep hearing this phrase being used for cases where an innocent has been convicted. While the phrase paints quite a picture, I'm not ...
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Orange “is the new” black!

The expression "is the new" is often used to introduce a comparison between two things, where the latter has actually replaced the former in terms of popularity. The only reference I could find for ...
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50 views

Origin of the phrase “go west” (to die)

I was curious, what is the origin of the phrase "to go west" or "to pass into the west" (as in the sense of to die)?
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23 views

Why are visa application centres called “visa sections”?

In this article, the term "visa sections" is used to refer seemingly to visa application centres, in the following passage: Applications around the world soared and visa sections in parts of India,...
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The origin of the verb “has” (the verb “have” for third-singular person)

From what I know, in Simple Present, all verbs are followed by -s/es if the subject is a third-singular person. Such as makes, matches, buys, and studies. I also know that if the verb is have, it ...
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Origin of the term “fun fact”

Where does the term "fun fact" originate?-- namely, not with the compositional meaning but rather with the idiomatic usage to introduce some sort of unusual, esoteric, absurd or otherwise "...
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What game did “game changer” originally refer to?

Game changer is an expression , often used in business contexts, to refer to: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. Origin ...
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Origin of Working stiff [duplicate]

What is the origin of the expression, "working stiff"? I've checked my paper dictionary and thesaurus, and have looked online to no avail. My sources will define each word individually, but as in ...
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Why “objectionable” and not “objectable”?

"Objectionable" is strange because unlike most "-able" words it begins with a noun instead of a verb. I would think it should be "objectable", ie, capable of being objected to. What is the reason ...
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69 views

Where does “restroom” come from? [on hold]

Where does the term "restroom" come from? It surely can't have anything to do with resting. The first time I landed at a US airport I was actually so confused about this that I thought that the "...
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What's the male equivalent of “maiden”? [closed]

What is the male equivalent of "maiden"?
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Origin of the phrase “Dissent among the ranks”

I've said this plenty of times myself and have heard it elsewhere, but I did some minor research online and found nothing to indicate I got the phrase from somewhere particular or anything. Does ...
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From the Spanish “xaquima” to the AmE “hackamore”

A hackamore: is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin. It is most commonly ...
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Origin of “Come for the X, stay for the Y” [on hold]

What's the origin of the phrase "Come for the X, stay for the Y", such as a toxicologist saying "Come for the inland taipans, stay for the platypodes"? I tried looking up onelook, but it wasn't able ...
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Is 'ghost' etymologically connected to 'guest'?

It appears they are both from a Germanic root, and the original sense for the root of guest was stranger, which would fit ghost as well as guest. (Amusingly in Latin, it ended up as hostis - enemy!) ...
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How did the term “crayfish” become “crawdad”?

I am given to understand that "crawdad" and "crayfish" refer to the same creature (or group of creatures resembling small lobsters that live in freshwater), and that the difference is dialectical. ...
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What's the source of “shipped” in a romantic sense?

While Urban Directory is by no means a reliable source, I see the word shipped used in the sense they describe: the strong desire for 2 or more fictional characters to be in a romantic ...
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Why is a university degree called a “degree”? Does this relate to the idea of taking 360 credits worth of modules? [closed]

I know in the UK at least it is most commonplace for degrees to involve modules amounting to a value of 360 credits. Is this where it gets its name from? Or was this sum chosen specifically to refer ...
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Names with “The” in them [duplicate]

What's the term given to names with "The" in the middle of them, for example; "Robert The Red" or "James The Great"?
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56 views

Etymology of goal [closed]

I was looking at 'al' suffixes earlier and got to wonder if 'goal' might be 'go' with the suffix 'al' (as in relates to where something should go). A search quickly ruined this theory but there doesn'...
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First use of ‘template’ in molecular biology

In modern English the term ‘template’ usually refers to a pattern, mould or former used as a guide to create objects of a similar shape. In molecular biology it is used for a DNA strand which is ‘...
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Did bedridden ever refer to a literal riding of a bed?

Looking into the origins of bedridden, I found that the word comes from: Old English bedreda, -rida, < bed bed + rida rider, < rídan to ride. OED I find that interesting, but still ...
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Don't grass me up!

"Grass", in British English, can be used as a verb or a noun to describe a police informer or the actions of said informer. Oxford gives: noun: British informal, A police informer. verb: ...
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Where does the expression, “working stiff” come from? [closed]

Where does the expression "working stiff" come from? A "stiff" can refer to a corpse, so a "working stiff" doesn't make sense.
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“would like to ask” or “would like to invite”? [closed]

When trying to ask someone to write me a recommendation letter politely, shall I use I would like to ask you to... or I would like to invite you to ... ?
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Origin of the South African English word “skadonk”?

