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

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Why is “renege” pronounced with a hard “g” sound?

The word renege comes from Medieval Latin renegare (source). It is the only English word of Latin origin I'm aware of that doesn't follow the soft g pronunciation rule. The g is hard even though ...
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41 views

Is there any relationship between the “theo” in “theoretical” and that in “theology”?

The title is rather self-explanatory, but the notion that "theory" has some etymological connection, remote or intentional, to concepts of God i.e. "theology", is intriguing to me. If they're ...
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47 views

Etymology of “the fix is in”

The common phrase “the fix is in” means that the outcome of an event or process has been covertly manipulated to ensure a result that would otherwise be determined by chance or a fair test of some ...
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68 views

I didn't come here for an argument

Is there any consensus on how the word for a heated discussion (which apparently comes from the same root as Silver/Argent) also came to mean a parameter passed to a function? Edit: ...
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Sinister allusions [on hold]

I find it fascinating that 95% of the people I ask have no idea what to drink the kool aid is actually referring to (the tragedy at Jonestown). Can y'all think of any other fun words or phrases ...
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40 views

Is there such a word as 'efficious'? [on hold]

Is there such a word as 'efficious' - meaning: inefficient in a snarky way.,? My mother used this word(?) when someone who did not know what was what tried to rudely 'educate' someone while acting ...
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61 views

What term describes words like “scapegoat”?

I have heard that there is a term for words like scapegoat, i.e. words that are translated directly from another language into English, but do not make literal sense out of their original ...
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Is “Peeping Tom” unique in that is has history?

I had discovered that the term "Peeping Tom" comes from the story of Lady Godiva as being the only person who dared look at her as she rode naked through the streets. I then tried to find other words ...
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Meaning of the ending “‑exia”?

If a word ends in -exia (such as dyslexia, anorexia, and pyrexia), does this imply anything about the word itself? For example, in electronics a word ending in ‑ance (such as impedance or ...
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45 views

Where does the suffix “-ker” come from?

A small number of words used in English have the derivational suffix "-ker" (maybe actually "-tiker"?), which appears to attach to words ending in "-sis". The only one I can remember off the ...
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'lest': How did 'less that' evolve to mean 'for fear that'?

lest, conj. = [OED] Etymology: Old English phrase þý lǽs þe , lit. ‘whereby less’ = Latin quōminus (þý instrumental of the demonstrative and relative pronoun + lǽs less adj. + þe ...
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When did initial-origin words (PRONOUNCED AS WORDS) start happening?

Someone was just asking if there were words like lol formed, before, the txtmsg era. Of course there were - for example "laser". However .. in fact what was the earliest example of this in English? ...
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What is the origin of “Best.Boyfriend.Ever”? [duplicate]

Best. Boyfriend. Ever. I think that was the first of the type, now it's a commonplace. Some deep thinker in the copywriting department at StackOverflow just did it, What can I say but :/ omg ...
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67 views

Where does “on X's dime” originate from?

Phrases like "on the company's dime" or "on your parent's dime" are used to indicate a form of payment responsibility on the party in question. My question is where does "on X's dime" originate from? ...
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Sex - how did it come to mean “sexual intercourse”?

The term sex literally means "division", and "quality of being male or female" first recorded in 1520s. According to Etymonline, it is unequivocally ascribed to D.H.Lawrence (whose works I love so ...
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What is the origin of “sewn up”?

As in a guaranteed thing. For example, "Bill has twice the sales of anyone else on the floor so the sales competition is pretty well sewn up." I've tried to think of various metaphors it could be ...
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93 views

Difference between “offense” and “offence” [duplicate]

Between offense and offence, which one is more correct spelling? If both are correct, are there any differences in shades of meaning and/or usage?
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118 views

Influence of Spanish and usage of Spanish words in US English

A recent report by Instituto Cervantes ["El Español una lengua viva, informe 2015"] lists the US as the 4th country in the world with the highest number of native Spanish speakers (41.343.921), ...
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Is trypophobia a real word?

When I took psychology a semester ago, my teacher insisted that she has never heard of the word. When looked up in Merriam Webster's Dictionary, it did not pop up. Do medical professionals use this ...
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37 views

Scut work and scab worker [closed]

I wonder if the term scut work, used in american hospitals, could be related to the term scab worker, as in a lowly person who crosses picket lines, since it relates to work that doctors will, and ...
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1answer
83 views

Origin of term “Microbe” [closed]

What's the origin of the term microbe? According to related definitions and topics, I think it may be micro + be. If it is, what does "be" stand for?
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When was the term “gender essentialism” coined, and when did it come into common usage?

When was the term "gender essentialism" coined, and when did first it come into common usage? I was under the impression that the concept originated though the feminist existentialism work of authors ...
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verbatim vs verbatum

I know that verbatim has a Latin origin, but why is it not spelled verbatum? English does not seem to have many Latin words that end in ‑im.
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What is the origin of “on the way”?

