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

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How to say “Castile”

I am from Castile, NY. As far as I can tell it is the only town in the USA with that name. We say the name like /kae-STAI-ol/, but I am aware that many people pronounce it like /kae-STEEL/. The name ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “do a line with someone”?

What is the origin of the phrase "do a line with someone", meaning "have a regular romantic or sexual romantic relationship with someone"? I learnt this phrase from an Irish colleague of mine the ...
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10answers
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What is the opposite of an Epiphany?

I think of an Epiphany as a "Eureka Moment" as in a goldminer crying out, "Eureka!" upon discovering a vein of gold (I'm a native Californian (and former resident of Eureka), so that example comes ...
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Origin of different past tenses for verbs with the same endings?

Why do we have a situation where the past of "to blow" is "blew", but of "to glow" is "glowed"? And don't say "flew" if you mean "it flowed". The poem Lovers, by Phoebe Cary has many examples of ...
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Why do we refer to car manufacturer as 'Make'?

When I first encountered it years ago, I was pretty sure it must be a mistake. Although I got used to it, it still does not feel right. What is the reason for that? Is it something specific to the ...
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What is the meaning of the expression “A one paper kid” or “One paper kid”

This is a country song title by the late Walter Martin Cowart and has been covered by several artists. Is this a local expression or slang term perhaps used in the American southern states?
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Why is “bream” pronounced as “brim”?

Every time I catch an Acanthopagrus australis, commonly known as a yellowfin bream, I wonder why its name is prounced "brim", (as in the same way you would pronounce the brim of a hat). ...
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What is the etymology of “todger”?

What is the etymology of "todger"? My Concise OED is rather vague: ORIGIN 1950s: of unknown origin (also tadger) "Tadger" is just listed as a "Variant spelling of TODGER" Other references ...
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Does syllabus derive from Greek or Latin?

I'm looking for some hard evidence to determine whether syllabus is a word that derives from Greek or Latin. This came about from a discussion asking whether the plural of syllabus is "syllabuses" or ...
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102 views

Where did we get “buster” as in “Look here, buster”?

Americans, at least, have for some time used buster in speech or dialogue as a generic form of address. It has a range of tonalities, from light to affectionate to grimly confrontational. Listen, ...
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Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
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Why do we say “in” a movie but “on” a TV show?

When referring to a television program, my experience tells me that it is proper to use “on” whether I’m referring to an actor on the show or events on the show or anything. Did you see Matt ...
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Where does the use of “why” as an interjection come from?

Examples: Why, I'd love to. Why, of course! I get the concept of starting a sentence with a word not completely related to the overall response, but this one seems to be a particularly ...
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3answers
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What word can I use instead of “tomorrow” that is not connected with the idea of the rising sun?

I'm working on a novel while trying to take into account the historical context surrounding it. It begins in 1140 AD, so the characters would use Old English, Latin, Old French, and other similar ...
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8answers
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What is the origin, and correct spelling of, “shtook”?

I quite frequently use a word that sounds like "shtook", to mean, trouble with the law or other authorities, as in, "You'll be in dead shtook if you do that" or "you'll be in real shtook if you don't ...
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5answers
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What's the difference between “Collaborate” and “Cooperate”?

Both of these words seem to mean much the same thing: working together to achieve some goal. I can instinctively feel a difference between them, but I can't easily put it into words. Can you help me? ...
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Origin of the word “bootleg”

What is the origin of the word “bootleg”?
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Cute as a button

Since buttons aren't particularly cute (IMO), where did this common phrase come from? I know it's old; I've seen it in 19th century literature.
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Why “hoist” in “Hoist with one's own petard”?

He was hoist with his own petard is one of my father's favorite phrases. As a child I had developed a vague understanding of the idiom in which petard was a kind of flag, which is why it was hoist, ...
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When did the expression “Poor man's <noun>” originate?

Just wondering where the expression comes from and who is considered responsible for coining it.
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What are the most common ways to say “die”, i.e. pass away? [closed]

It seems like my question was too broad to answer. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I've edited my question a little. So, I would like to know what common terms I can use instead of the word "die." ...
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4answers
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What does “go figure” mean?

