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

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Why did the word, “shellac” come to mean “to defeat completely” as a U.S. slang?

There were clamorous arguments about appropriateness or inappropriateness of Mr. Donald Trump’s comment, “Hillary Clinton – former first lady, former U.S. senator, former secretary of state, woman got ...
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“Birds and bees” origins

"The birds and the bees" is a euphemistic way of referring to sex. As in, a parent 'telling their son about the birds and the bees' would be giving them "the talk" about sex. Growing up, I got ...
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Who coined the term “baseball diplomacy” (and when)?

President Obama's recent visit to Cuba has prompted some news sources to dust off the term "baseball diplomacy" (one example here). According to a paper I found on the topic, "the ... term ...
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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 ...
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Where did “Pew! Pew!” come from?

To elaborate, I'm talking about the "sound effect" that people often make when imitating gunfire. Eg. "Pew! Pew! I shot you Billy, you're dead now!" I suppose this developed from the "Bang! ...
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Origin of “moke,” used in the mildly derogatory term “you lil' moke”

Does anyone know the origins of this term? I have only managed to track one reference to it. I heard it from my Granny who was Romani. The Online Etymology Dictionary has this short entry: moke ...
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where did the phrase “I'll get back to you” originate?

Can't find any info on the origin of the idiom or phrase "I'll get back to you on that".
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“light at the end of the tunnel” earliest occurence

I could ask this question on German.SE and probably a number of different indoeuropean SE sites as well, but here's my question: When looking at various online resources the metaphor "to see light at ...
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Hashtag vs hash/tag

Recently, I was listening to a person state "I know X has happened because I wrote the code for it". I wanted to call them out for citation in the vein of pics or it didn't happen. Since I was asking ...
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Party Pooper meaning and origin? [duplicate]

There's a song from the 40s or 50s, I think, and the words are "every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you... party pooper, party pooper... I would like the words, origin and/or meaning.
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What is the origin of the phrase, “up for it”?

I was just reading something that suggested a very, umm, risqué interpretation of the phrase, "up for it". It made me wonder where and when this phrase actually originated. Does anyone know? Collins ...
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Do roman numeral symbols have names?

Symbols generally seem to have their own names. For example, # is referred to as an 'octothorpe'. It seems reasonable that roman numerals, like I, V and X should have their own name, that is ...
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How does the prefix 'hyper-' explain 'hyperopia' (farsightedness)?

[ Etymonline : ] "very acute vision," 1861, Modern Latin, from hyper- "over, exceedingly, to excess" + Greek ops "eye" (see eye (n.)), Latin with abstract noun ending. [...] To what does ...
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Origin of phrase “mad as a March hare”

According to Phrase Finder the expression "mad as a March hare" dates back to the 16th century and refers to the breeding season of hares. Is there evidence of a different or earlier origin of this ...
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How does the word “enjoin” come to have two opposite meanings?

By the Cambridge Dictionary To ​legally ​forbid or ​stop something by ​order of a ​court Enjoin also ​means to ​order or ​strongly ​encourage someone to do something By the Oxford ...
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Origin and evolution of the term 'amen corner'

Geneva Smitherman, Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner (1994) provides this entry for the term "amen corner": AMEN CORNER 1) In the Traditional Black Church (TBC), ...
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Is the word assassinator legitimate?

I realize assassin is shorter and easier, but is assassinator a legitimate word? Is there any semantic difference between the two? I realize in a historical context assassin can be used to refer to a ...
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Origin of the word “sketchy” [closed]

The definition of the Informal word "Sketchy" is as follows: Sketchy [skech-ee] Adjective Informal. unreliable or unsafe: That street looks pretty sketchy. ...
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“Slay” and “Entertain”

I have recently been shown that "Slay" can also mean "Entertain", however this seems rather odd to me. "You slay me, you really do." I have two main questions: In what reasonable context would ...
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The im- prefix in the word immigrate [closed]

So I know that, generally speaking, the prefix "im-" means "not" or "the opposite of" which is fine in words like immobile, impolite, impossible etc. However, while helping my wife with her uni work I ...
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“Gear Up” Etymology

Does "Gear up" come to you as more of a "Put on your equipment" image or a "Put the gears (with teeth) together and get ready/ start going" image? Both sense of "Gear" appeared at around the same ...
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History of the expression 'Liberal Wonk' [closed]

Anyone know the history of the expression 'Liberal Wonk' I imagine it comes from the wording 'Political Wonk' which I've heard of in the past but I'm not sure if it's a positive expression, neutral, ...
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Best form for language [closed]

I would like to compile lists of activities, things, actions etc. that are relevant in an engineering context. A common rule is to use a verb-object form when creating lists in an attempt to present ...
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A reality check on “reality check”

Reality check is a very common expression that refers to: a corrective confronting of reality, in order to counteract one's expectations, prejudices, or the like. (Origin 1970-1975 - ...
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Climbing the wall of worry.

Wall of worry is an informal expression often used in financial jargon to refer to: a market uptrend that occurs when there is significant uncertainty about its sustainability. For example, ...
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When did “brick-and-mortar” become a set phrase?

