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

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How did 'unless' evolve to mean 'if not'?

[Etymonline:] mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from on lesse (than) "on a less condition (than); see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the lack of stress changed it ...
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Origin of “article” as a grammatical term

In English grammar, why is it that articles are named so? I associate the word with newspaper articles. Where did the term come from?
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When did “Alright?” become a greeting in UK English?

Who remembers when and how "Alright?" became a greeting in UK English? Do you remember the first time you heard it? Can you remember when that was? What was the context? Was there a particular ...
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Did ‘alakazam’ magically appear out of the thin air?

I doubt it. But when did alakazam enter English, where did it come from, and who first used it? I vaguely recall the TV magic show The Magic Land of Allakazam (1960–1964) from my Texas childhood, and ...
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Morphology of mobster, gangster, webster, hipster

Where the letter "t" came from in these words? Is it part of the suffix -ter- or a separate suffix? Where the "s" comes from? Can other words on -ster be formed this way?
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“Intelligence” (in the espionage sense) - first use?

Does anyone have an idea of when the word "intelligence" was first used, in the context of espionage? Was it used in this context in (for instance) the 18th century?
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How did 'sequester' evolve from 'follow' to 'remove'?

[ Etymonline for 'sequester (v.)' ] late 14c., "remove" something, "quarantine, isolate" (someone); "excommunicate;" also intransitive, "separate oneself from," from Old French sequestrer (14c.), ...
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How did 'deign' upend its meaning from 'worthy' to 'condescend'?

I was researching the etymology of disdain which rechannels to the following: [ Etymonline for 'deign (v.)' ] c. 1300, from Old French deignier (Modern French daigner), from Latin dignari "to deem ...
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How did we get ‘deft’ and ‘daffy’ from “daft”?

[ Etymonline for 'daft (adj.)'] Old English gedæfte "gentle, becoming," ... from PIE * dhabh- "to fit together" (see fabric). Sense of "mild, well-mannered" (c. 1200). [ Etymonline for ...
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Etymology behind “tim-” words involving honor and “tim-” words involving fear?

Words like timocracy (a form of government based on ambition for honor) and Timothy (honor to God) come from time, which means "honor" or "worth." According to Etymonline, timid (easily frightened) ...
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Why does attach have two Ts and detach have only one?

The title says it all. We have two words: Attach Detach Shouldn't they be...? Attach Dettach Or? Atach Detach
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Fraught, as in Overwrought Anxiety?

How did "fraught" come to include the second definition? What is the connection? FRAUGHT adjective: 1. (of a situation or course of action) filled with or destined to result in (something ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “got the hump”?

depressed, in a bad mood but I am wondering did it come from camels?
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The Road Warrior

In modern business speak one increasingly sees the phrase "Road Warrior" used to refer to people who spend a lot of their time travelling for work. Looking at it independentaly this seems a bit of an ...
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From Livorno to Leghorn and back again

Can anyone tell me why the Ligurian city of Livorno used to be called Leghorn in English? An increasing number of British writers, artists, philosophers, and travelers visited the area and ...
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Is there a difference between a TV and a TV set?

Why can a one-piece TV be called a "TV set" if a TV is a single item?
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What does 'Chabo' usually mean [on hold]

Does Chabo mean rooster? I learn it from the image search results on google. I want to know the origin or definition of Chabo, especially the reason why it means rooster? This word comes from here ...
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Secret origin of the dude = butthair meme

My daughter came back from Catechism today with an interesting spiritual fact. Apparently she was told that a dude is another name for butt hair. It's entry 17 or so on urban dictionary, dated 2006 ...
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What's the origin of the demonym Thai?

I was curious why we called people from Thailand "Thai" and those from Taiwan "Taiwanese." The latter by itself is a bit less surprising, though. See also: Are there any rules governing what we call ...
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fill in the blank using correct option [closed]

How much longer_______this book. A-) you are needing. B-) will you be needing. C-) will you have needed. D-) have you needed.
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What does “and how” really mean? [closed]

I understand that the phrase and how is an informal way of expressing strong agreement, but how would one really parse the phrase? Would the etymology of it provide any clues? For example: "This ...
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what is the best book about etymology? [closed]

I saw a lot of books for learning etymology, but I can not have the best usage of it. Who can introduce the very good book about this subject?
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What do the particles mean in 'believe of, on, to something'?

Foreword: The use of 'believe of' in this comment, motivated this question. 2. intr. With in, †of (rare), †on, †to (rare). To have confidence in the truth or accuracy of (a statement, doctrine, ...
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Where does the phrase “crazy like a fox” originate? [on hold]

If you say that someone is "crazy like a fox", it means that their behavior appears to be insane or nonsensical at first glance, but there's actually something very clever and subtle to it that's ...
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How did “lobster” mean two different species?

This live crustacean is called astice in Italian. The one on the right is aragosta. They look very different from one another. The Italian dictionary describes the astice as having a deep (intense) ...
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Vice and Vice President [closed]

The word "vice" is usually used in a negative sense in the meaning of "immoral or wicked behavior". On the other hand we have a commonly used term "vice president" as the second person in a presidency ...
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How did the Old French 'rejoindre' mean a retort (only in English)?

