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

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Why was the word “alluring” much more used in the 1920 than in the 1870 or the 1980?

As per title. This is the Ngram Graph for the word alluring: For comparison, this is the same graph for the word remarkable:
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1answer
123 views

Why is a calzone called calzone?

I was just researching its etymology and turns out that it comes from calceus the Latin for shoe! How did Latin for shoe end up as the Italian (and subsequently, English) for a snack? They seem so ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “Gag me with a spoon”?

How does a phrase such as "Gag me with a spoon" originate? I understand the sentiment as a real concept — gagging oneself with a spoon causes a choking sensation without actually constricting ...
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Where did the sports and game term “rubber” come from?

In sports, a rubber is a series that consists of an odd number of matches where a majority of wins takes the series. Wiktionary and Merriam-Webster both list the etymology of this definition as ...
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41 views

Origin, logic, and range of use of the verb ‘untrack’ and the phrase 'get untracked'

One of the terms that appears in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) but not in the Tenth Collegiate (1993) or earlier editions of the Collegiate series is untrack: untrack vt ...
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Can someone tell me the origin of the phrase “spitting image”? [duplicate]

I am not asking about which usage is correct. I am looking for the origins of "spitting image". Possible Duplicate: Is it correct to say Person A is the “spitting image” or the “splitting image” ...
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1answer
3k views

How did the words “petting” and “necking” come to mean kissing with passion?

I'm sure most of you have heard "necking" to mean kissing with passion; however, before "necking" the popular word among American youth was "petting". From Flappers to Rappers: The Study of American ...
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1answer
538 views

Etymology of 'swan song'

Can someone explain the historical background behind this phrase with context to its usage today? There are several versions of etymology, so which version is most widely accepted? I came across this ...
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Where did “Spineless” come from?

A spineless person is said to be, "without moral force, resolution, or courage; feeble" - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spineless. So they are cowardly. But where did that term come from? ...
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36 views

Etymology of 'scape goat' [on hold]

I am unable to find a clear historical link on the origin of scapegoat. Can someone tell me what are some of the believed origins of this word and which is the most widely accepted one?
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2answers
29 views

Phant Latin root and similar words

I ran into an unfamiliar word recently: sycophant. I am wondering now if phant means anything but simple google searches aren't leading me anywhere. Hierophant - someone who shows sacred things ...
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55 views

Term for a word with opposite meaning to its root?

I remember coming across a term for a word which has an opposite (or at least very different) meaning from its etymological root word's meaning, does anyone know what this term is?
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Origin of the disapproval associated with “derivative” used as an adjective?

This is the first meaning of the word derivative used as an adjective(Oxford): 1 (Typically of an artist or work of art) imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for ...
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What does “ratchet” mean and when was it first used?

The word ratchet is all over Twitter. Some real examples from just now: "All these ghetto ass ratchet ass girls at mchi are wearing these Santa hats, and they all claim to be Santa..." "I was ...
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6answers
3k views

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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3answers
8k views

What is the origin of “rings a bell”?

Where does the expression "rings a bell" come from? e.g. Bob: Have we met before? Geoff: Well, your face rings a bell.
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7answers
3k views

Where “summat” came from

In Scottish English, I know that the word summat is used in place of standard something. But what's the etymology of this pronoun? It seems unlikely to me that summat could be merely a variant ...
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1answer
61 views

Is there a relation between the words “import” (trade) and “important” (valuable)?

Is there a relation between the words import (in a trade sense) and important (special, etc)? It seems to me that there is, or rather that there should be, but I was wondering if anyone can give some ...
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1answer
125 views

Why the word “Circle” doesn't start with “s”?

Today my daughter (goes to kindergarten) asked me this question which made me post here? I felt that was a good question. Can anyone help me with an answer?
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How did “to derogate” evolve into 3 different definitions?

What are intuitive derivations behind the 3 (disparate) definitions? 1. derogate from = [no object] Detract from 2. derogate from = [no object] Deviate from 3. [with object] Disparage (someone ...
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2answers
131 views

Etymology of “Sort”

Did the English word sort originate from the French word sort? e.g., sortie. Whereas, in French its meaning derives to out, exit, going out. How did it end up in English to mean category, ...
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1answer
49 views

“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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How does 'to partake of' develop to mean 'be characterized by'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 3, that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. partake of = Be characterized by (a quality) [ODO] 1. How does the etymology (listed in that ...
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4answers
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Origin of the idiom “go south”

