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

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Why does the meaning of a root sound different than the root?

I am currently constructing a language for my fantasy world. I am utilizing roots, prefixes, suffixes - all that fun stuff. I've noticed something that I find rather strange though. Nearly every word ...
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1k views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
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The origin of “deerstalker”

A deerstalker is a soft cap, most commonly associated with Sherlock Holmes. Neither Oxford nor Etymonline lists the word's origin. Does anyone know when and how this word originated?
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Yikes! Where did it come from?

(humorous, slang) Expressing fear. (humorous, slang) Expressing empathy with unpleasant or undesirable circumstances. [Wiktionary] Yikes! Where did it come from? OED says "Origin ...
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What is 'burning or baiting' about the verb 'stake'?

stake (v.2)    "to risk, wager," 1520s, perhaps from notion of "post on which a gambling wager was placed" (see stake (n.2)), though Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or ...
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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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Origin of the phrase “There's a fine line between pleasure and pain” [duplicate]

What is the origin (or original) of the phrase "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain"?
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1answer
33 views

What's the origin/etymology of the phrase “regular old”? Does it have a clearly defined meaning?

It seems to me that the adjective phrase "regular old" seems to have a few distinct usages, but a confusing conversation and some fruitless searches as to a specific definition have me coming to ...
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Usage of touch the wood?

I've started using English language about 4 years ago after I moved to England. I came across this practice a few times: when people speak about their health or similar things they say this and touch ...
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2answers
377 views

What is the term used for people who drive slow?

I always heard terms like bikers, racers, car racers, which are specially used for the people who drives fast. But what do we call people who drive slow, or at normal speed, or very slow (for “senior ...
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1answer
45 views

How does the gerund 'bear, carry'?

[ Etymonline: ] 1510s, from Latin gerundum "to be carried out," gerundive of gerere "to bear, carry" (see gest). In Latin, a verbal noun used for all cases of the infinitive but the nominative; ...
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Etymology of 'inexorable' : What does 'out' + 'pray' mean?

inexorable (adj.)    1550s, from Middle French inexorable and directly from Latin inexorabilis "that cannot be moved by entreaty," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + exorabilis "able ...
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How to parse 'to avail oneself of'?

[ODO:] {verb} 1. avail oneself of = Use or take advantage of (an opportunity or available resource) 2. avail = [with object] Help or benefit [Etymonline] c. 1300, availen, ...
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49 views

Etymology of 'security' in finance [on hold]

[OED:] 5. e. Chiefly in pl. Originally: a document held by a creditor as a guarantee of the right to payment, or attesting ownership of property, stock, bonds, etc.; [5.2] (hence) the ...
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'en-' in 'entreat' : Did it divorce 'entreat' from 'treat'?

entreat (v.) c. 1400, "to enter into negotiations," especially "discuss or arrange peace terms;" also "to treat (someone) in a certain way," from Anglo-French entretier, Old French entraiter ...
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What's the meaning of the “shed” in “watershed”?

It seems like a kind of house, if it is. I cannot grasp the meaning of watershed.
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Why is the term “depressed” often used to describe a button which is pressed?

In several books that mention GUI, keyboard, or mouse buttons (e.g. the book Programming Windows by Charles Petzold), the authors refer to the state of a pressed button as depressed. Why is this term ...
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56 views

Who needs a haircut?

Haircut is a relatively recent term, considering that Romans began to cut the hair about A.U.C. 454, when Ticinius Maenas introduced Barbers from Sicily: (Etymonline) also hair-cut, 1887, "act ...
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226 views

Osteopath vs Psychopath

Greek "Pathos" means "disease" or "suffering". In that sense "Psychopath" means "a person with an antisocial personality disorder". Originating from the same root "Osteopath" means "A therapist who ...
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Etymology of “bridge” (the card game)

I've always thought that the name of this card game comes from the English word bridge (the structure) but it is not quite like that. It's the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, which was ...
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Etymology of 'commencement' (as in university commencement)

Some guy claims that I'll tell you why graduation is called Commencement (and no, it's not because it's the beginning of your "real life"). In the large halls where students and faculty ate, the ...
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The ultimate 'Heart' and 'Brain' question [on hold]

Heart and Brain - although of significant importance in Anatomy, equally significant, but in a completely different sense in the realm of Literature. I'd like to know how the earliest literati ...
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51 views

What does Antichronic mean? [on hold]

I recently came across a word "Anachronous" meaning something which is "out of (from ana) time (from chronos)". Usage eg: A person is wearing an 18th century dress to a 21st century formal ...
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Etymology of “on the blink”

I was wondering where the phrase "on the blink" comes from. According to the OED the first recorded usage is from 1901 ‘H. McHugh’ John Henry 83 A stranglehold line of business that will put ...
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Origin of “for the birds” (Trivial; worthless; only of interest to gullible people.)