I know of the 2 different homonyms behind 'rejoin'; I ask only about the one that means 'retort'. rejoin (2) = {reporting verb} Say something in reply, typically in a quick or critical manner ...
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How did 'countenance' evolve to mean 'support or approval'?

[OED:] The extension of sense from ‘mien, aspect’ to ‘face’ appears to be English: compare French use of mine. [ Etymonline for 'countenance (v.)' ] late 15c., "to behave or act," from ...
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Cognates or coincidences?

Recently, I read an article about so-called toxic behavior on reddit, posted on a website named "idibon". I thought idi- was a reference to idiotic, e.g. the website Wikipediocracy, which is ...
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How did 'bump' humorously evolve into 'bumptious'?

[OED:] Etymology: A humorous formation, suggested perhaps by bump n.1 or bump v.1, and words in -tious, like fractious. (Not in Craig 1847, nor in any earlier Dict.) bumptious {adjective} = ...
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'plight' (as 'predicament'): How did 'to fold' evolve to mean a predicament?

Of the two dichotomous noun homonyms 'pledge', below I ask only about that derived from Latin. For the homonym derived from Proto-Germanic , please see this. [Etymonline for 'plight (n.1)' ] ...
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Are “ball” (formal event) and “ball” (sphere for playing with) etymologically related? [closed]

This is a ball: source But so is this: source Why do we use the same word for a formal social gathering with dancing and a round toy for throwing and catching? Is there some kind of shared ...
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What is the origin of “analogue” as a term meaning “non-digital?”

This question came up when having a pun-ridden discussion with some of my colleagues: When and why did we start using the word "analogue" to mean "not using numerical digits?" Etymonline only has an ...
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How are Engineers and Engine related? [closed]

I guess there should be some relationship between Engineers and Engines, because they sound similar. Also Engineers work with engines. I would like to know the specific instance of what made people ...
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How did 'purport' evolve to connote falsity?

purport {verb} = [with infinitive] Appear to be or do something, especially falsely: Etymonline's entry for the verb just redirects to that for the noun: purport (n.) ... back-formation ...
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'ludicrous': How did 'to play' evolve to mean 'ridiculous'?

[Etymonline for 'ludicrous (adj.)'] 1610s, "pertaining to play or sport," from Latin ludicrus, from ludicrum "a sport, game, toy, source of amusement, joke," from ludere "to play," which, with ...
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Origin of “deez nuts”

I really hate to ask this one, but... When I was a child, some thirty plus years ago, there was a popular juvenile game where you would try to trick a friend into asking a question that could be ...
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Hopefully vs Presumably [duplicate]

Background hopefully (adverb): in a hopeful manner Presumably (adverb): used to convey that what is asserted is very likely though not known for certain. While fully acknowledging, as noted in the ...
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How did 'cleave' come to have two opposite meanings? [duplicate]

I find it odd that cleave can mean two opposite things. One definition being: verb used with object to split or divide by or as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural line ...
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Could 'heresy' be an accusation at those who follow the philosophy of Heraclitus? [closed]

The wisdom of the world Tertullian (c160-240)pp-5&6 in Documents of the Christian Church 2nd edition by Henry Betterson:....any assertion about the God of fire,then Heraclitus comes in. Heretics ...
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Derivatives of “ea” in the sense of “river”?

"Ea" is a largely archaic word still used in some dialects to mean a river or watercourse. The Online Etymology Dictionary mentions "ealand" as a term formerly used to mean a watery place or meadow ...
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Boom chakka wah wah

'Boom chukka wah wah' has become a euphemism for sexual activity in recent years, I believe it references porn film sound tracks. What is the earliest reference of usage?
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Etymology: 'as regards' and 'as concerns'

as regards = concerning; in respect of 2. regard [with object] {archaic} = (Of a thing) relate to; concern As per the above, because regard = concern, this question also applies to 'as ...
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Why are certain competitions called a “Classic?”

In the town I live in, there have been a number of competitive events called "classics" (e.g. "Bicycle Classic," "Golf Classic"). I assume this term is used because the event is a long-standing, ...
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'exert' : How can you 'attach or join out' something?

Etymonline for: 'exert (adj.)' = 1660s, "thrust forth, push out," from Latin exertus/exsertus, past participle of exerere/exserere "thrust out, put forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + serere ...
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How did 'to' and 'to throw' combine to mean 'adjacent'?

adjacent = 1. Next to or adjoining something else Etymonline for: adjacent (adj.) = early 15c., from Latin adiacentem (nominative adiacens) "lying at," present participle of adiacere ...
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How did 'legacy' evolve from 'contract, law'?

I was researching legacy {noun} which rechannels to legate {noun}: legacy (n.)   late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval ...
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Etymology: 'to commit'

I was researching the etymology of 'commission {noun}' which just diverts you to: commit (v.) late 14c., "to give in charge, entrust," from Latin committere "to unite, connect, combine; to ...
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How did 'to hint to, remind privately' mean 'to summon'?

[Etymonline:] summon (v.) c. 1200, "call, send for, ask the presence of," especially "call, cite, or notify by authority to be at a certain place at a certain time" (late 13c.), ... from Vulgar ...
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Connection between “right” as in a liberty and “right” as in the direction [duplicate]

I've noticed that it is not only in English that the word "right" can be used both as a noun (when talking about liberty) and an adjective (when talking about direction) It's slso like that in Spanish ...