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

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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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What is the origin of “A cat in hell's chance”

What is the origin of the phrase: "A cat in hell's chance"? I understand it to mean "not a chance", but it seems a very curious saying and I wonder how it originated. e.g. Bob: Do you ...
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Origin of the word “shill” (“shillaber”)

I was recently looking up word origins for various types of tricksters, in honor of April Fool's Day. Interestingly, I couldn't find much about the word "shill" other than that its origin was around ...
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675 views

Knock me over with a feather

Where does the expression "you could have knocked me over with a feather" come from? My students had never heard it when I used it in class the other day.
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2answers
282 views

What is the entomology of “ligger”?

This answer on a prior question points out that ligger is defined by UrbanDictionary as: Ligger An individual who attends parties, openings, social gatherings and events with the sole ...
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What is the origin of the term “ginger” for red-headed people?

I'd like to know the etymology of the word "ginger" in reference to red-headed people. In particular, if "ginger" in this context is related to the plant root used in cooking, I'd like to know how ...
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1answer
331 views

Etymology for “petrichor”

It means "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather" according to my Oxford Dictionary of English. But if it is broken down or traced, what ...
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3answers
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Where does “on one's last legs” come from?

To be on one's last legs means to be worn out, tired, run down, and ready to die or otherwise cease working. Some examples I've found are Grandfather is on his last legs. He'll be on his way to ...
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Is it good to leave things out on the pitch?

Started re-watching The West Wing recently, and came across the phrase "leave it all out on the field": Everyone's walking around here like we're finished. We have 365 more days… For both of us, ...
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Etymology of 'rime' and 'unrime', meaning 'to put on/takeoff outdoor clothing'

These terms were in use when I was a boy in South London back in the 1930s/1940s. My grandmother would tell me to "Rime up well." or "Get well rimed up." when I was going to go outdoors on a cold day ...
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3answers
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Where does the suffix “-tine” come from?

Where does the suffix -tine come from? For e.g., Ovaltine, Creatine, etc. all have a -tine suffix. What is the meaning connoted to the noun attached?
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269 views

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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937 views

Why the “top” in “top hat”?

I've always wondered why it's called top hat, and not just a hat, or some other word, which would better describe this specific type of hats. I mean, all hats are placed on "top", right? Could it ...
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1answer
44 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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7answers
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How did “gesundheit” work its way into common American usage?

Once upon a time I was hanging out with a fairly international group of people. Somebody sneezed, and one of the Americans reflexively responded, "Gesundheit!" A German in the group seized on the ...
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1answer
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“Dead Rubber” definitive etymology

What's the etymology of the phrase dead rubber? Googling, I see references to diverse sports as well as a reference in attributes it to some obscure bridge reference. I do not understand it. Edited ...
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56 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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Was “tickle (someone's) fancy” originally a double entendre?

Recently, I asked users to provide modern-day equivalents of idioms and expressions that contained the words fancy and tickle. The question is titled Whatever tickles their fancy in the US? I was ...
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2answers
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Why is “have” pronounced with a “short a” sound?

As far as I'm aware, every word of the form consonant-a-v-e has a long a sound - cave, Dave, fave, gave, lave, nave, pave, rave, save and wave - every word except have. What is the story behind this ...
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1answer
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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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What is the origin and meaning of “coyote ugly”?

I overheard two scoundrels discussing one of their dates as being "coyote ugly".
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What's the difference between “jelly” and “jam”?

I've seen both words being used (peanut butter and jelly; peanut butter and jam), but I was wondering whether they were both words for the same thing, or if there's actually a distinct difference ...
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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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hallo or hello: etymology dilemma

Does anybody know the etymology of the main greeting in English: hallo? Besides that I wish to know the difference between the terms hallo and hello. I have to know!
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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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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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Etymology of “midsummer” — why is the first day of summer called “middle of summer”?

I always found it strange that the day which marks the beginning of the season of summer is called "mid-summer", which I understand would mean "middle of summer". While midsummer is on the summer ...
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Where does “the sky is falling” come from?

According to Wikipedia the common expression "the sky is falling" is from a folk tale: Henny Penny, more commonly known in the United States as "Chicken Little" and sometimes as "Chicken ...
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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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“Fire” a weapon before firearms existed?

Did the verb “fire a weapon” exist before the actual introduction of firearms on battlefields? More specifically, does it make sense for a creative work to have archers (or whatever ranged weaponry) ...
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Where did the phrase “chock-full” come from?

I hear this phase spoken and rarely written, but Merriam-Webster has a definition their website. The origin states "Middle English chokkefull, probably from choken to choke + full." Does anyone have ...
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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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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 is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. '...
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Etymology of “here goes nothing”?

I was reading my child a manga story today and one character said, "here goes nothing." I hadn't heard that expression since I myself was a kid, and I always took it to mean "here goes my best try." ...
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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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Are “money” and “mind” cognates?

Wiktionary gives me these pieces of information: [money] [1] From Middle English moneie, moneye, from Old French moneie (“money”), from Latin monēta, from the name of the temple of Juno Moneta in ...
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Origin of “to bone up on something”.

This unusual expression means to study something thoroughly. According to the Phrase Finder there are two possible but very different sources for its origin: The Bohn story has the feel of ...
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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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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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Why doesn't English have a separate word for “head hair”? (head hair vs. body hair)

The answer can be "Because it doesn't!" or "It wasn't needed!" in short but there might be a historical or linguistic explanation behind this. (Of course, every language might be lacking a word that ...
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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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Why are these spellings pronounced “non phonetically?”

In Anglo English, the word ewe (female sheep) is pronounced "you," rather than, say, "e-weh." Likewise, the surname Ewell, is pronounced "yule," rather than "e-well." Why is that?
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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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What is the reasoning behind the “urban” slang word “tight” coming to mean “cool/great/slick”?

How and why did the word tight come to be appropriated in this sense, for example as in, "That car is tight, cuh!" ? I mean, one easily extrapolates from the "normal" definition to understand why ...