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

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Etymology of certain words ending in “-en”

Tchrist's comment here on my answer to an etymology question brought the following to mind: Ox (from Old English oxa) maintains the same vowel in the plural oxen that it has in the singular. But ...
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1answer
59 views

Etymology of “mortgage” and “deed”. Are they both related to “death”?

I read something that said the word deed was related to the word dead, deed being the document signifying ownership of a house and dead being no longer alive. The article didn’t elaborate but after ...
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1answer
64 views

Help me understand the meaning of a phrase I use regularly- “just ducky” [duplicate]

When people ask me; "how are you"? I love to answer with "just ducky" (sp?) and it usually gets a disarming smile and sets a light-hearted tone for conversation to follow. I adopted it as part of my ...
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1answer
67 views

“Show” and “Shower” [closed]

I'm a programmer and found myself naming an entity, which shows things, as Shower. Of course, the first time I read it, I remembered the freshness of the drops of water and nothing related to what it ...
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3answers
144 views

Name for the bumper at the end of a parking spot - is it a “turtarrier”? If so, why?

I was trying to find out if there was a single word to mean the bumper at the end of a parking spot. "Parking bumper" is a little unwieldy, and "wheel chock" seems to be more about airplanes or ...
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1answer
37 views

If someone is “playing horse with you” why are they either teasing, ridiculing, or perhaps flirting with you?

Why does a horse and the activity of "playing horse" describe one who is teasing, ridiculing, or even flirting? The survey of College Words and Phrases by Eugene H. Babbitt published in 1900 lists the ...
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1answer
72 views

Why does owl-eyed mean intoxicated?

The Survey of College Words and Phrases by Eugene H. Babbitt published in 1900 lists the word owl-eyed to mean intoxicated. Any ideas as to why an owl-eyed person is an intoxicated person?
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2answers
51 views

Resident advisor: an advisor who resides or someone who advises residents?

Google assures me that there's a position at various postsecondary institutions called "resident assistant", "resident advisor", or "resident adviser". This is a student who lives in a dormitory and ...
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3answers
823 views

Did “slave” ever apply to anything other than people?

Modern use of slave has evolved to include electronic devices in a "master / slave" configuration. Did this use of "slave" ever exist before electronic devices used it? Did the word "slave" ever ...
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4answers
962 views

How nutty are the terms “nut case”, “health nut” and “sports nut”?

If someone is nuts about something/someone it means they are a very enthusiastic— sometimes bordering on obsessive—devotee of that particular thing or person. To be nuts is a colloquial term meaning ...
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Does etymology have a word like cladistics?

A recent question on EL&U about a current hip-hop expression led my research into a meme that is evolving faster than drosophila. This expression and its variants have gone viral on internet ...
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1answer
158 views

Etymology of the word 'sin'

In the Oxford English Dictionary of 1989, Vol. VII. under the verb 'sin' it lists the earliest recorded use of the word as from circa 825 AD. The word 'sin' was written then as 'syngian'. If the Latin ...
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97 views

The “Oh to have…” expression [closed]

What does "Oh to have..." mean, as in "Oh to have a song in a national campaign" in Jon Lajoie's song "Please Use This Song"? Can somebody explain the origin and meaning of this expression? In what ...
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3answers
90 views

What is the etymology of 'oojiboo'?

Oojiboo: a thing whose name one forgets, does not know, or prefers not to mention Since I don't have access to the OED, can someone tell me its etymology and whether it's commonly used nowadays? ...
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2answers
69 views

Why does the word gobs mean a copious amount?

Gobs is a word I've never seen in print; however, I've heard it used in an old moving picture and in an old situation comedy. I'm curious to know the origin of the word gobs as well as when it was ...
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2answers
110 views

Where did the phrase “washing one's hands of” originate?

I know that the phrase "to wash one's hands of" comes from Pilate in the Bible, Matthew 27:24: When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water ...
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240 views

why do some people call green peppers mangoes?

I have heard people from Lima, Ohio refer to green peppers as mangoes. How did that come about?
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1answer
67 views

Two Opposite Meanings of 'Cleave'?

I'm interested in how and why the verb cleave has two totally opposite definitions: Definition I. Split or sever (something) Definiiton II. Adhere strongly to The referenced website shows ...
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0answers
52 views

A word that has changed its meaning from late eighteenth century [closed]

I was first used in late eighteenth century.My meaning has changed from an odd man to mocking someone to the modern day meaning.I am often classified as a mind sport which like all other sports ...
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1answer
88 views

Where does the phase “buy it” (to die) come from?

In English, the verb "buy" can be used to refer to somebody's having been killed, usually in the past tense; for example: Harry bought it in World War 2. Where does this phrase come from?
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2k views

Etymology of the idiom “by and large”

The idiomatic phrase by and large means largely; generally; mostly The two earliest usages listed in Google's ngram, from 1812 and 1837, appear to use it in its current form and meaning. What ...
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3answers
150 views

What is the “pie” in “Cutie Pie”?

Cutie is a slang term used to refer to someone who is cute. Where did the word, pie, in the expression "Cutie Pie" come from? And what is the history behind this expression? I can't seem to find any ...
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1answer
109 views

Etymology of English “Achoo” relative to other sneezing onomatopoeiae

So I was recently curious about the sound that people sneeze with in other languages and was surprised to notice the difference between the English onomatopoetic word "Achoo" and that of other ...
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1answer
179 views

Origin of “old bag”?

