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

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What is the oldest common English word?

I'm trying to formalize What is the oldest still-in-use English word? which was closed as vague. Consider the "age" of a word to be the length of time since it was first used with the (more-or-less) ...
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Where did the phrase, “You did a bean,” come from?

I grew up in Texas in the 60s. My dad grew up in Waco and moved to New Jersey during World War II. He contributed may German phrases to our lives. My mom was born in central Texas, but her dad was ...
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Origin of “happy camper”

How did happy camper and not a happy camper originate? I have been unable to find a definitive source for this phrase.
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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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“See you in the funny papers”: etymology and meaning

I've heard people saying that "See you in the funny papers" means "I'll see you later," as in "Good Bye," but I always thought that it means "Good bye," as in "I'll never see you again." I thought ...
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Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
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Does anyone happen to know more about the word “zoot” and this use of speech called “nonsense reduplication?”

I am curious about the word "zoot" in "zoot suit." I have not done extensive research on the word, but the cursory search I conducted yielded so little and was so duplicative that I didn't bother ...
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When did people start “boinking”?

Is "boinking" an onomatopoeic and/or a blend word? I would have said so, I believe the word boink refers to the sound of the mattress springs squeaking under the weight of a couple making love. A ...
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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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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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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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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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Etymology of the phrase “Dependency injection” in computer science

It's my understanding that this used to be simply referred to as "reference passing" but later became formalized into a pattern that implemented a design principle and acquired the new name. Can you ...
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What are the origins of gully and googly in cricket?

The OED supplies no clue to the origin of either gully or googly. It does not in fact mention etymology of the cricket sense of gully, which has led me to infer that it is from the ordinary meaning of ...
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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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How did 'forthwith' evolve to mean 'immediately'?

[OED:] Etymology: For forth with (preposition), = earlier forth mid, along with, see forth adv. 2c. The adverb forthwith originates from this phrase, the preposition being used absol. or with ...
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How do you get from the literal meaning of “all bets are off” to the idiom?

Most everyone knows what the common turn of phrase all bets are off means: "anything can happen." But all idioms have to start from somewhere, and the question I'm wondering is how did this one start. ...
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A word that describes different forms of the same word?

Is there a word that describes the many different forms of a root word (and I don't mean tense). In this example specifically the root word would be compare...and the form of it is comparatively. But ...
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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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Antonym of all: none, not all, both?

If you ask someone what the opposite of "all" was, most times the answer will be "none", such as the example of "no one" is the opposite of "everyone". There are three antonyms for "all" on ...
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Where did the term 'moral fiber' come from?

I was reading a novel that used the term moral fiber - defined as strength of character - the other day and it occurred to me that it was a somewhat strange conjunction of terms. It sort of conjured ...
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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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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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Do Americans use the term “garburator” or is there a better equivalent?

Is it obsolete to use the term garburator to refer to a garbage disposal unit in a kitchen? If it is, do we have a better term to replace it with? Also, what is the etymology of this word?
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Cross Origins of Comrade and Camaraderie

If "Comrade" and "camaraderie" are from Spanish and French, why did the Russians and particularly Soviets (and later the Chinese and South Africans), come to adopt Comrade for usage? Also, does ...
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Do these river names mean anything?

I was planning a little trip the other day when I noticed that a number of rivers in Britain have common names. The ones I spotted were Avon, Ouse and Esk. Is there a reason for this? Are these names ...
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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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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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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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Origins and history for phrase “tote that barge”?

In the 1927 musical "Show Boat" there is a famous song -- Old Man River -- with the lyric "Tote that barge. Lift that bale." being sung by the slaves/laborers in the musical. The word tote typically ...
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19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as “four-and-twenty”. When did this fall out of use?

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as "four-and-twenty", but the same text would also have the modern "twenty-four" in places (see e.g. Conan-Doyle for ...
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What is the etymology of “fanboi”?

In a recent Daring Fireball post, John Gruber wondered about the origin of "fanboi" as a spelling of "fanboy". I tried searching for this, but couldn't find anything definitive. Harry McCracken has ...
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Meaning and origin of “hustle, score, use”

In a movie about drug addiction they used this combination of words: hustle, score, use They said it was always the same pattern - but what does it mean and where does it come from?
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Trapezium/trapezoid — why are the US/UK definitions swapped around?

These are the US definitions... Trapezoid — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides that has a pair of opposite sides parallel. Trapezium — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides and NO parallel ...
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Origin of the term “fat chance”

The phrase "fat chance" can be used as a way of sarcastically describing the impossibility of something, but where did it originate from? I've googled it several times, and it always comes up with the ...
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What is the etymology of 'physician'?

I find myself confusing 'physician' and 'physicist' occasionally. While I know what they both mean, I am a little confused as to the use of 'physics' in 'physician'. How did the term 'physician' come ...
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What is the reasoning for the idiom “in and of itself” having the meaning it has?

"In and of itself" is a phrase I find myself using all the time. But in and of itself, the phrase "in and of itself" has no meaning. That is, the individual words don't seem to contribute to the whole ...
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Why is 'shucks' (as in 'aw, shucks') used with an '-s' ending?

I understand that 'shucks' is a slang that is: used especially to express mild disappointment or embarrassment and this definition is listed separately from 'shuck' (the verb/noun) in ...
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If something is considered the best why is it said to be “the berries”?

According to From Flappers to Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang by Dr. Thomas Dalzell, "the berries" was a 1920s widely used slang term among American youth to describe something wonderful or ...
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Why “lemon” for a faulty or defective item?

Related questions: What does "lemon on" mean in this context? What is the origin of the phrase "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? In the above questions, "lemon" is ...
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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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Is the -old morpheme in 'threshold' an OE locative?

I remember in days of yore being told by a professor that threshold held the meaning of "stepping (or more literally, treading) through," implying a locative sense to the remaining -old morpheme. ...
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How did 'to treat' evolve from 'to draw, drag, move`?

treat (v.) ... frequentative of trahere (past participle tractus) "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)). ... tract (n.1) ... from stem of trahere "to pull, draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to ...
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Where does the word “*ag” come from?

Once upon a time in America, particularly during the 1970s, if you asked an American whether they ‘fancied a shag’, they might well have thought of this: And therefore declined the offer for fear ...
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Origin of phrasal verb “love on”

Lately I've been hearing friends talk about loving on people. Here's an example of the sort of thing they'll say: We should be working in the streets and loving on the homeless. Forge ...
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Why is “biblical” the only proper adjective to not use upper case?

Generally, when an adjective is derived from a proper noun, the adjective also has a capital initial, hence Googleable, Mancunian, British, and Shavian. (In contrast, verbs are not given capitals, ...
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Why 'blood vessels' and not 'blood tubes'?

I have a silly question. The way I imagine arteries and veins are as tubes that arise from one part and carry blood to the other part. Why do we call them 'vessels' (which reminds us of cooking ...
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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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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), ...