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

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Why is the conflict in the UK Labour Party described by some as the “chicken coup”?

In the current conflict in the UK Labour Party, some are using the phrase Chicken Coup: Morning Star: Chicken Coup rebels are running out of room David Graeber in The Guardian: As the rolling ...
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70 views

What is the derivation of “skinny malink”?

But despite my wife’s insistence, everyone knows it is more properly skinny merrink. I don’t care what Oxford English says! Oxford Dictionaries Online offers the following for skinnymalinky (and ...
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1answer
84 views

Where does “get-go” come from?

Where does the compound word "get-go", as in the phrase "right from the get-go" come from? None of the dictionary definitions I've seen try to explain it, and the Etymology Dictionary doesn't even ...
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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 ...
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What's the first known use of 'Crabs in a Barrel'

I'm looking for the first known use of the phrase to describe human behavior, i.e. Pulling successful people back down to crowd level.
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What's the origin of this vulgar internet slang term?

The word fuckboy seems to have materialized from the aether somewhat recently and I can't get a grasp on what it's supposed to mean or where it came from. I've heard one suggestion that it originated ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “great minds think alike”?

Upon using the phrase "great minds think alike" in chat today, I was informed that it is really a shortened version of "Great minds think alike, small minds rarely differ" or "Great minds think alike, ...
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Etymology of the use of “Drive” to refer to a digital storage medium

When did the word "drive" begin to be used to refer to a digital storage medium (e.g. disc drive, hard drive, USB drive), and why was this term selected?
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Origin and correctness of “ain’t no”?

In contemporary American English usage, I come across sentences like: I ain’t got no money. Ain’t no man like him. Saying ain’t no sounds incorrect to me because it is a double ...
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What’s so floppy about floppy disks?

While reading through Etymology of the use of "Drive" to refer to a digital storage medium and its various mentions of floppy disks, it occurred to me that, while drive is in origin a ...
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What is the origin of the term “ginger” for red-headed people?

I'd like to know the etymology of the word "ginger" in reference to red-headed people. In particular, if "ginger" in this context is related to the plant root used in cooking, I'd like to know how ...
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Why is taking a side street called a “rat run”?

I stumbled upon this expression for the first time while doing some research for an answer, and I have to admit I love it! An explanation of rat running/ a rat run is as follows "Rat running/ A ...
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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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How or why did “sock” come to mean “punch”?

I see that sock as an article of clothing is derived from Latin soccus for slipper. But, how did it also become a synonym for "a punch" or "to punch"?
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Why is the action of removing a digital file named “Delete”?

After reading these questions: Difference between "delete" and "remove" How much use did the word 'delete' get before the technological boom? Delete or Remove (ell.SE) ...
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Etymology of “marketing:” how/when did it change meaning? [closed]

The best etymology I could find says the definition of marketing has changed like this: 1560s, "buying and selling," verbal noun from market (v.). Meaning "produce bought at a market" is from ...
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Etymology of “at large”

The killer is still at large. Where does the meaning of at large (not captured; free) come from? Besides being big I know that large means also wide in range and involving many things. Is there any ...
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Where did the term “strawberry blonde” come from?

The term strawberry blonde refers to a person having reddish-blonde hair, or the color of the hair, usually used specifically for females (thus blonde and not blond). When checking a couple ...
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Is 'deuce' (tennis) a corruption of the French phrase 'à deux de jeu'?

The scoring system of tennis is somewhat arcane and the origins are not well understood. It is likely tennis derives from game played in medieval France in which a clock face was used to keep score. ...
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Why “pastime” but not “passtime”?

pastime n. An activity that occupies one's spare time pleasantly: Sailing is her favorite pastime. [TFD] Etymonline says that it is from pass + time: late 15c., passe tyme "recreation, ...
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What's the etymology of 'of' after verbs?

(TL;DR) While reading about preposition of on OED (eg avail of, enquire of), I encountered a possible explanation: quoted below, OED claims that the postverbal of originates from the genitive case, ...
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Difference between homo sapiens and homo sapiens sapiens? [closed]

I know the Latin homo means "human being" or "man", while sapiens means "wise". So, homo sapiens means "wise man." What does our subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens, mean? Is it, "wise man who knows?"
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When did men start to lose their “virginity”?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word virgin came from 2 languages: Anglo-French and Old French virgine "virgin; Virgin Mary" From Latin virginem (nominative virgo) "maiden,...
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Origin of “Log” / “To Log” [closed]

I've always wondered what it the origin of the word log (as in "a log file") and the verb to log (as in "The server logged this event in the event journal"), in the computer science context. Is there ...
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What is the origin of the expression “to twig to something”?

Oddly enough, the OED (1971 Compact Edition) has no entry for twig to, only for twig something: twig v4 slang or colloq. [Origin unascertained] [...] b. To become aware of by seeing; to ...
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What is the origin of “rings a bell”?

