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

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Cognates or coincidences?

Recently, I read an article about so-called toxic behavior on reddit, posted on a website named "idibon". I thought idi- was a reference to idiotic, e.g. the website Wikipediocracy, which is ...
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Origin of New Jersey idiom “down the shore”

As a native Midwesterner, I was very puzzled to hear my wife (who is from northern New Jersey) use that idiom. I understand what it means, and as far as I can remember I understood what it meant from ...
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Vice and Vice President

The word "vice" is usually used in a negative sense in the meaning of "immoral or wicked behavior". On the other hand we have a commonly used term "vice president" as the second person in a presidency ...
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How did 'bump' humorously evolve into 'bumptious'?

[OED:] Etymology: A humorous formation, suggested perhaps by bump n.1 or bump v.1, and words in -tious, like fractious. (Not in Craig 1847, nor in any earlier Dict.) bumptious {adjective} = ...
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How did the Old French 'rejoindre' mean a retort (only in English)?

I know of the 2 different homonyms behind 'rejoin'; I ask only about the one that means 'retort'. rejoin (2) = {reporting verb} Say something in reply, typically in a quick or critical manner ...
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How did 'countenance' evolve to mean 'support or approval'?

[OED:] The extension of sense from ‘mien, aspect’ to ‘face’ appears to be English: compare French use of mine. [ Etymonline for 'countenance (v.)' ] late 15c., "to behave or act," from ...
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'plight' (as 'predicament'): How did 'to fold' evolve to mean a predicament?

Of the two dichotomous noun homonyms 'pledge', below I ask only about that derived from Latin. For the homonym derived from Proto-Germanic , please see this. [Etymonline for 'plight (n.1)' ] ...
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Origin of 'fairer sex'

I've seen the term 'the fairer sex' being used in a number of areas to refer to females. How did they get that title? What does 'fairer' refer to in this case?
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How did 'purport' evolve to connote falsity?

purport {verb} = [with infinitive] Appear to be or do something, especially falsely: Etymonline's entry for the verb just redirects to that for the noun: purport (n.) ... back-formation ...
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Why do we refer to the floors of buildings as stories?

Why do we refer to the floors of buildings as stories? Example: I live up on the sixth story.
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How did the term “esquire” come to be used for lawyers?

Esquire, as I understand it means "mister." But in modern usage it is an abbreviated American appendage to names that indicates one is a lawyer, and it is used for men and women. How did that happen? ...
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Are “ball” (formal event) and “ball” (sphere for playing with) etymologically related?

This is a ball: source But so is this: source Why do we use the same word for a formal social gathering with dancing and a round toy for throwing and catching? Is there some kind of shared ...
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On professional bias

The well-known expression professional bias appears to date back to the very first years when professions started to exist: "Professional bias" designates a mental conditioning brought ...
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What is the origin of “analogue” as a term meaning “non-digital?”

This question came up when having a pun-ridden discussion with some of my colleagues: When and why did we start using the word "analogue" to mean "not using numerical digits?" Etymonline only has an ...
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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 ...
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Meaning and origin of “Get someone's shirt out”

I was wondering to myself about the word "shirty". It seemed so curious a word. After all, what did its meaning have to do with shirts. "Were the two words even related?", I wondered. So I looked up ...
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Where did the word “alphabet” come from?

I heard that it is the names of the first two Greek letters put together. Is this true?
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Meaning and origin of “at bay”

The thief waded through the stream hoping to keep the policemen's dogs at bay. The captain sailed knowing that the weather would keep the ill-equipped pirates at bay. What is the source of ...
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Origin of “Put up your dukes”

This link claims that one cannot be sure of origin of this phrase. Three explanations are given here, but they are not very convincing (I am not a native speaker). In one of our newspapers, ...
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Is the term 'Occidental' still in common usage - or is it a legacy of a bygone age?

I've heard of the word 'Occidental' or 'The Occident' used to mean the same as Oriental or 'The Orient' but applied to the European continent. This I've seen in historic fiction, such as the works of ...
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How are Engineers and Engine related? [on hold]

I guess there should be some relationship between Engineers and Engines, because they sound similar. Also Engineers work with engines. I would like to know the specific instance of what made people ...
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When did “More tea vicar?” start to be used after farting? Where did it come from?

In England when someone farts they might say "More tea vicar?" When did this start, and how did it come about? It feels unusual enough to have a definite creation - some comedian perhaps? Web ...
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Hopefully vs Presumably [duplicate]

Background hopefully (adverb): in a hopeful manner Presumably (adverb): used to convey that what is asserted is very likely though not known for certain. While fully acknowledging, as noted in the ...
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Origin of “deez nuts”

I really hate to ask this one, but... When I was a child, some thirty plus years ago, there was a popular juvenile game where you would try to trick a friend into asking a question that could be ...
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Meaning and Origin of word “Pantheon”?

