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

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“Lifting a ban” — why does “lifting” mean “removing”?

In all other cases "moving something up" means creating or increasing something, like in "rising concern" or "erecting obstacles". At the same time "lifting a ban" means effectively removing the ban. ...
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Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about ...
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Are there any other English syllables without vowels, besides “thm”?

As far as I knew*, all English syllables have a vowel sound and all of them are spelled accordingly, except for "thm" as in rhythm and algorithm. Are there any others? And are there any etymological ...
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The history of the phrase, “to drop the ball.” [closed]

How (if at all) does the phrase "to drop the ball" relate to the Times Square dropping of the midnight ball on New Year's Eve? If they are unrelated, where does the phrase come from?
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Why is “biblical” the only proper adjective to not use upper case?

Generally, when an adjective is derived from a proper noun, the adjective also has a capital initial, hence Googleable, Mancunian, British, and Shavian. (In contrast, verbs are not given capitals, ...
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Origin of “toffee-nosed”

What's the origin of toffee-nosed (snobbish, disdainful, stuck-up)? Is it related to "toff" (upper-class)?
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How did 'ply' evolve into these 4 different definitions?

ply = {with object} 1. Work steadily with (a tool) 2. {no object, with adverbial of direction} (Of a vessel or vehicle) travel regularly over a route, typically for commercial purposes ...
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Why is “bloody hell” offensive or shocking?

It seems to me that if one describes hell as 'bloody', that is simply describing one of the properties you'd expect of it. So, why is 'bloody hell' used as an offensive or shocking phrase?
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How does 'contingent' mean 'subject to chance'? [closed]

contingent = {adjective} 1. Subject to chance Etymonline: late 14c., from Old French contingent or directly from Latin contingentem (nominative contingens) "happening, touching," present ...
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How does 'to deport' mean 'to conduct oneself' ?

2. deport {verb} {archaic} = Conduct oneself in a specified manner: deport (v.1): late 15c., "to behave," from Old French deporter "behave, deport (oneself)" (12c.), also with a wide range of ...
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Education begins at home

What (from where or whom) is the origin of the phrase, "Education begins at home?" I've tried a general "google" search but have not found any clear attribution yet. It is a basic statement many ...
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Etymology of 'genus'

Etymonline: (plural genera), 1550s as a term of logic, [3.] "kind or class of things" (biological sense dates from c.1600), [2.] from Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; ...
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Why is heavy machinery called “plant”?

A discussion of machinery today set me wondering why it is called "plant"? Is there some metaphor I am missing out on?
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Why and when did 'hendiadys' change from its original 'hendiadyoin' spelling?

The expression 'hen dia dyoin' was not used by Greek grammarians, but it is frequent among Latin writers. Why did it come into English usage in this corrupted form? Can it be traced through English ...
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Why is a calzone called calzone?

I was just researching its etymology and turns out that it comes from calceus the Latin for shoe! How did Latin for shoe end up as the Italian (and subsequently, English) for a snack? They seem so ...
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Do “to pony up” and “to pungle” come from the same Latin root?

For to pony up, etymonline.com says 1824, in pony up "to pay," said to be from slang use of L. legem pone to mean "money" (first recorded 16c.), because this was the title of the Psalm for March ...
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Did “didactic” go through Latin before arriving in English or did it come directly from Greek?

Did the word didactic go through Latin before arriving in English? How could it not have? Yet Websters says it came to English directly from Greek! I think they are wrong. There is a Latin word, ...
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How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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Position of stress in English words derived from New Latin

In another thread on this site a question was asked about the pronunciation of the word Caribbean; that discussion focused on the position of the accent. Cognate forms of the word Caribbean have ...
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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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What is the origin of “Boxing Day”?

OED gives the definition and a quote from 1833 as the earliest reference as: The first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various ...
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Why is the tendon named after Achilles?

There are two main or obvious possible reasons: Achilles died of a wound to the heel, from a poisoned arrow shot by Paris/Alexander. This is sometimes fabled to be the only spot where he could be ...
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“Where do you get off…?” Origin

I remembered a phrase this morning "Where do you get off...?" (last entry), which is similar to "Who do you think you are...?" or "What gives you the right to...?" or "How dare you...?". Due to its ...
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How did the spelling of 'mien' evolve?

I ask only about mien's definition of 'A person’s look or manner', and not the Yao people. OED: Etymology: Probably a merging of two words of distinct origins: (i) shortened < demean n.; ...
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Origin of using “left” as something we still have [closed]

People express a quantity of something they still have (but is finding away) by using the word "left". Time left: 2 hours Where does this usage originates from. If one depicts a timeline, it ...
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How did 'wan' evolve from 'lacking lustre' to 'pale' ?

