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

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Etymology of the “nick” used in “nickname”? [on hold]

I've enjoyed your material on the etymology of the word "nick" meaning: A) just in time = in the nick of time (from notches nicked into wood or also to denote good timing) B) in good ...
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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 the phrase “it's a horse apiece”?

My wife from Wisconsin and her family use the phase "it's a horse apiece". This is used in place of something like "it doesn't matter either way" or "both are the same". Where does this come from?
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History of the words “conservative” and “liberal”

I’m curious in the history of political parties of the USA. Initially in 1861 Abraham Lincoln was the first President to represent the Republican party which has always been stated as conservative ...
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History of using “fact” as an interjection

There is a common (maybe even hackneyed) rhetorical device of interjecting the word fact before or after spoken statements to emphasize that the statement is true. Here's an example from a TED Talk ...
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How did “snookered” become a slang word for “to cheat or to steal”?

In this question we discussed the etymology of the word "snooker" as a noun, based on a game played on a pool table. But dictionary.com references a form of the word, "snookered" as a slang verb that ...
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Origin of “run” in “run short/out of /low” on something

Where does the usage of "run" come from in expressions in which you are saying that something is finishing like: run short of or run low on something? I checked the etymology online dictionary ...
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Why is it “study the [instrument]” instead of “study playing the [instrument]”?

Musicians often say things like "I study the violin", but "I majored in violin performance". It seems to me that it should be "I study violin performance" to both match with the thing actually being ...
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What is the origin of the expression “do me a solid”?

What is the origin of the phrase "do me a solid"? The definition I am referring to: do me a solid do something for someone as an act of kindness; do someone a favor. Example usage: Hey ...
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“Touched” in “This one is touched, folks.”

Today I was reading an article on a classic computer game, and was struck by the following interesting turn of phrase: "Give it a shot [...] I think you’ll be glad you did. This one is touched, folks....
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Where does 'doofus' (or perhaps 'dufus') come from?

Both Dufus and Doofus seem to be common on the web, so I'm not sure which is the correct spelling, if either. It's kind of a cool word. Do we have any idea where/how it originated?
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Origin of the “-y” or “-ie” diminutive suffix to denote intimacy/tenderness? (E.g. Bob→Bobby, dad→daddy, Doug→Dougie)

Many names seem to get a "-y" or "-ie" at the end when the speaker wishes to denote a hint of familiarity, intimacy, or tenderness. Examples can be seen not just in names, but in terms like puppy, ...
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Origin of “booty”, meaning buttocks

According to etymonline the word booty is used to describe the female form as a sex object. It says the word is black slang from the 1920s. The definition is placed in the entry for booty meaning ...
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Why can we use “inadequate” but not “inspecific”?

I find the use of the word "inspecific" very natural. It makes sense and flows easily in sentences I speak and write (to myself at least). However, upon inspection, it is apparently not a valid ...
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What is the role/function and origin of “to” being used in the idiomatic phrases “there's something to him/her/it” & “there's nothing to him/her/it”?

"something to him/her/it" Google Books (to him): Google Books (to her): Google Books (to it): The phrase meaning "there's something (with respect to/about) him/her/it (that is observable/...
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Where does the term “Smurfing” come from?

In multiplayer online gaming, the term "Smurf" (noun) is used to refer to an experienced player who creates a new account for the purposes of being matched against inexperienced players for easy wins. ...
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Origin of street names ending in “-hurst”

There is a large number of streets in the UK whose names end in -hurst, for example Ravenhurst, Gathurst, Oakhurst, Amhurst, Bonehurst, Eaglehurst, etc. Is there a common meaning for this -hurst ...
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Why does “fishwife” mean “mean woman”?

I have looked at the meaning of fishwife at Collins Language (I can't link directly to the definition) and it tells me: fishwife n (pl -wives) a coarse or bad-tempered woman with a loud voice ...
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Usage, meaning and origin of the “swing state”.

According to Tom Murse, a US politics expert, the expression swing state has two different denotations: 1) The most popular use of swing state is to describe one in which the popular vote ...
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1answer
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Etymology of “Japlac”

What's the etymology of the brand name "Japlac"? Is it based on the word "Jap" plus a contraction of lacquer? Or is it a reference to Japanning? Onelook doesn't have a reference to the brand name.
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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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What is the origin of the idiom “with all the bells and whistles”?

No major dictionary website carries the origin of this proverb. Some blogs speculate that it comes from a locomotive usage. In the days of the steam engine, engines would be equipped with bells and ...
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Why is the plural form of “house” not “hice”? [duplicate]

The plural of mouse is mice, and the plural of louse is lice. Why is the plural form of house not hice? According to Merriam-Webster, the word house is already longer in the language, just as mouse ...
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Can we determine a proper verb form of “exegesis” for Biblical scholars to use?

