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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

4
votes
4answers
3k views

Were there any other synonyms to “sustainability” before the 80s?

The German word for sustainability, Nachhaltigkeit, arose (according to Wiktionary) in the 18th century. Ngrams shows this. I was wondering if the concept of sustainability did not exist before ...
5
votes
5answers
3k views

Origin and variations of “being handed your hat”

I heard the expression being handed your hat being used to mean that you are invited to leave. What is its origin and what are the possible variations?
3
votes
2answers
50 views

Why do we use the term “hike” to describe an increase in price, value etc?

The earliest reference I can find in the OED to this sense of hike is from 1904. 1904 Topeka Capital 10 June 4 City Center kept the price of ice cream sodas at five cents until the State ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

“Death comes in threes” origin?

With David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a few days on each other (RIP), I've heard some people say, "Death always comes in threes, I wonder who's next." What is the origin of this phrase? How ...
7
votes
6answers
7k views

How has the phrase the “Mecca of some activity” originated and not the “Rome” or “Athens”

This is not a question about religion at all. My point is Rome and Athens are examples of older civilizations and there is the saying "All roads lead to Rome" indicating it's supremacy in the Ancient ...
2
votes
1answer
48 views

Is there a connection between the words “illicit” and “elicit”?

The words "illicit" and "elicit" seem to be spelled and pronounced similarly, although their meanings appear different. Is this a coincidence or is there a connection between the two words?
1
vote
1answer
26 views

What is the proper usage of “x (read y)” where y is another word/phrase for x?

I've often seen this used for humorous purposes, but I would assume it has a formal usage as well. Example: Mortos (read mooch) is a demon from the Spooky Realm. As far as I can tell, it's ...
4
votes
2answers
114 views

What is the origin of mule in test mule?

A test mule is a prototype that is used for performance evaluation. It is a common term for preproduction cars, but is also widely used in non-automotive product development. Where did the term come ...
4
votes
2answers
89 views

Where did the word Yankee originate?

Where did the word Yankee originate? I was told it had Dutch origins. There is a lot of information on its usage today referring to northern, New England, American etc. but where did it come from and ...
2
votes
2answers
29 views

What is the origin of “not hold with”?

What is the origin of the expression not hold with with the meaning not agree with? For example: I don't hold with what you are saying.
-1
votes
2answers
29 views

Names that are simultaneously verbs (and preferably don't share their etymology)? [on hold]

My girlfriend yesterday asked me if I could think of any examples of names, in English, that are simultaneously verbs. We couldn't think of any good examples then (aside from "Hope" etc.), but today ...
4
votes
2answers
41 views

Do the words 'tied' and 'tight' have a common origin?

I was reading a book in supposed 'Ye Olde English' and came across the sentence 'Perhaps she has him so tied he cannot get loose'. This made me wonder if 'tied' and 'tight' have the same origin, in ...
2
votes
2answers
35 views

Go out into the world - The Tempest?

A few years ago, we studied the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony with our English teacher. The following words (spoken by Sir Ian McKellen if I remember well) are still echoing in my mind: ...
-5
votes
1answer
49 views

Why *is* abbreviation such a long word?

No, seriously. I can't think of a single abbreviation that's longer than the actual word. Why isn't "abbreviation" nice and short like the word "terse"?
8
votes
3answers
448 views

Where does “contango” come from?

Contango is a very common term in financial business that originally referred to: (on the London stock exchange) a fee paid by a buyer of securities to the seller for the privilege of ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
100 views

Where does the word “hardcore” come from?

I was wondering when and why people would start calling music-styles or explicit films "hardcore", and when people started using it as slang. There's a German saying "harte Schale, weicher Kern" ...
7
votes
4answers
206 views

Why is a young man called “son,” but a young woman is never called “daughter”?

In American English, it is acceptable and common that an older man calls a man his junior, "son"—even if the younger man is not the older man's child (or related to him in any way). Definition of ...
6
votes
2answers
490 views

Are “Czech Republic” and “Chechnya” cognates?

Let me preface this question by saying that the Czech Republic and Chechnya are two different countries. Are the two countries' names etymologically related, like Austria and Australia are? ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g ...
7
votes
4answers
206 views

Did British chef Jamie Oliver redefine “pukka” in 1999?

Recently I've been watching cooking programmes: MasterChef Italia (addictive), MasterChef USA (awful), followed swiftly by Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, and then onto Jamie Oliver's acclaimed The ...
8
votes
1answer
246 views

A swallow does not make a summer … or a spring?

The famous proverb, one swallow does not make a summer means: A single fortunate event doesn’t mean that what follows will also be good. (ODO) the origin, according to the Phrase ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the etymology of the word “bae”?

What is the etymology of the word "bae" as a term of endearment?
29
votes
4answers
53k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
0
votes
2answers
62 views

Man who confused word order [duplicate]

I'm trying to remember the name of a historical figure whose name has since entered the lexicon. He confused the order of words to say things like it's all nuff and stonsense for example. - I think he ...
0
votes
2answers
230 views

Alternative source of “blackguard”

It occurred to me to wonder when I ran across a French reference to practices of the Inquisition; it mentioned that imprisonment was fully intended to be torture that had a strong beginning when a ...
5
votes
2answers
99 views

Where does the word 'Simoleon' come from?