Where does the expression "rings a bell" come from? e.g. Bob: Have we met before? Geoff: Well, your face rings a bell.
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What is the origin of the term “cooling glass” as the term for sunglasses in Indian English?

I live in India, and in the region where I live, I have never heard the term "sunglasses" used while speaking English. The term used here is "cooling glass" (in singular.) The term gets used quite a ...
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Origin of the term “fat chance”

The phrase "fat chance" can be used as a way of sarcastically describing the impossibility of something, but where did it originate from? I've googled it several times, and it always comes up with the ...
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Unexpected Google Ngram for “wifi” [closed]

If we look at the word "internet", we can see that it was virtually unused until around 1990. Next, if we look at the word "wifi" we can see that there was a huge jump in around 2000. My question is ...
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What is the origin of the word 'aphotic'? Is there a noun meaning “the state of being aphotic”?

Some adjectives ending in -ic are derived from nouns. For example, hyperbolic is derived from hyperbole, and parabolic is derived from parabola. Aphotic is an adjective meaning "lightless; dark" (...
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Preservation of the en- prefix form of Latin negative prefix in-, in enemy & enmity

The en- in enemy is a prefix meaning "not": the origin is Latin inimicus, from in- + amicus — a "not friend" or an "unfriend" (Online Etymology Dictionary—enemy). The Latin in- changed to en- when ...
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Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
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What is the future for the Word *“Womyn”*? [closed]

The Word "womyn" has an interesting and debated history. It has become ever more pertinent since it's creation. My question is: Does "womyn" have a future?
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Is Jutland so-called because the region it describes 'juts out' into the ocean?

I know that 'Jutland', a part of Denmark, comes from the Danish 'Jylland', which describes the same region. But was that name just invented at random, or does it come from the verb 'jut', as the land ...
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What is the origin of “A cat in hell's chance”

What is the origin of the phrase: "A cat in hell's chance"? I understand it to mean "not a chance", but it seems a very curious saying and I wonder how it originated. e.g. Bob: Do you ...
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Origin of the word “shill” (“shillaber”)

I was recently looking up word origins for various types of tricksters, in honor of April Fool's Day. Interestingly, I couldn't find much about the word "shill" other than that its origin was around ...
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Knock me over with a feather

Where does the expression "you could have knocked me over with a feather" come from? My students had never heard it when I used it in class the other day.
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Etymology for “petrichor”

It means "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather" according to my Oxford Dictionary of English. But if it is broken down or traced, what ...
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Where does “on one's last legs” come from?

To be on one's last legs means to be worn out, tired, run down, and ready to die or otherwise cease working. Some examples I've found are Grandfather is on his last legs. He'll be on his way to ...
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Is it good to leave things out on the pitch?

Started re-watching The West Wing recently, and came across the phrase "leave it all out on the field": Everyone's walking around here like we're finished. We have 365 more days… For both of us, ...
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Where does the suffix “-tine” come from?

Where does the suffix -tine come from? For e.g., Ovaltine, Creatine, etc. all have a -tine suffix. What is the meaning connoted to the noun attached?
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What game did “game changer” originally refer to?

Game changer is an expression , often used in business contexts, to refer to: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. Origin ...
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Why the “top” in “top hat”?

I've always wondered why it's called top hat, and not just a hat, or some other word, which would better describe this specific type of hats. I mean, all hats are placed on "top", right? Could it ...
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Source of “miscarriage of justice”

What may be the source of the phrase "miscarriage of justice"? I keep hearing this phrase being used for cases where an innocent has been convicted. While the phrase paints quite a picture, I'm not ...
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How did “gesundheit” work its way into common American usage?

Once upon a time I was hanging out with a fairly international group of people. Somebody sneezed, and one of the Americans reflexively responded, "Gesundheit!" A German in the group seized on the ...
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“Dead Rubber” definitive etymology

What's the etymology of the phrase dead rubber? Googling, I see references to diverse sports as well as a reference in attributes it to some obscure bridge reference. I do not understand it. Edited ...
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Origin of the phrase “go west” (to die)

I was curious, what is the origin of the phrase "to go west" or "to pass into the west" (as in the sense of to die)?
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Was “tickle (someone's) fancy” originally a double entendre?

Recently, I asked users to provide modern-day equivalents of idioms and expressions that contained the words fancy and tickle. The question is titled Whatever tickles their fancy in the US? I was ...
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Why is “have” pronounced with a “short a” sound?

As far as I'm aware, every word of the form consonant-a-v-e has a long a sound - cave, Dave, fave, gave, lave, nave, pave, rave, save and wave - every word except have. What is the story behind this ...
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What is the origin and meaning of “coyote ugly”?

I overheard two scoundrels discussing one of their dates as being "coyote ugly".