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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

8
votes
2answers
655 views

Source of the phrase “call [somebody] out of name”

I was introduced today to the phrase "Call out of name" as in: She claimed the other girl called her out of name. I had to ask what it meant and the answer was "she called her a bitch". I'm ...
1
vote
2answers
30 views

Why isn't the ‘P’ in psychology pronounced?

Why is the initial letter of some of the words like pneumonia, and psychology not pronounced?
18
votes
7answers
3k views

Why is news said to be “breaking”?

I was just wondering what the origins of "breaking news" or "we broke the story" are.
20
votes
7answers
8k views

Where does “pizza pie” originate?

The Italianissimo pizza—pronounced /ˈpiʦ:a/—is not always spelled or called pizza around the world: In Bosnia, Belarusian, Macedonia, Serbia it's spelled pica but pronounced /pîtsa/ In ...
1
vote
0answers
23 views

Where did the phrase “a whole new world” come from?

"A whole new world" as in, "a new perspective." Yes, there's the song from the film Aladdin in the 1990s but the saying has been around far longer, hasn't it?
8
votes
3answers
567 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
34 views

Origin of “a lot”

I am working on a novel set in the early 19th century and am wondering if the phrase "a lot" is too contemporary. That happened a lot with debutantes, he mused.
8
votes
8answers
253 views
+50

“bucking for” .. like Klinger

In the culturally referrent 1970s USA TV show "MASH", about the Korean war, character Corporal Klinger acts "crazy", specifically wearing female clothing, ... because he is bucking for a section 8 ...
1
vote
2answers
71 views

Etymology of 'clinical' in 'clinical professor'?

I searched for the meaning of 'clinical' and I could not find any association with academia. Why are non-tenure track jobs referred to as 'clinical'? What is the etymology?
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin and meaning of the American 1960s slang phrase, “bread is”

I am trying to answer a question from a library patron who remembers the entire phrase, "bread is" that she and her friends used in the 1960s. She accepts that "bread" was used for money or "dough," ...
0
votes
0answers
41 views

Bartleby's famous line

As a class we were looking at the expression in Bartleby that is really famous: 'I would prefer not to' There's a lot of research on this, particularly by Deluze, about how this is a very unique ...
1
vote
3answers
18k views

Meaning of the “rupt” suffix/prefix

I was wondering the other day about the word corrupt, found that the suffix "rupt" appears in many words and as a prefix for another set and decided to ask this question: What does "rupt" mean? ...
5
votes
2answers
491 views

Who was Buggins of 'Buggins' turn'?

'Buggins' turn' refers to the practice of assigning appointments to persons in rotation, rather than on merit. The OED records this and gives examples of its use from 1901. As regards etymology it ...
-1
votes
2answers
40 views

Need someone to clear this up

If one is 'beyond reason to deal with' then wouldn't this mean that they are more than reasonable to deal with? In other words, I'm assuming to be 'beyond reason' or 'below reason' is the same thing, ...
9
votes
4answers
8k views

Why is a black eye called a “shiner”?

I saw a photograph of Chris Robshaw, the Harlequins captain, in the paper yesterday sporting a magnificent shiner, and naturally started to wonder where the term originated. Consulting Etymonline ...
21
votes
2answers
3k views

The “F-word” in N-gram Viewer

I was simply fiddling with Ngram viewer when my apparently naughty mind made me type the (real) "F-word" onto the text field, (the time was also chosen randomly, (1750-to-1993)), the results baffled ...
3
votes
1answer
125 views

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 ...
2
votes
2answers
60 views

What does “corrupt” etymologically mean?

I see that interrupt morphologically and semantically means 'to break something intermittently'. I see that corrupt is formed from prefix 'co-' (which I know means "(put) together") and 'rupt' which ...
2
votes
1answer
40 views

How did 'attitude' come to mean 'orientation' in travel?

I read the question WHY (actually) did Rosetta have to go into hibernation for 2.5 years? that uses the term attitude to refer to the orientation of the Rosetta probe: It spun itself up to ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Origins of “up the duff”

In British English, the term "up the duff" is used to describe a pregnant lady. I've tried to research as to why this is the case but I can't find anything concrete. Oxford has it as: 1940s ...
-1
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin of terms Passed Away and Deceased

I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough. This from a Low Episcopalian.....
0
votes
1answer
58 views

Are there common etymological links to the words “judge”, “Jew”, “Jude” and 'justice"? [on hold]

Are there common etymological links to the words "judge", "Jew", "Jude" and "justice"? One source cited "yew" and/or "yewes" as possible Proto-Indo-European links to "Jew". How about "jewel" amd ...
0
votes
0answers
34 views

Does retard and ritardando have the same etymology? [on hold]

Retard means slow of mind, and ritardando means to slow down in music, and they sound they same. It sounds feasible, but I am sceptical; do they have the same origin?
7
votes
1answer
165 views

Why is “renege” pronounced with a hard “g” sound?

