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

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Same word with opposite meanings

The connotation of adjective 'appropriate' is positive, while that of the verb is negative. 1. What's this phenomenon called, though this question allows any part of speech (and not just an ...
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What is the origin of “alrighty”?

It is a friendlier and more colloquial version of "alright". It is also heard in the exclamation/interjection "Alrighty, then!". I usually hear it at the end of conversations in Canadian English, ...
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Movable Type vs. WordPress [on hold]

Is the name of the blogging platform 'WordPress' word play? Does it have any additional meaning for a native English speaker? For example, the name of the blogging platform 'Movable Type' refers to ...
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Does the English prefix hiberno- mean that the Irish were associated with winter? [on hold]

In Medieval Latin, hibernus meant Irish: https://www.google.com/search?q=hiberno+etymology In Latin, hibernus meant wintry: https://www.google.com/search?q=hibernate+etymology Therefore, can I say ...
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Why is “to switch gears” used for “to change topic”?

The expressions to switch gears, to shift gears are often (too often for my taste, but that is a different matter) used to announce a switch from one topic to another in an oral presentation ...
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Why do we say “rips and tears”?

For example, "Clothing must be free from rips and tears." It seems to me that the words "rips" and "tears" can be used interchangeably, and that using both is redundant. Is there a particular reason ...
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How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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What is the etymology of the term “private eye”?

The term private eye has widespread use to mean private detective or investigator. See, e.g., Oxford Dcitionary Online Several websites, such as this one, suggest that the term was based on a logo ...
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Is “fresher” really a “proper” English word?

I see a lot of folks on Stackoverflow using fresher when describing themselves as beginners at any given topic. I have never really heard of "fresher" as a synonym for beginner. I know "freshman" as ...
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Etymology of a “pegged CPU”

There's a slightly obscure, slang meaning in tech circles of the word "pegged" as it relates to a computer's CPU. When it is fully utilised for a duration (at least several seconds), you can say that ...
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When and where did “spanking” begin to be used as an adjective? [duplicate]

"That's a spanking car." "A spanking little horse." Spank t.v. - To beat across the buttocks with the open hand, to strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand. i.v. - to ...
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Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about ...
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When/where/why did “Look who it ain't/isn't” appear?

It seems to me that... "Well! Look who it ain't!" ...is/was normally used quite dismissively, referring to a newly-arrived person of low social status, who the speaker would often then proceed ...
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Why is taking a side street called a “rat run”?

I stumbled upon this expression for the first time while doing some research for an answer, and I have to admit I love it! An explanation of rat running/ a rat run is as follows "Rat running/ A ...
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How did 'pummel' evolve from the meaning of apple?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to pummel = [with object] 1. Strike repeatedly with the fists 1.1. [North American, informal] ...
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Why does 'with' mean 'against' and not 'alongside' in phrases of opposition?

In phrases like fight with, argue with, combat with etc, why does with mean the subject is opposing the object (grammatical object, technically a human opponent)? Phrases like go with, study with, ...
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Why is “work” spelled with an “o”

Why is the word "work" spelled with an "o"? I can't find the answer anywhere. I know it comes from Old English "weorc" but I can not find how it came to be spelled "work" instead of "werk".
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What is the origin of “over index”?

I often encounter (and use) this phrase in a context meaning to weight more heavily during decision making than is sensible, or to focus more heavily during a discussion than is warranted. For ...
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What's the etymology of “dash”?

Dash is one of those words with more meanings than letters. These include to rush (I dashed out), to destroy (my hopes were dashed), and a punctuation mark (em dash etc.). There are also various other ...
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What is “Broken Britain”?

It's not a flattering term for Great Britain but due to its catchy alliteration it has not run out of steam among newspaper editors. Wikipedia says Broken Britain is a term which has been used ...
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240 views

Is “Holy” in “Holy s**t” an intensifier or a euphemism?

I asked this question two days ago: Why is the word “Holy” used before swear words? I got many answers, but now I have a new doubt after reading all the answers and comments. For Example, one ...
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What really is a “Yester” in Yesterday or Yesteryear?

Apparently, Yester cannot be used alone in a sentence, except when accompanied by "day (yesterday) or year (yesteryear)". It cannot be used incombination with other portions of time like; yestermonth, ...
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Where did the word “yourn” originate?

"Yourn" as in yours. Where did it originate? I think from the southern US, but not sure.
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When did “lesbian” become well-known as a noun, not an adjective?

A friend asked me earlier why it was that "gay" is an adjective, but "lesbian" is a noun. I've been doing some searching online, because it's an interesting question. According to etymonline, ...
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Origin “Treat (somebody) like a dog”

Dogs are often considered as man's best friend. However, the aforementioned phrase has a certainly negative meaning. The same phrase exists in French as well. Other negative phrases with dogs ...
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to bar vs to debar

1. These words seem to mean the same, so what does the de- prefix mean? Did I overlook any nuances? 2. What's this phenomenon called, when a prefix or suffix affects nothing? Etymonline: 15c., ...
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Why is there an “a” in “beggar”? Why not an “e”?