Consider "on the way." (As in "are you coming home?" "we're on the way.") Is the origin from something relating to "way" meaning a lane or roadway, or, is the origin something relating to the ...
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“The bigger, the better”

What is the function of "the" in these kinds of phrases? It cannot be the definite article. Can someone analyze this? It's common and definitely standard but seems to elude any grammatical ...
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On origin and usage of 'sight unseen'

The expression sight unseen is generally used with the meaning: Without having viewed the object in question, as in He bought the horse sight unseen. The American Heritage Dictionary ...
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Is “scurryfunge” a new word?

Recently I found the following definition for the word "scurryfunge": (Verb) Old English; to rush around cleaning when company is on their way over. Usage: I scurryfunge when I see my ...
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Why “I didn't have the heart to tell him”?

When you say "I didn't have the heart to tell him [insert uncomfortable truth here]", it means that you didn't say it because it would have hurt their feelings in some way. That seems a little bit ...
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What does 'come' mean in this context? [duplicate]

BIONDELLO: Why, is it not news, to hear of Petruchio's coming? BAPTISTA: Is he come? BIONDELLO: Why, no, sir. BAPTISTA: What then? BIONDELLO: He is coming. BAPTISTA: When ...
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How did 'so' mean 'so that'?

so, adv. and conj. = 24. so .. that [=] in such a way, to such an extent, that 25. a. With omission of that, = sense 24. 26. a. so (that) , in limiting sense: On condition that, provided that, ...
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How did 'that' mean 'so that'?

that, conj. = [4.] b. Simply, without antecedent: = so that. arch. Per OED, the above meaning equates that to so that, an equalisation used by masterly writers (ranging from c1175 to 1868) like: ...
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Semantically, how does 'before' differ from 'till'?

till {prep. [here] conj., and adv.} Etymology: [..] Probably originally a noun * til = Old English till fixed point, station [...] hence the const. with genitive: prop. ‘with the ...
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Why is φύσις often used for “body” in today’s English?

The Greek root φύσις means natural or of nature, but in present-day English it is often used as if it meant bodily or of the body: a physical examination physiotherapy physique Why is the root ...
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What connects and explains the many meanings of 'yet'?

Source: An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology, An Introduction (2008) by Anatoly Liberman [p 224:] 1. O[ld] E[nglish] gıet (gıt, gyt, get), gı¤eta, ge¤ta, and their Middle English ...
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What does “mphm” mean? [closed]

I'm reading The Good, The Bad and The Smug by Tom Holt. It's a British-style fantasy/comedy in the Hitchhiker's tradition, and is good so far (page 89). But, something is throwing me: often a ...
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Does “asking” as a noun have much, say, historic use?

There's a commonplace form in AmE, "as per your asking"... (Note this question by a rightly confused non-native speaker.) It occurred to me that "asking" makes a beautiful noun. (Particularly if ...
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What is a “spring lobster?”

I recently stumbled upon the phrase spring lobster. Never having heard of such a phrase, I tried to find a definition of it online, but nothing definitive surfaced (although an entire industry does ...
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About “dumb” luck

Pure luck, blind luck and dumb luck, are expressions used to refer to: complete luck; nothing but plain luck. I have no skill. I won by pure luck. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary) ...
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What is the UK-English Equivalent for “band-aid?”

What is the UK-English equivalent for "band-aid?" That is, the bandage one puts over cuts and the like?
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The origin of condom

Regarding the etymology of the term 'condom', Etymonline makes two interesting but weak assumptions: 1) 1706, traditionally named for a British physician during reign of Charles II (a story ...
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Origin of “piggyback?”

The word "piggyback," or "to piggyback" means to carry someone on your back. What is its origin and why is it a pig?
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“Horicontal” etymology—mistaken foreign spelling of horizontal?

I came across the word "horicontal" in a technical paper. The context made it clear that its meaning was effectively identical to "horizontal". I looked into it, suspecting a misspelling. I found ...
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What does “nuclear orange” mean?

And where does this expression come from? I have tried looking it up and looking up nuclear separately but haven't found anything useful. Edit: I've encountered this expression in the following ...
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From Soup to Nuts

I know that the phrase means "from one end to the other". Though I know many dinners that start with a soup, I know none that end with nuts. Hence the question - where does this phrase originate?
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Can I use “henceforth” and “from now on” interchangeably?

Where did the word "henceforth" originated? How could I determine the correct usage of it? Is it also the same with "from this time forward?"
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What line do they refer to in the idiomatic expression “on the line”?

The idiomatic expression on the line has two main meanings according to the American Heritage Dictionary: Ready or available for immediate payment. (A related expression is Cash on the ...
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What is the origin of “Here's How!”?

I own an antique store and found a canapé plate of a bar scene and two gentlemen toasting. The words under the scene are "Here's How!" What is the country of origin? This plate is dated 1933 from a ...
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“Re” prefix vs remote

My first post here, hello everyone. :) Feel free to suggest changes to this question. I was just wondering why is the word remote unlike the other words starting with “re” like replay, reply, ...
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What was the original pronunciation of 'Zounds'?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the exclamation 'Zounds!' comes from the phrase 'God's wounds'. This seems to suggest that the original pronunciation rhymed with 'wounds' rather than ...