I spotted the word "Pantheon" here on the first and second paragraph on The Hindu but not able to understand the editor's view. On the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, on April 14, ...
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“Wise man” vs. “wise guy”

Two very similar expressions yet quite opposite connotations. Wise man is an older phrase but wise guy is a newer one. I found two possible connections to wise man. There is the surname Wiseman ...
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How did 'cleave' come to have two opposite meanings? [duplicate]

I find it odd that cleave can mean two opposite things. One definition being: verb used with object to split or divide by or as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural line ...
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What is the history of “nil” in British football /soccer?

In British football if neither team scores a goal, the score is said to be: nil-nil or nil-nil draw. Curiously, the winning team's results are always spoken first. So if Arsenal are playing home the ...
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Could 'heresy' be an accusation at those who follow the philosophy of Heraclitus? [on hold]

The wisdom of the world Tertullian (c160-240)pp-5&6 in Documents of the Christian Church 2nd edition by Henry Betterson:....any assertion about the God of fire,then Heraclitus comes in. Heretics ...
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Derivatives of “ea” in the sense of “river”?

"Ea" is a largely archaic word still used in some dialects to mean a river or watercourse. The Online Etymology Dictionary mentions "ealand" as a term formerly used to mean a watery place or meadow ...
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Meaning and Origin of “Honky Tonk”

Monday morning. A colleague of mine is blasting country music from his cube...fantastic. After hearing the word "honky" and "honky tonk" quite a few times, I'm intrigued. This is obviously a ...
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Boom chakka wah wah

'Boom chukka wah wah' has become a euphemism for sexual activity in recent years, I believe it references porn film sound tracks. What is the earliest reference of usage?
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Etymology: 'as regards' and 'as concerns'

as regards = concerning; in respect of 2. regard [with object] {archaic} = (Of a thing) relate to; concern As per the above, because regard = concern, this question also applies to 'as ...
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Why are certain competitions called a “Classic?”

In the town I live in, there have been a number of competitive events called "classics" (e.g. "Bicycle Classic," "Golf Classic"). I assume this term is used because the event is a long-standing, ...
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Can an English sentence have a 'dative subject'?

I have been thinking about this for a while. It seems to me that, sometimes, the subject plays a dative role in that it is the recipient of something. Take the following active sentence. He gave ...
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'exert' : How can you 'attach or join out' something?

Etymonline for: 'exert (adj.)' = 1660s, "thrust forth, push out," from Latin exertus/exsertus, past participle of exerere/exserere "thrust out, put forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + serere ...
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How did 'to' and 'to throw' combine to mean 'adjacent'?

adjacent = 1. Next to or adjoining something else Etymonline for: adjacent (adj.) = early 15c., from Latin adiacentem (nominative adiacens) "lying at," present participle of adiacere ...
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What does 'but' mean 'without its being the case that'?

but = 5. {with negative} {archaic} Without its being the case that I tried OED but its length overwhelmed me. Etymonline doesn't mention this definition. Would someone please explain, by ...
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How did 'legacy' evolve from 'contract, law'?

I was researching legacy {noun} which rechannels to legate {noun}: legacy (n.)   late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval ...
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Etymology: 'to commit'

I was researching the etymology of 'commission {noun}' which just diverts you to: commit (v.) late 14c., "to give in charge, entrust," from Latin committere "to unite, connect, combine; to ...
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How did 'to hint to, remind privately' mean 'to summon'?

[Etymonline:] summon (v.) c. 1200, "call, send for, ask the presence of," especially "call, cite, or notify by authority to be at a certain place at a certain time" (late 13c.), ... from Vulgar ...
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Connection between “right” as in a liberty and “right” as in the direction [duplicate]

I've noticed that it is not only in English that the word "right" can be used both as a noun (when talking about liberty) and an adjective (when talking about direction) It's slso like that in Spanish ...
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The etymology of the phrase “it's raining cats and dogs”

I was wondering about the phrase it's raining cats and dogs; I've heard two versions of the meaning of the phrase and I was wondering which one was correct or wrong altogether. The first: with 16th ...
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Can *narrow minded* be positive?

As narrow is being not wide and not flexible, can it also be upright?
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History of the phrase “break wind”

The choice of the verb "break" seems a strange choice for the phrase. Does anybody know where this phrase originated?
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What is the term for the origin of a cliche?

From wiki sources : A cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being ...
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Is the pronunciation of “oa” in “broad” unique?

The "oa" in the word "broad" is pronounced like the words "or" or "awe". In phonetic symbols that is ɔː . However in all other examples I can think of it is pronounced like the "oe" in "toe". Or in ...
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What's the origin of the word party pooper?

A party pooper is defined as: a person who refuses to join in the fun of a party; broadly : one who refuses to go along with everyone else I'm interested to know about the origin of this term and ...
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Why “thanks” Can Never Be Singular as a Noun?

While looking at the part of speech of the noun "thanks" in an online dictionary I noticed that it was a plural noun and wondered if it could be used in singular form. Glancing at the origin it ...