What is the origin of the term old bag as a derogatory term for an older lady? In the UK it is exclusively used to describe females. There appears to be nothing intrinsically feminine about bags. ...
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2answers
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etymology of the phrase “at all”

I couldn't get much on this phrase. It is a weird one I know but I just can't stand not knowing it. How did the current use of "at all" come into being? Take a look at this: "in any way," ...
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“running a fever” origin

I'm running a fever/temperature. I have a student who likes to ask where idioms come from. Since the meanings are not literal, it is challenging for her to remember them. It often helps her to ...
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2answers
52 views

Difference between “hop the rocks quickly” and “quickly hop the rocks”

I'm trying to decide which sentence is correct, or if they both are. which would you recommend as easier to read/understand for the average reader? Hop the rocks quickly and get the star. ...
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1answer
119 views

Idioms and bodyparts: punch your lights out and lights

There is an idiom "I'll punch your lights out" which means punch someone's lights out Sl. to knock someone out with a fist There is also "lights" which, when used about a body, mean ...
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Why doesn't English have a separate word for “head hair”? (head hair vs. body hair)

The answer can be "Because it doesn't!" or "It wasn't needed!" in short but there might be a historical or linguistic explanation behind this. (Of course, every language might be lacking a word that ...
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97 views

What is the story behind the word “Mahjong”?

What is the story behind the word Mahjong? Google says "sparrows", but is that accurate and why sparrows? Other results seem to be vague or non-descriptive at best. It boggles my mind that the word ...
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4answers
48 views

Origin of louse for the following: louse around--to idle and louse up--to ruin?

I understand louse being singular for lice; however, I'm uncertain as to why louse around means to idle and louse up means to ruin. Any ideas?
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“Any way, shape, or form”

"[In] any way, shape, or form" is a rhetorical idiom, in which shape and form tend to function as intensifiers. It is normally used for emphasis where the non-idiomatic phrases "[in] any way" or (less ...
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Why is a ragtail an annoying person?

I've heard an annoying person referred to as a ragtail and I've found a reference to the word below; however, I'm uncertain of the etymology. I'm curious to know why a ragtail is an annoying person. ...
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Rhetoric vs. Mathematics: ellipsis/ellipse, parable/parabola, hyperbole/hyperbola

Do ellipsis, parable, and hyperbole from rhetoric have anything in common with the geometric curves ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola used in mathematics? There are three geometric curves known as ...
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2answers
122 views

Origin of an ethnic slur

The American Heritage Dictionary states that the origins of "sheeny," a pejorative slang word for a Jew, are unknown. As a Jew, I am interested in finding out where and when this word developed. Any ...
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crazy as a pet coon under a red wagon

Has anyone else heard this phrase? I heard it growing up in western Kansas and have always wondered where it came from. My brother in law would say, "That dog is a as crazy as a pet coon under a red ...
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etymology: one trick pony

What is the etymology of the phrase "one trick pony"? Can ponies do tricks? Oxford doesn't any etymology info. Wiktionary doesn't provide any info either besides the definition: A performing ...
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1answer
81 views

Origins of “Turnkey”

What is the origin of the word and how did it come to mean "complete and ready to be used immediately"?
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Origin of “riff”

What’s the origin of riff, a repeated musical motif? Wikipedia and the Online Etymology Dictionary both state that its origin is uncertain, possibly an alteration of riffle, refrain, or rhythmic ...
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Why isn't the letter 'W' used to describe co-ordinates? [closed]

From my understanding, UV is used to describe the co-ordinates for 2 dimension and XYZ is used to describe the co-ordinates for 3 dimension. why was the letter 'W' skipped which is between these 2? ...
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95 views

Why is the word “being” used as a suffix with “human”?

Why is the word being used as a suffix with human, as in human being, instead of creature? Please answer philosophically.
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432 views

What is the etymology and reasoning behind the US Military term,“D-Day”?

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the day Allied forces in WWII invaded Normandy. It just occurred to me that I have nothing better than guesses for what the "D" actually stands for, and my ...
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3answers
65 views

What is the difference between “universal” and “generic”?

I hear lots of time the words universal and generic being used in similar contexts (especially in software engineering) - what is the difference between them?
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1answer
54 views

Origin of 'acle' ending in words [closed]

What is the origin and meaning of the acle ending in words like oracle, debacle, tabernacle, miracle, spectacle. Or are there more than one explanation/meaning here?
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1answer
35 views

Origin of the word Waddy and how it came to mean “unappealing, unattractive.”

From the first decade of the 20th century and up till the 1940s, the word waddy was a popular word meaning unappealing and unattractive. Can anyone help me better understand this word and it's origin? ...
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2answers
115 views

Where did the 1920s slang word “grungy” (meaning “envious”) originate, if the modern word “grungy” (meaning “dingy”) doesn't appear until 1965?

I've heard grungy used to mean envious in old motion pictures and books. Here is one reference, and there are several more on the internet. However, when I researched the etymology of the word grungy ...
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Is it right to say “my curiosity was intrigued by that strange symbol”?

Technically, it seems wrong as "intrigue" by itself means "to arouse the curiosity or interest of", but I see plenty of articles and books all over the internet with that usage. Please enlighten!
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Rag and Razz--slang for teasing/ridiculing--which came first and what's the etymology of the words?

Hopefully everyone understands to razz and to rag as meaning to tease/ridicule on account of I don't have anything specific to reference. I'm curious to know which word came first and why both ...
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1answer
69 views

Why does “mash me a fin” mean loan me/give me five dollars?

I've heard mash me a fin used before and understood it to mean "loan me five dollars"; however, I don't understand why mash me a fin means loan me five dollars. The only example I could find of it was ...
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39 views

Does it make sense to apply the quality of “Identicality” to one or multiple objects?

I'm writing a script which involves the comparison of two objects. I keep finding myself referring to this sort of test as an "identicality" check. From my preliminary research, "identicality" does ...