Why does beggar end in -ar? Many identically sounding words just use -er, if not all. Examples: bumper pepper tagger chanter pegger They all use the -er version. Also, history shows that beggar ...
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The origin of the word “Breaker” referring to waves

I am trying to understand the history and etymology of the word breaker as it relates to ocean waves. I found a citation to the 1680s which ties it to "break" which dates to the Old English and the ...
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How did 'resent' evolve to connote negativity?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to resent = Feel bitterness or indignation at (a circumstance, action, or person): Etymonline: ...
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Are new diseases without “Syndrome” in its name being added to English? [closed]

I can think of new syndromes being added to English in recent times. For example, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a syndrome, as is SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome). By contrast, ...
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91 views

Faddah vs. Father

There is a Seinfeld episode which contains the following dialogue: Father-priest: Are you ready my son? George: Yes faddah. Father-priest: What did you say? George: What? ...
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“I've gotten better-looking as I get older” When did “gotten” re-enter the BrEng vernacular?

This summer I went to Ireland, to be more precise Dublin. Overall good weather and good fun. Anyway, while I was staying in Dublin I'd buy the local newspaper and one tabloid headline caught my eye. ...
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How did 'circumscribe' evolve to mean 'Restrict (something) within limits'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning: 1. circumscribe = Restrict (something) within limits: Etymonline: late 14c., from Latin ...
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43 views

How did 'milieu' evolve to mean 'social environment'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: milieu = A person’s social environment: Etymonline: "surroundings," 1877, from French milieu, ...
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Origin of “gimble”, “brillig”

I just noticed that "gimble" and "brilig" show up well before, and always more than "jabberwocky" in ngram I thought that these words originated in the Jabberwocky poem ... but apparently not? ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “trouble in paradise”?

Does anyone know where the phrase "trouble in paradise" comes from? The earliest usage I can find of the phrase is the title of the 1923 movie Trouble in Paradise, based on a Hungarian play called The ...
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Just as there are a few nicknames for the U.S. (“Uncle Sam”, “Columbia”, “Yankee Land”), are there nicknames for England, or the U.K. for that matter?

This may look like General Reference, but I've googled "list of nicknames for England", "list of nicknames for the United Kingdom", and all I got was "list of city nicknames in the United Kingdom" or ...
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1answer
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What is the meaning of “highway shops”?

I was curious what the meaning of "highway shops" is. It's related to the software industry, but I could not find much information about it. Also, I only found it being used in 2 places. From this SO ...
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Why is it a “gene pool”?

Isn't it a bit odd to say that genes belong to or are a part of a "pool"? A pool is normally a body of water, e.g. a swimming pool Wikipedia explains The gene pool is the set of all genes, or ...
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aberrant vs errant

Aberrant seems a subset of the word errant. Thus, what's the effect of the Latin prefix 'ab-'? What are the similarities and differences? What's this phenomenon called, in which a prefix or suffix ...
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Is there any “swearword” in English not associated with excrements, the genitals, sexual activity or religion?

SWEARWORD - A popular term for a word or phrase that is obscene, abusive, and socially offensive. For some reason, all of them seem to be associated with excrements, sex and religion. This ...
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What is the origin of “have a gander”? (When meaning “look”.)

The phrase "have a gander" meaning "have a look" is common in the UK. (Also can be "have a goosey gander" or just "have a goosey".) What is the origin/meaning of this phrase? I always assumed that it ...
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When did “sale” become “sales event”?

It seems like during this generation somebody decided that a "sale" wasn't adequate to describe the selling of discounted goods. Can anyone shed light on the emergence of the "sales event," which ...
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How did the meaning of “come off” as “succeed” or “take place” originate?

Example sentences: A television series that never came off (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) He tried his Chaplin impression, but it didn't really come off. (from Wiktionary) The match ...
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What is the origin and sense of the phrase “put up or shut up”?

In researching the recent EL&U question Origins and Interpretations of "Put your money where your mouth is", I repeatedly came across the seemingly related but older phrase “put up or ...
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Origins and meaning of “Put your money where your mouth is”

I heard this phrase uttered by a Canadian (from Vancouver) once; it left me in awe and elicited my curiosity. Wikipedia was not helpful. What is its origin? Is this expression used more in certain ...
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Italian vs Italic

Although English is not my mothertongue, I am pretty sure the adjective for the modern country Italy is Italian as in Italian restaurant or Italian cars. I have just used the italic font for emphasis ...
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How did 'inure' evolve into these two disparate meanings?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 with object that helps to remember its meaning: 1. inure = (usually be inured to) Accustom (someone) to something, especially something ...
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Which language do most polysyllabic words in the english language come from?

I am doing an english project and can't find any information on this topic. Help is much appreciated!! thanks
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How/why was the word “organic” chosen to represent natural foods or foods without chemicals?

I've always understood an object or item to be organic when carbon is a component of its composition, as noted in the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Now I see organic foods, and ...