What's the origin of the idiom go south? Why is it go south only? Why not go southwest or go east? Are the direction-related idioms go south, go north, go east, and go west correlated? Example, go ...
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5answers
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Term for same root word but words with different meaning

Some words have the same etymology, root, but mean different things, such as mysterious and mystical. What are some other pairs (or more) that fall into this category, and what exactly is this ...
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Is “denigrate” a racist word? [on hold]

A few years ago I was told not to use that word because it comes from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare, which means to blacken. Therefore, when you get right down to it, "to denigrate ...
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What is the difference between “attitude” and “approach”? [on hold]

Merriam-Webster gives the definitions of the words approach and attitude, respectively, as follows: Approach, noun: A way of dealing with something A way of doing or thinking about ...
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1answer
49 views

Fruitful? Fruitless? Fruitempty? Fruitmore? [on hold]

I notice that the word fruitful's opposite is fruitless. It's kind of bizarre. Figuratively speaking, if the activity produces no fruit, it is fruit-less. But if it does produce fruit, shouldn't it ...
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Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
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245 views

Is “are” a borrowed word?

I read somewhere that English is the only language to have borrowed a form of its to be verb from another language. I want to say, if memory serves, that it was are that was borrowed from an early ...
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2answers
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Etymology of legal meaning of 'dispositive'

Since Prof. Eugene Volokh has observed its counterintuitiveness, what's an intuitive derivation? Prof. Eugene Volokh: One way of remembering this is by looking at the stem, which turns out to be ...
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1answer
58 views

What's the etymology for the term “greensheet”?

I've been looking for the etymology of the word "Greensheet", specifically when used in the context of academia. I know it's just another way to say "syllabus", but where did the "green" in ...
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Etymology of “fixing to”

As a Southerner, I completely understand the meaning of fixing to. It means I'm getting ready to do something. But what I don't understand is where this rather unusual usage of fix comes from. Nothing ...
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Etymology of the word “broker”

I’ve had this personal hypothesis in the back of my mind for many years now about the etymology of the word “broker”. I have gathered a few pieces of the puzzle (many of them in French and a few of ...
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“Mama had a baby and its head popped off” [on hold]

This is a short children's song prevalent throughout the U.S. at least during the early 1980s. I couldn't find anything conclusive w/r/t the etymology of the song, but perhaps my Google-fu is too ...
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6answers
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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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What's the origin of the figure of speech “call the shots”?

I'm well aware that when someone says "he's the one who calls the shots" it means that that person is the one in charge, the one who takes all the relevant decisions. But what's the origin of this ...
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Where did the slang word “basic” come from?

How did the word basic come to be used as slang for "the majority" or "the conformed." Where was it's first usage as such a word? Is it a new internet frenzy or has this word been used as slang ...
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1answer
41 views

Eytymology of the expression “Pissy Pants McGee.” [on hold]

What is the origin of the expression "Pissy Pants McGee"? Thanks!
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863 views

Silent letters in English [closed]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z ...
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8k views

Why “unequal” but “inequality”?

The opposite of "equal" is "unequal", yet there is no word "unequality". Why do we use "inequality" instead?
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3answers
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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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2answers
3k views

How did “everloving” become a completely generic intensifier?

Most of the uses of the word everloving I can think of involve either vulgar or violent contexts, so you must excuse the following example: He'd finally crossed my last nerve, so yesterday, me and ...
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2answers
589 views

Etymology of “sh**hole” [closed]

What is the etymology of shithole? Did it originate from A) the orifice through which excrement is passed, or B) the hole in the ground intended for the disposal of such excrement? (This is a serious ...
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7answers
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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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73 views

What is the origin of “burning a hole in my pocket”?

It's an old expression, but when someone used it today it made me wonder about how the phrase came to mean what it does. Coinage would not seem to bear an association to being on fire, though if ...
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2k views

What's the etymology of the word “zilch”?

What's the origin of the word "zilch" and how it came to mean nothing?
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2answers
100 views

Number of dots in an ellipsis

It might be an odd question, but I'm trying to comprehend why do we use three dots in an ellipsis. Wouldn't two dots suffice? An ellipsis serves a dual purpose, it can be used to either denote an ...
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3answers
693 views

What is the origin of “I calls ’em like I sees ’em”?

This expression seems to be pretty widespread, for example being in Wiktionary and Futurama. Does anyone know what the origin is? Also, what kind of dialect might I calls or I sees be?
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Etymology of “medicine” and its Native American usage

What is the etymology of the word medicine and how did it come to be used by Native Americans to describe something that does not strictly meet the denotative meaning of medicine? Or is that just a ...