Sometimes, people use a colloquial phrase of "it figures" or "go figure", which is kind of an acknowledgement of the correctness of a fact, or something like that. It's also sometimes abbreviated even ...
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There is (there's) vs.There are

What are the roots of the creeping usage of "there's" for both singular and plural predicates? (This seems to be more common in spoken English.) I have 2 theories. Perhaps it is because spoken ...
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4answers
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What is the origin of “wake up and smell the roses”

Where did this saying come from, and what is its true meaning?
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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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Origin of “name happened” form: from “s*** happens” via “magic happens”?

There’s a form in current English, then <THING> happened or just <THING> happened, where you transition the NAME of a thing (a person, character, or perhaps a thing like say a blockbuster ...
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What's the origin of “water under the bridge”?

What's the origin/background of the phrase "water under the bridge"? To what does it allude? I understand it means to let bygones be bygones--to move on from the past. But I don't think I understand ...
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Origin of the expression “pull your finger out”

I've heard that "pull your finger out" came from muzzle loaded gunnery. One of the team firing the gun would put his finger in the hole during loading to prevent embers being ejected form the hole. ...
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Does the etymology of the word “government” mean “to control the mind”?

I've heard some conspiracy theorists say that government, when broken down into its root Latin words, means "to control the mind". I'm wondering if this is really true or not. Is it? Edit: My own ...
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“At the Drop of a Dime” Origin

I am reading The Maltese Falcon. Though the book was written in the 1920s, the edition I'm reading was printed in 1992. The back cover blurb uses the phrase "at the drop of a dime" to describe the ...
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112 views

“Nightmare” derivation

I did some research about word nightmare. In most cases this is what I've found: night + Old English mære "incubus." I would like to use the word mare for poetic purposes, but its meaning in ...
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Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
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Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
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What is the primary meaning of 'knocked up'

There seem to be several meanings; Awoken in the morning; Made pregnant; Put together/prepared quickly or on the fly; Made tired/worn out. I have never heard of this last meaning which (used earlier ...
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“By the Bye”: Etymology and Usage

In India we frequently use this term as a substitute for 'By the way'. Is the usage as popular in other countries? Can someone throw some light on the etymology?
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Why is there no “autumntime” or “falltime”?

Why is "autumntime" (or "falltime") not a word? wintertime => sure springtime => fine summertime => lovely But apparently autumn/fall has no equivalent. Why?
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Origin of British term “to bits”

British people sometimes use "love to bits" and "thrilled/chuffed to bits" to indicate extremes. Despite searching high and low, I could not find the origin of the phrase "to bits", other than ...
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crazy as a pet coon under a red wagon

Has anyone else heard this phrase? I heard it growing up in western Kansas and have always wondered where it came from. My brother in law would say, "That dog is a as crazy as a pet coon under a red ...
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Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
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Origin of “Arachnoleptic fit”

In various websites on the Internet, including http://www.joke-archives.com/dictionaries/dictionarywords.html, I've come across the phrase Arachnoleptic fit. Apparently all the words in that set ...
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What is the origin of the counting prefixes: uni-, bi-/di-, tri-, quad-, etc.?

Many English words use the prefixes uni-, bi-/di-, tri-, quad- and so on to mean one, two, three, and four. For example: A unicycle has one wheel, a bicycle two, and a tricycle three. I presume ...
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“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
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Why is the OED's first reference to *irredentism* as late as 1886?

Irredentism (from the Italian irredento, 'unredeemed') has a first reference in the OED as late as 1886. Yet irredentism, the problem which had plagued European statesmen for generations was deeply at ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “Eastern Seaboard”?

Today upon hearing reports about how Hurricane Earl was going to hug the Eastern Seaboard I couldn't help but think how strange this phrase is. Is "seaboard" used in any other contexts? What is the ...
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1answer
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How did the pronunciation of the word “derby” evolve?

Brits say "dar-bee" for both the town and the race, but Americans pronounce it as it's spelled. Did Brits used to say "der-bee" too and that's why it's spelled that way but they changed over time? ...
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Origin of “tail over teakettle”?

"Tail over teakettle" is one of several similar phrases to describe a tumble or fall. But where/how did this originate? A few web searches give me pages where people use the phrase, and one of the ...
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Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
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Why does “for good” mean “forever”?

A very recent and similar question was closed asks what "for good" means. While general reference can answer the question, I became curious as to the etymology of the idiom. Googling around got me ...
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Collocations origin

Learning collocations we were told stories of their origin. For example, 'baker's dozen' origins from the fact that bakers used to take profit for each 13th product they sold. Could you please suggest ...