The word renege comes from Medieval Latin renegare (source). It is the only English word of Latin origin I'm aware of that doesn't follow the soft g pronunciation rule. The g is hard even though ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Idiom: to be at loggerheads

Idiom to be at loggerheads with someone over sth The meaning is to be in strong disagreement with someone struggling constantly as in The two governments are still at loggerheads over the island. ...
9
votes
3answers
7k views

Why is 'shucks' (as in 'aw, shucks') used with an '-s' ending?

I understand that 'shucks' is a slang that is: used especially to express mild disappointment or embarrassment and this definition is listed separately from 'shuck' (the verb/noun) in ...
0
votes
0answers
30 views

Unseen they suffer. Unheard they cry. In agony they linger. In lonliness they die. [closed]

Does anyone know who the author might be? Can only find it listed at Anonymous.... Thank you
0
votes
1answer
44 views

How would you describe the word 'tron'? [closed]

I have searched the meaning of tron and found various results. I though it would be related to working people like robots. Can you please answer me the various possible meaning of tron?
1
vote
0answers
47 views

How did “stone-cold” come to mean completely?

It seems like such an odd arrangement of words that would, in a certain context, mean "completely." Otherwise, it just means "cold." And my Google-fu has failed me; I'm unable to locate an ...
9
votes
1answer
305 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
34 views

What is entware? [closed]

Can someone provide a concise definition or explanation of "entware"? From the context, where I found the only existence of this world, I may suggest, that this may be related to Tolkien's Ents and ...
20
votes
2answers
852 views

Common English Surnames ending in S

A number of common English surnames are the same as common English given names, with the addition of an "S." Examples are Peters, Daniels, Michaels, Matthews, Roberts, Phillips, Isaacs, Williams, ...
6
votes
3answers
188 views

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 ...
0
votes
0answers
54 views

Can someone explain “olive skin”. When most people would describe olives as green, globally

What am I missing? I'm in an industry that lists skin colour descriptors on your resume but I often found that website forms list olive, dark, light and tan as the only options. I can't for the life ...
2
votes
0answers
81 views

Does “mouse” in the computer sense come from nautical slang?

Computer "mouse" is an English term known and used worldwide. Reference about its origin appears to suggest that the term, which obviously refers to the shape of a small mouse, may actually come ...
4
votes
1answer
42 views

Can a word have two separate etymologies?

A separate etymology for the spelling and another for the meaning of the word?
-1
votes
1answer
48 views

When did ‘swipe’ change from meaning “to steal” to being used in transactions?

If I had said, "He swiped my card!" long ago, everyone would have been looking for a thief. Now it is synonymous with a sale transaction. (Can you swipe your own card? Yes, in fact you do!) I guess if ...
0
votes
1answer
67 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
7k views

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 ...
35
votes
3answers
115k views

Why is “pineapple” in English but “ananas” in all other languages?

Why is "pineapple" in English but "ananas" in all other languages?
7
votes
4answers
9k views

What is the origin of the phrase “playing hooky”?

What does the word "hooky" mean in the phrase "play hooky" (skipping class/truancy) and where did it come from?
3
votes
1answer
342 views

What's the etymology of “tit” (the insult)?

I've always felt that tit is not particularly offensive. Not, at least, in a context like: Oh, you silly tit! I was attempting to demonstrate to somebody that the word is not offensive, at least ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

Where does “at any rate” come from?

People say at any rate to revert to a previous topic. But what kind of rate is it referring to? Like at any rate of exchange? at any speed?
1
vote
2answers
52 views

Do “empirical” and “imperial” share a common etymology? [closed]

Nothing more to my question, really. I just wonder if the words share an etymological root. Thanks.
12
votes
5answers
4k views

Origin/reason for the “hit by a bus” phrase

Often at my job when someone is becoming a single source of knowledge or otherwise has a skill that no one else on the team or the department has, a common expression is: If John was hit by a bus, ...
13
votes
2answers
819 views

Etymological relationship between “to” and “too”

The words to and too have rather different meanings but from what little information I can gather (from their Dictionary.com references) they seem to potentially be from the same old-English root. If ...
4
votes
2answers
79 views

Etymology of 'smurfing' for money laundering?

I am only slightly privy to the 1980s TV show with little blue people, itself based on the Belgian comics. Presumably, the franchise in some way represents or serves as a metaphor for piecemeal ...
6
votes
2answers
13k views

“bibs and bobs” - what does it mean and where does it come from?

Just exactly what is a bibs and a bobs? And where the heck did that expression come from, anyway?
1
vote
1answer
52 views

History and English demonyms

A friend of mine told me English demonyms, words that identify people from a particular place (Roman, Japanese, Dutch etc.), largely depend upon the historical period in which the term originates. ...
3
votes
9answers
5k views

How does “spanner” come to mean “a wrench”?

"Wrenching" refers to an injury in which some muscle is forcibly twisted. A wrench is a tool that applies a twisting force to something, so that seems consistent. "To span" means to bridge a gap. ...