I wish to delve into the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are some right ways of interpreting the noun 'lustre', so that the etymology ...
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“Tommyknockers”: why the “tommy” prefix in AmE?

From The Tommyknockers by Stephen King: Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at the door. I want to run, don't know if I can, 'cause I'm so afraid of ...
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What is the origin of surnames based on color?

I understand the background of names such as Baker, Carver and Hammer but, what are the origins of names such as Black, Blue, Brown, Green and White? Are they based on some common structure or do they ...
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The history of “softcore”

Over lunch recently, my colleagues and I were discussing the term "hardcore," and speculating on its origin. Our speculations evolved into "What has either a hard or soft core, where the hard cored ...
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Is my name English? [closed]

I have a question regarding my name and English language. My family's last name is Maiorana and were from Yorkshire (or so I thought). The other day my new girlfriend asked where my name was from and ...
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Origin of “kettle of fish”

What is the origin of the phrase "kettle of fish"? e.g. It's was a good film. But the sequel is a different kettle of fish. It seems to simply mean "thing", but in a fun and witty way. But I ...
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Where did “doggy dog world” come from?

This Ngram shows that people were happily saying "dog eat dog world" until the 1980s, when "doggy dog world" abruptly came into use. What might have accounted for this? (It was well before Snoop ...
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Is “kip” Chinese in origin?

While looking up the history of kip, I realized that the information about its origins is rather scant. The noun and verb to kip in BrEng is often said when a person wishes to take a short sleep or a ...
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“At the drop of a hat”?

Where does the figure of speech "at the drop of a hat" come from? I understand the phrase means "Immediately; instantly; on the slightest signal or urging. (Alludes to the dropping of a hat as a ...
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What is the etymology of “run like a dog”?

I've used the phrase "runs like a dog" to mean that my car is on its last legs and can't, sometimes, run anywhere near as fast as a dog can. Can anyone shed light on where this meaning of the phrase ...
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Etymology of “div”

Acting like a div yesterday:- a stupid or foolish person I started to wonder how this term of abuse came about. Urban Dictionary has a quaint tale:- Actually originates from prison slang in ...
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'insidious' : How does 'sit in' mean 'gradual, subtle' ? [closed]

insidious {adjective} = Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects: Etymonline: 1540s, from Middle French insidieux (15c.) or directly from Latin insidiosus ...
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What is the etymology of “yonks”?

How did we come to say "yonks" meaning a long period of time? "I haven't been to the cinema in yonks." Etymonline has nothing and Oxford dictionaries has: noun: British informal: a very ...
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Origin of “janky” as in, “This setup is janky.”

The term "janky" is common in specific gaming communities and refers to using tactics that are bad or subpar. A specific example from Reddit: So Reynad just climbed about 800 ranks in legend with ...
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did “born and bred” originally have different meaning?

Internet searching suggests the phrase "born and bred in Boston" means the same thing as "born and raised in Boston." But "bred" is the past-tense of "breed." Might "born and bred in Boston" have ...
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Origin of “the nature of the beast”

The nature of the beast is a well-known phrase or saying which means something like an essential property of the thing, particularly when the property is a vexatious one. For example: I don't like ...
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'remit' {verb} : How does 'send back' mean 'to forward'?

remit {verb} [with object] = 2. Send (money) in payment or as a gift [Synonyms:] send, dispatch, forward, transmit, convey; ... [Etymonline]: late 14c., "to forgive, pardon," from Latin ...
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What is the connection, if any, between 'adapt' and 'adept'?

The English adjective adept originates from the classical Latin adjective adeptus, to describe a person who has obtained knowledge of alchemy, magic and the occult. The verb to adapt would appear ...
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“Shnide”? “Schneid”? Which is it and what's this term's origin?

"Getting off the shnide." (Obviously I'm not sure of the spelling.) It's an expression I hear almost exclusively in sports commentary to indicate a team has finally won a game after a protracted ...
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“hospitality”: does it refer to the guest or the host? [closed]

Is hospitality about being a good guest, or a good host? Or is it a little bit of both? Would it be the act of being a good host or is it different?
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Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
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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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Does our word for [wrist] watch come from the 1735 English Longitude Prize?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson writes in the book Death By Black Hole on page 314: In 1735, the Board of Longitude's challenge was met by a portable, palm-sized clock designed and built by an English ...
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origin of phrase 'stone the crows'

Just as the title says — where, and how, did the phrase 'stone the crows' originate?
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Why is “quadratic” used to describe second power when “quad” means “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as ...