This is related to a conversation here in EL&U SE. Apparently the noun exegete is being used as verb in religious circles. For Biblical Scholars, the word exegesis carries with it a connotation ...
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Where did the term “at‑large” originate from?

I was listening to the radio and something caught my attention. The news journalist made the comment, “The suspect is still at‑large.” It got me thinking... First, I can only assume that the ...
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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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Convolve vs. convolute

I understand that for common usage these words have distinct meanings. However in mathematics there is a process called convolution, and sometimes you hear "you need to convolve X" and sometimes "you ...
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Is there a similar root for basting? [on hold]

Basting a turkey vs. a basting stitch in sewing. Is there a similar root, or so they just happen to end up sounding the same?
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Origin of “off the meter” idiomatic phrase

When and how did the phrase "off the meter" become established as an idiom? Urban Dictionary defines "off the meter" as the condition of being "very good, awesome, great". I have heard and said it ...
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Origin of “Hype”

So I looked up the definition of "Hype": From Dictionary.com (surprisingly). to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually ...
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Why does 'undergraduate' mean 'college student'?

At first, I thought graduate meant college student, but it actually means undergraduate. Graduate should appear before undergraduate, like undergraduate is born from the word 'graduate'. But graduate ...
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Difference between traumata and traumas?

Why are there two plural forms of trauma? How do traumas and traumata differ in origin and nature? Is one incorrect?
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Why do the words ducky and jake mean fine or satisfactory?

Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary acknowledges both ducky and jake as acceptable terms meaning fine or satisfactory and it dates the word ducky back to 1897 and jake to 1914. Does anyone know how ...
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Does a gerund always end with -ing? If so, why?

After asking what the difference is between a gerund and a participle, I began to wonder if all gerunds end with -ing, since I couldn't think of any that didn't. If they do, why?
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Large as life and twice as natural

What does this idiom mean? Where did it originate from? In what circumstances could I use this phrase? (Because it is so cool.)
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Where does the word “wankers” come from?

The term wanker is derived from the verb wank in the sense of to masturbate. However, neither the OED nor Etymonline can trace it further back than that: both claim it is of “obscure origin”, which ...
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Origin of “oodles”

Oodles is a common word that means a large quantity of something The word is of US origin, but what is it's origin?
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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 Latin ...
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Origin of “pull your socks up”?

I was pulling my socks up this morning, in the literal sense of the term, when I started to wonder about why pull your socks up came to mean what it does:- to make an effort to improve your work ...
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How do native speakers know which morphological variations are possible in cases where word-evidence is sparse?

In this interesting answer to a 4 year old question (which, ironically, I found by browsing unpopular questions on Meta), we find this tidbit: Just as in Japanese, not only is the "non-native" ...
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What is the etymology of “board” as found in “room and board”?

How did board come to be associated with meals? I am referring to this definition of board: regular meals or the amount paid for them in a place of lodging (noun, Wiktionary) daily meals, ...
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Why is “Pokémon” written with an accent?

Is there a language-related reason why the word has an accent on the "é"? The Japanese for Pokémon is "ポケモン" (pokemon), so it's not to represent a long vowel.
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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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What exactly does “The guy's multiplying faster than a Catholic rabbit.” mean?

Was watching Avengers: Age of Ultron. In that Nick Fury says this about Ultron, The guy's multiplying faster than a Catholic rabbit. What does that mean?
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Hashtag vs hash/tag

Recently, I was listening to a person state "I know X has happened because I wrote the code for it". I wanted to call them out for citation in the vein of pics or it didn't happen. Since I was asking ...
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What word did Middle English have in place of “light" as in: “light blue”, “light green” etc.?

In English, we often use the adjective light before another colour to express a whiter shade of hue. For example, light blue, light green, light brown, etc. The term pale is used in a similar way, e....
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Are the “umbles” etymologically related?

From Warning: In Bitter Cold, Beware The 'Umbles' And we show telltale signs of early hypothermia, what the doctor and the National Institutes of Health and other cold-weather cognescenti call ...
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Is there honour among thieves or not?

I'm not sure which one of these apparently flatly contradictory proverbs I heard first but I have definitely heard both several times. One of them is: There is honour among thieves. Another is: ...
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Why does caliber refer to a dimension?

I often get confused when referring to gun sizes. I often say "caliper" when the term used is "caliber". Looking at the defintions, it seems to make no sense as "caliber" has two very different ...