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

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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 ...
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verbatim vs verbatum

I know that verbatim has a Latin origin, but why is it not spelled verbatum? English does not seem to have many Latin words that end in ‑im.
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How did “tongue-in-cheek” get its current meaning?

A statement is said to be tongue-in-cheek if it is not to be taken seriously. How did this meaning come into vogue? Where did it originate from?
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Is “scurryfunge” a new word?

Recently I found the following definition for the word "scurryfunge": (Verb) Old English; to rush around cleaning when company is on their way over. Usage: I scurryfunge when I see my ...
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How did “out, away” + “to play” combine to mean 'elude'?

elude (v.) = 1530s, "delude, make a fool of," from Latin eludere "finish play, win at play; escape from or parry (a blow), make a fool of, mock, frustrate; win from at play," from ...
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“The bigger, the better”

What is the function of "the" in these kinds of phrases? It cannot be the definite article. Can someone analyze this? It's common and definitely standard but seems to elude any grammatical ...
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What does 'come' mean in this context? [duplicate]

BIONDELLO: Why, is it not news, to hear of Petruchio's coming? BAPTISTA: Is he come? BIONDELLO: Why, no, sir. BAPTISTA: What then? BIONDELLO: He is coming. BAPTISTA: When ...
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How did the slang meaning of “flog” come about?

I've searched multiple dictionaries and Etymonline but the only origin for "flog" that I can find is: 1670s, slang, perhaps a schoolboy shortening of L. flagellare "flagellate." This clearly ...
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'want' vs 'want for' vs 'want of'

[OED:] want {verb} = 1. a. intr. To be lacking or missing; not to exist; not to be forthcoming; to be deficient in quantity or degree. In early use const. with dative or to. rare since the 17th ...
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Where does the phrase “get crackin'” come from?

"There's a lot of work to be done, so we'd better get crackin'" I've often used this expression, but I have no idea what we might have been cracking, originally? Any insight?
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The etymology of “Adam” has anything to do with “Adom,” hence “dominion”?

My Sunday school teacher once talked about the origin of the word "Adam" being associated with "Adom", which takes on the meaning of "dominion". Biblically speaking, I think this unconventional ...
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How did 'so' mean 'so that'?

so, adv. and conj. = 24. so .. that [=] in such a way, to such an extent, that 25. a. With omission of that, = sense 24. 26. a. so (that) , in limiting sense: On condition that, provided that, ...
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How did 'that' mean 'so that'?

that, conj. = [4.] b. Simply, without antecedent: = so that. arch. Per OED, the above meaning equates that to so that, an equalisation used by masterly writers (ranging from c1175 to 1868) like: ...
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I've said it once, I've said it twice, I've said it a thousand times: English doesn't make sense

I had a student moaning at me because I insisted he say twice and not "two times". And he asked "But why?" to which I replied, "Because that's how you say it!" However on reflection, his question was ...
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“Stick it in the boot.” “Er, don't you mean the trunk?”

Does anyone know the etymological history or the reason behind the different names that British and American speakers use to refer to the automobile's largest storage receptacle, or more plainly, the ...
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Why do you “let out the clutch” when you technically “engage” it?

In a simplified view, there's a motor and a gearbox and when they both are connected the gearbox makes the motor work. You only can shift the gear when both motor and gearbox are disconnected. For ...
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Semantically, how does 'before' differ from 'till'?

till {prep. [here] conj., and adv.} Etymology: [..] Probably originally a noun * til = Old English till fixed point, station [...] hence the const. with genitive: prop. ‘with the ...
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“Fillet” or “filet”

My significant other asked me today whether or not she should use a fillet or filet of steak in a recipe. What is the difference between fillet and filet, and the history behind these words? Is there ...
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Adjective form of the verb despise?

Saw the title of the movie where minions come out - "Despicable Me" - I was curious, as despicable has the suffix -able, what would be its verb form? Then, I thought, is it de-spice? Which made me ...
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Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
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Why is it “how come” and not “why come”? [duplicate]

When someone asks "How come?", the person answering actually answers the question "why?". "Why?" and "How?" are very different questions. I was wondering how "how come?" came to be an alternative way ...
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Etymology of “If I had my druthers…”

I understand the phrase, "If I had my druthers..." to mean, "If I had my way," as in: If I had my druthers, we'd all have Mondays off and work a half day on Saturdays and Sundays. ...
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Where did the expression “my two cents” come from?

I've seen "$.02", "2¢", "just my two cents", etc, similar in meaning to IMHO, except usually appended to the main text. As the Ngram shows, it is only "two cents" that is popular in this usage: ...
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When did Americans begin to use “practice” instead of “practise”?

I am writing an historical novel, and I try to have my characters speaking and writing as everybody did at the time. But I don't know when we in the US began to use practice as a verb instead of ...
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Why is φύσις often used for “body” in today’s English?

The Greek root φύσις means natural or of nature, but in present-day English it is often used as if it meant bodily or of the body: a physical examination physiotherapy physique Why is the root ...
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What is the origin of “breaking bad”?