In South African English, the word "skadonk" is colloquially used to describe an old car that is usable, but nearing the end of its lifespan. It is onomatopoeic with the sound that such a car would ...
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What's the first known use of 'Crabs in a Barrel'

I'm looking for the first known use of the phrase to describe human behavior, i.e. Pulling successful people back down to crowd level.
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Where does the expression “long odds” come from? BOUNTY

In English we say an event has "long odds" if it is unlikely to happen, and "short odds" for the opposite. The question is - why? Best I have been able to get from people: Long over even (if you ...
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Etymology of Butterfly

Does the word butterfly derive from transposition of word order, i.e., "flutter by"? Several dictionaries that I looked this up in so long ago that I've forgotten which ones, said either "origin ...
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What are the nuances of the British expression “gone” used with time, as in “gone 8” or “gone midnight”?

An expression I have run across in British novels is "gone [hour]" like this: "It was gone midnight, and the house was quiet." The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston "It's only just gone eight ...
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Lie-Gap for Gap-Toothed

While reading Go Tell It On the Mountain, I came across the hyphenated word "lie-gap." The phrase from the sentence reads, "She had the lie-gap between her teeth" (The Dial Press Edition 106). I'm ...
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Origin of “hang tight”?

What is the origin of "hang tight"? When did it first appear in the American lexicon? It's meaning is well defined: To remain in one's current location. To wait patiently. Checking ...
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why are the words 'True Love' used together so much?

I've noticed that many old (often folk) songs use the terms 'true love' together (as opposed to just 'love')? Is it to differentiate it from 'false love', due to metric or syllabic reasons, for ...
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What popularized “a roll in the hay” in the 1940s?

While I way looking for an expression for casual sex I came across the evocative expression "a roll in the hay." The saying is from 1942 according to Etymonline : Meaning "act of sexual ...
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Is “over” meaning “again” related to “over”'s other meanings?

In addition to the physical position meaning of "over" there are a number of nonphysical and temporal meanings in common usage, including "again". My own examples: I couldn't read your note. Write ...
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What is the Origin of “wouldn't say boo to a goose”?

According to http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Phrases-and-Sayings/Question284368.html this is the origin of the phrase "wouldn't say boo to a goose": Because of the supposed stupidity of the bird of ...
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Why is “Thailand” spelled with an 'h'?

As we all know, "Thailand" is not pronounced with a /θ/ — so why is it spelled that way? Is the 'h' vestigial? Does it represent some subtle phoneme in the Thai language, and if so, what is that ...
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How did 'however it may be' ⟹ 'but'?

[ OED: ] Etymology:  < HOW adv. + EVER adv. 8e. In senses 2, 3, however is the relic of an original subordinate clause (like those of sense 1), such as ‘however this may be’. ...
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“Dis-” prefix meaning and etymology [closed]

Most native speakers are used to "dis-" as a prefix having a negative or opposite connotation (disengaged, dissatisfied, disinterested). However, in rare cases, "dis-" is actually an amplifying prefix,...
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How did the words classic and classical come to mean old?

I assume the words classic and classical have a basis in the word class — which is to say, of a category. Why do we use those words to mean old or historically important?
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Origins of “schoolboy error”

In the UK, at least, we use the term "a schoolboy error" to mean a simple or foolish mistake. Oxford has it as: British informal A very basic or foolish mistake. It is used very frequently ...
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Origin and usage of “graveyard slot”

The curious expression graveyard slot has two main connotations: (television) the hours from late night until early morning when the number of people watching television is at its lowest. (...
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Word usage in the phrase “life after death”

Who first coined the phrase "Life after Death"? And since the word "death" means "no longer living", and "life" means "living", I find the phrase and/or question to be a conflict of words. Wouldn't ...
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What are little boys made of?

"Snips and Snails and Puppy dogs tails" I've found several possible definitions for a "snip" such as: An insignificant person Something easily obtained, i.e. a bargain A piece of something that ...
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If a “cooking show” is grammatical, why not a “cooking book”?

I enjoy cooking, and I've been told I'm quite a good cook. I have several cookery books 1 at home, mostly on Italian and British cooking, but not one is written by a famous cookery writer 2. I've ...
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Origin of Turn up one's Nose?

Can someone tell me the origin of the expression "Turn up one's nose"? As in "She turned up her nose at the frog's legs." The reason I ask is that I have seen our horses literally turn up their ...
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Meaning of 'be bond to' in “since ye are bond to that magic” in 19th-century poem [closed]

I am reading a poem by Rudyard Kipling, Kitchener's School (http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_kitchener.htm) and I am wondering about the precise meaning/possible connotations of the verb 'be bond ...