Brick and mortar (also bricks and mortar or B&M): in its simplest usage describes the physical presence of a building(s) or other structure. The term brick-and-mortar business is often ...
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How did it happen that there are two different words “insulation” and “isolation” for virtually the same concept? [closed]

This question is not about the meaning of and the difference between the words insulation and isolation, it has been already answered here: What's the difference between "insulated" and ...
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Why is it called a World “cup”? [closed]

I've noticed a similar trend (dishes, bowls, etc). There are other non-utensil words (like trophy) but I'm curious if there is some history behind why the usage of the word "cup".
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Is the term “tooltip” for the upvote and downvote button on StackExchange accurate?

It just occurred to me that the term tooltip used for SE's upvote and downvote button might be ambiguous and misleading. Doesn't tip here mean advice? Whenever I hover my mouse over an icon in Word ...
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boeuf (Fr. slang for “big theatre hit”) = boffo?

Reading my French slang dictionary I see that a big hit (as for a movie) is a "boeuf" and being an ardent reader of Terry Pratchett where "boffo" is often used as something like "glitz" but also can ...
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The origin of the derogatory usage of Guido

Guido: is a slang term, often derogatory, for a working-class urban Italian American. The guido stereotype is multi-faceted. Originally, it was used as a demeaning term for Italian ...
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Trump and Trumpery

Reading "Trumpery - A Twitter meme caused lookups to spike" on M-W got me wondering about Trump and Trumpery. I meant about the words itself and not about candidate Donald Trump's qualities. Trump ...
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Does the word 'fascism' come from emulating the Romans? [closed]

I saw this quote: A lot of Fascism was based on emulating the Romans, whose ruins are famous. It's right there in the name, taken from fasces. For context, this was a reply to the observation: ...
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Where does the phrase “wild horses won't keep me away” come from

I've heard the phrase "wild horses won't keep me away", as is if wild horses were dragging me away, I wouldn't be kept from going where I was going. Where does this come from?
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Etymology of “Run of Text”?

This is somewhat of a stackoverflow cross-over. In WPF programming, there is something called a Run. It is "intended to contain a run of formatted or unformatted text". Is "run of text" a phrase that ...
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The Word Bastard - Origin and Meaning [closed]

How offensive is the word Bastard? And when did it become more of an offense than a term used for child out of wedlock?
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What is “pishantosh”?

I found the word in Heinlein's "Friday": I apologized, saying that there was no excuse for me to be sleepy since it was still early evening by the zone where I had started the day. Janet said ...
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Is 'stewer' a proper English word?

My mother used the word 'stewer' to refer to the pot that you cook stew in, but I have only rarely seen it used this way. Can you tell me what the origin is of this usage?
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What is the origin of “smell a rat”? [closed]

So an idiom, "to smell a rat," means to suspect trickery or deception. Where does that come from?
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What is the word origin for “ortho-,” “meta-,” and “para-” in chemistry?

The prefix "ortho-" means straight or right; "meta-" means beyond or after; "para-" means beside or along. How, then, did ortho-, meta- and para- come to refer to the carbon positions one, two, and ...
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Does the use of the symbol slash for “or” come from the use of “|” in computer programming? [closed]

Does the rise of acceptance in "/" for "or" come from the use of "|" in computer programming (For "OR")? If not is there any correlation?
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Do any other words make “barbeque” look like the standard spelling of the word?

Before today, I thought that "barbeque" was the standard spelling ("barbecue" is more standard) and that it was derived from French (it's derived from Spanish). Are there any other words in English ...
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What semantic notions inverted the meaning of 'with' (from opposition to association)?

[Wiktionary :] From Middle English with, from Old English wiþ ‎(“against, opposite, toward”), a shortened form of wiþer, from Proto-Germanic *wiþr- ‎(“against”), from Proto-Indo-European *wi-tero- ...
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Possible meaning for 'long' in 'not long for this world'

I have come across the phrase 'not long for this world' in many English novels, but it has always struck me as odd, as if a word or part of the sentence were missing. I visited numerous websites but ...
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What is the etymology of the word “gong” in reference to medals?

This came up in a crossword and apparently 'gong' is British slang for a military decoration such as a medal. However I couldn't find any information on how this came to be by searching google and ...
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The different uses of “-ing” in english [closed]

This may be a bad question, but I have noticed that the suffix, "-ing" is used in mainly three different ways (there may be more, I just haven't noticed them). The first way being the most common ...
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When did egregious become something bad? (archaic was something good) [duplicate]

The archaic meaning of egregious is something good. Now it means the opposite. When did this occur and is there any reasoning on why this occurred?
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Etymology of “nine-edge” and “twelve-edge”

Leafing through A Fortran Coloring Book (Kaufmann, MIT Press, 1978) I came across this passage, describing punch cards:- There are twelve rows that go across each card. For reasons known only to ...
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What's the origin behind the phrase “assume room temperature” which means “to die”?

I stumbled upon this phrase in Urban Dictionary and was rather taken by surprise to know that it is a slang expression for a person who has died (or will die in the immediate future.) Medical ...
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Term for appending “-esque” or “-ish” to a a word to form an adjective

What is the name of the term for when someone transforms a noun into an adjective by appending -esque or -ish to the end of the noun? I see this in cases where an appropriate adjective doesn't readily ...