I really have looked, but the best I can come up with is this To say that something is "for the birds" is to call it horse manure. Dating from the days of horse-drawn traffic, the expression is ...
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Can the word “Sails” in any meaningful way equate to the number Six? [on hold]

Either historically, or even up through leetspeak, can it be understood by a group of English speaking people to stand-in for the number 6, and if so, how? It's understood that – for example purposes ...
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1answer
31 views

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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What's the origin of the idiom “miss the boat”?

What is the origin of the idiom miss the boat? This is the definition of the idiom from Dictionary.com: a. to fail to take advantage of an opportunity: He missed the boat when he applied too late ...
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How do idioms come to be? [on hold]

All these questions about idioms here on ELU makes me wonder - how do idioms come to be? How are they made up? How do they become accepted? Common examples are: silly as a wheel that's another ...
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1answer
57 views

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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Why does attach have two Ts and detach have only one?

The title says it all. We have two words: Attach Detach Shouldn't they be...? Attach Dettach Or? Atach Detach
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Did they say “hand job” in the 1800s?

Did they say "hand job" in the 1800s? I was watching an episode of Deadwood, and they just said it. For example, from episode 6 "Plague": (Al enters the back room, Dolly is scrunched up on the ...
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Is there an online etymology dictionary more comprehensive/detailed than Etymonline? [migrated]

Douglas Harper, creator of Etymonline, considers himself an amateur linguist and warns ... if you're a professional linguist or a serious student of linguistics, you shouldn't be doing your ...
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What does “fleek” mean and when was it first used?

The word fleek is all over Twitter. The @lovihatibot Twitterbot routinely finds it in searches for "I love the word [X]" and "I hate the word [X]", in fact it's the third most hated word over the ...
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1answer
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wrecking vs wracking vs wreaking

What I understand so far: Wrecking - to trash/destroy/be destroyed Wracking - to be tortured, possibly from variant of "rack". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=wrack also seems to mention ...
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Where did the phrase “you're welcome” come from?

"You're welcome" as a response to "thank you" makes absolutely no sense. You're welcome to what?
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Please kill me or just shoot me now

Please kill me and (just) shoot me now are two common idiomatic colloquial expressions which are generally used to mean that you, metaphorically, would rather die than do something or to express the ...
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1answer
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What does “Schmissues” mean in “Issues, schmissues. Can the Presidential candidates sing”? [duplicate]

Today’s (May 7) New York Times carries an article under the title, “Issues, schmissues. Can the Presidential candidates sing?,” which begins with the following passage: “The cacophony of presidential ...
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Spelling etymology of “-il[l]” words

I've noticed that modern English seems to have a very strong bias to spell verbs which end with "-(consonant)-il" with double "l", i.e. "-ill". The overwhelming majority of such verbs (like to will, ...
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Did the English call a fruit “openærs” for 700 years?

There is a small apple-tasting fruit called medlar in English. It looks like a cross between an apple and a rosehip. It has two main curious features: first the fruit must be bletted before it can ...
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1answer
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Origin of the phrases “out back” and “out front”?

I'm going through the Song of Ice and Fire books, and although it's mostly written in what appears to be British English, very occasionally Americanisms sneak in. One example that I just noticed is ...
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Did the word “evolution” exist before Darwinism?

I was talking about evolution with my friends and one of them said: The word "evolution" joined the English vocabulary after Darwin used it. The word itself is pretty new, therefore. Is that ...
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Using the term “love” instead of zero in tennis; other countries say zero, not love [duplicate]

The Americans and other English speaking countries seem to be the only ones that use the term "love" for zero in scoring tennis.
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Did “pertinacious” and “pertinent” come from the same origin?

From dictionary.com: pertinacious meaning: holding tenaciously to a purpose, course of action, or opinion; resolute. stubborn or obstinate. extremely or objectionably persistent. while ...
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Relationship between kingdom, dominion, and doom

I was struck recently by the -dom suffix in freedom and kingdom. Not having etymology references at hand, our lunchtime group settled on the theory that -dom in both these words was from "dominion." ...
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Why is Peruvian Brown so named?

There is a colour named "Peruvian Brown". This is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for shades of brown. The Wikipedia entry gives a reference to an offline book, and examples of modern use (the x11 ...
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Why is B.C. (Before Christ) in English, but A.D. (anno domini) in Latin?

There are some posts explaining the shift from BC/AD to BCE/CE, but my question is with the BC/AD terms: why is the former, older, time period in English while the latter, later period is in Latin?
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Why do the names of so many places end in -ia?

Many countries, continents, states, and cities have an English name ending in ‘-ia’: India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Asia, Alexandria, Philadelphia, California, … What ...
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Skeat's abbreviation “Cot.”

In his Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, W W Skeat often uses the abbreviation "Cot.", but I cannot find this mentioned in his lists of abbreviations and symbols.
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Origins of “from the outside” (to mean from the beginning)

I came across a sentence that went something like this: I wish I'd known about this from the outside - I would have done a better job. I've heard "from the outside" used like this before a ...