Simoleon is another word for money. si·mo·le·on /səˈmōlēən/ I once thought that the word Simoleon came from the popular PC game The Sims. However, recently I heard the word used in ...
6
votes
3answers
6k views

Origin of idiom “wearing the < role > hat?”

What is the origin of the idiom "wearing the < role > hat"? Here is an example from the post Getting things done when you wear multiple hats in PookieMD's Blog: I wear many hats, and I ...
2
votes
3answers
469 views

“advert” and “adverse”: same etymoloty but unrelated meanings?

From Wiktionary and other similar sources like etymonline, the meanings of "advert" and "adverse" are: advert: turn attention adverse: Unfavorable; antagonistic in purpose or effect; ...
1
vote
1answer
45 views

Arcology (Paolo Soleri)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology Says Paolo coined the word. But the concept was in use in SF as early as 1899. I'd like to know when this word was coined, so that I could check my old SF to ...
0
votes
0answers
45 views

Acknoldgement vs acknowledgement [closed]

I've recently found some old scientific articles where the word "acknoldgement" was used. After a small google search it seems to me that this is not a typo but some people use this form of the word, ...
22
votes
7answers
7k views

Etymology of “cut someone some slack”

Teenagers. All the literature tells you one thing and one thing only – that whatever they are doing, give them a break, cut them some slack, it's normal. From the novel, Apple Tree Yard I'm ...
2
votes
2answers
519 views

What is the origin of “Here's How!”?

I own an antique store and found a canapé plate of a bar scene and two gentlemen toasting. The words under the scene are "Here's How!" What is the country of origin? This plate is dated 1933 from a ...
2
votes
3answers
417 views

“Go Green !” : Grammatical Analysis

I have been trying to see what is behind the hyped-up phrase "Go Green" and have asked friends to rephrase that buzz-word/cliche, but nobody has given me a satisfactory explanation of what it actually ...
7
votes
2answers
234 views

Is the change from “m” to “n” within the descent from O.E.“æmette” to E.“ant” a regular one?

emmet "ant," from O.E. æmete (see ant), surviving as a dialect word in parts of England; also, in Cornwall, a colloquial name for holiday tourists. According to Etymonline; I can't help ...
1
vote
1answer
133 views

The origin of “two is company, three is a crowd”

The common saying two is company, three's a crowd is often associated with a romantic context: Prov. A way of asking a third person to leave because you want to be alone with someone. (Often ...
15
votes
9answers
54k views

Origin of “More X than you can shake a stick at”

What is the origin of the phrase "more X than you can shake a stick at"? Every website I've seen on this basically says the same thing (e.g., http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sha2.htm): Recorded ...
7
votes
3answers
12k views

Origin of “Well, well, well. What do we have here?”

Google will not tell me where this phrase originates. Does Stack Exchange have the answer?
7
votes
1answer
132 views

Origin and earliest recorded use of 'fungo'

In baseball, a fungo bat is, according to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), "a long thin bat used for hitting fungoes," and a fungo is either "a fly ball hit esp. for practice ...
1
vote
1answer
295 views

Why are some “-ist” suffixed words used as the adjective form over the more common “-istic”?

Generally speaking, for any kind of "-ism", the suffix "-ist" produces the noun form and "-istic" produces the adjective form. But there are some "-ist" suffixes that are acceptable or even more ...
17
votes
7answers
3k views

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 ...
9
votes
2answers
12k views

Origin and variants of phrase: “let's blow this popsicle stand”

I'd like to know the origin and precursor or derivative variants of the phrase "let's blow this popsicle stand". Reliable, conclusive, source-supported, authoritative and consistent information about ...
3
votes
5answers
3k views

Meaning and origin of “the grind of my day”

Somebody told me today in chat: before i get into the grind of my day... is there anything you are waiting on from us or need asap? What does the expression the grind of my day mean? Where does ...
21
votes
4answers
9k views

A murder of crows?

I love the subset of collective nouns known as the terms of venery. These are collective nouns specific to a particular group of animals. Some of the more inventive examples are: a murder of crows, a ...
5
votes
4answers
10k views

Origin and meaning of “from out of left field”

What is the origin of the phrase from out of left field? My understanding is that the meaning is unexpected, or odd. Is that correct? Real world examples of the phrase being used badly would be great ...
-1
votes
2answers
28 views

A weird use of Your self found in a offer letter sample online

I was looking for a format of offer letters. I found a letter which had the following line in the end. I look forward to an enduring relationship with your self. I have never seen anyone use ...
0
votes
1answer
63 views

How did the postverbal prepositions originate in 'to treat of' and 'to treat on'?

[OED:] [2.] a. {intransitive} To deal with some matter in speech or writing; to discourse. (In quot. 1517 transf. of pictorial representation.) Const. of, formerly also on, upon. How did of or ...
-1
votes
3answers
315 views

Why the ‘lateral’ in “lateral thinking”?

My manager tells me to use lateral thinking What does this unconventional approach to thinking really mean? How does one think ‘sideways’ if they think creatively? Wiktionary defines lateral ...
2
votes
2answers
132 views

What is the origin of the word “What”?

Where does the word what come from? Why do we say wot when it's spelt the way it is?
0
votes
0answers
55 views

What does this expression mean: Don't let him consign me to the rafters

Some once told me about someone else: "please don't let him consign me to the rafters, because he is one of those irrevocable keepsakes"