Wiktionary gives the meaning of "break bad" but does not mention about the origin: 1. (colloquial, of an event or of one's fortunes) To go wrong; to go downhill. 2. (colloquial, chiefly ...
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What does “mphm” mean? [closed]

I'm reading The Good, The Bad and The Smug by Tom Holt. It's a British-style fantasy/comedy in the Hitchhiker's tradition, and is good so far (page 89). But, something is throwing me: often a ...
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Does “asking” as a noun have much, say, historic use?

There's a commonplace form in AmE, "as per your asking"... (Note this question by a rightly confused non-native speaker.) It occurred to me that "asking" makes a beautiful noun. (Particularly if ...
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What connects and explains the many meanings of 'yet'?

Source: An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology, An Introduction (2008) by Anatoly Liberman [p 224:] 1. O[ld] E[nglish] gıet (gıt, gyt, get), gı¤eta, ge¤ta, and their Middle English ...
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What is a “spring lobster?”

I recently stumbled upon the phrase spring lobster. Never having heard of such a phrase, I tried to find a definition of it online, but nothing definitive surfaced (although an entire industry does ...
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Where did the word 'golliwog' come from?

I am aware that the term is considered offensive. And I know that it refers to soft faced black dolls. But before that character was introduced, did 'golliwog' have meaning? I mean was it made up, or ...
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Why do you “cut” a check?

It's not the end of the deal, right? It's not just you cut a check and you walk away. In this sentence, why does one say "cut" a check? How and when did this comes to be? Is it a popular idiom ...
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About “dumb” luck

Pure luck, blind luck and dumb luck, are expressions used to refer to: complete luck; nothing but plain luck. I have no skill. I won by pure luck. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary) ...
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Why is it spelled “curiosity” instead of “curiousity?”

I have been spelling the word "curiosity" with a u, "curiousity," my whole life, and only today was Chrome's spellcheck bold enough to highlight my lifelong error. I have two questions: The root ...
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Why does “ow” have two different sounds

Why is it that the "ow" in now makes the aʊ sound while "ow" in snow makes the oʊ sound? Has this always been, was it spelled differently and then changed, or was it spelled this way but the sound ...
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What is the origin for meaning of “Wild-card”?

Please go through this excerpt from The Tales of Kasi by Madhira Subbanna Deekshitulu: 'Kasyam maranam mukti', goes the sanskrit saying, which means dying in Kasi leads to liberation. Hindus ...
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“Whip” in British politics

In Britain (and perhaps former British colonies) the term "whip" is used in a number of different ways in politics. The following article, in particular, talks about "losing" or "removal" of the whip. ...
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What do rodents do?

I wonder if there is a English verb to express the way rodents (rats, mice, etc.) bite on something they are trying to eat or bite. In Portuguese we have the verb roer which comes from roedor which ...
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What is the UK-English Equivalent for “band-aid?”

What is the UK-English equivalent for "band-aid?" That is, the bandage one puts over cuts and the like?
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The origin of condom

Regarding the etymology of the term 'condom', Etymonline makes two interesting but weak assumptions: 1) 1706, traditionally named for a British physician during reign of Charles II (a story ...
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The origin of the term half assed

Does this slang originate from half asked, since the difinition means exactly that. You only did half what I asked you.
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Why is the past tense of “may”, “might”?

Why is the past tense of may, might? When you see other past forms of auxiliary verbs, they usually have -ould, like should, could, and would. Unlike other forms, the past tense of may is might not ...
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Origin of “piggyback?”

The word "piggyback," or "to piggyback" means to carry someone on your back. What is its origin and why is it a pig?
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When did television become known as the 'tube'?

I searched Google's "YouTube", it seems like "tube" is a nickname for "television". So, when did television get this nickname, and why? EDIT I have once considered tube as TV cube, does it make ...
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“Horicontal” etymology—mistaken foreign spelling of horizontal?

I came across the word "horicontal" in a technical paper. The context made it clear that its meaning was effectively identical to "horizontal". I looked into it, suspecting a misspelling. I found ...
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What's the origin of “Copycat”?

I called one of my friends "copycat" the other day, and suddenly thought about it. Why is it a "cat"? Where did this expression come from? Does anyone have any information regarding how this phrase ...
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What was the original pronunciation of 'Zounds'?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the exclamation 'Zounds!' comes from the phrase 'God's wounds'. This seems to suggest that the original pronunciation rhymed with 'wounds' rather than ...
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Origins of “from the outside” (to mean from the beginning)

I came across a sentence that went something like this: I wish I'd known about this from the outside - I would have done a better job. I've heard "from the outside" used like this before a ...
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What does “nuclear orange” mean?

And where does this expression come from? I have tried looking it up and looking up nuclear separately but haven't found anything useful. Edit: I've encountered this expression in the following ...
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From Soup to Nuts

I know that the phrase means "from one end to the other". Though I know many dinners that start with a soup, I know none that end with nuts. Hence the question - where does this phrase originate?