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

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Name for words that are counterparts to each other in some context but not antonyms?

What is the name for words that are contrasting counterparts or near opposites to each other in some context, but are not generally strict antonyms? Some examples with word1 word2 (example context): ...
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“Sport” vs “Sports” Origin

I was recently reading this article on the use of "math" vs. "maths" as a collective noun (Americans use the former, Brits the latter). However, the trend seen in "math/maths" is reversed in ...
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What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
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How did 'decree' evolve from 'to separate'?

What's an intuitive derivation or rationale to help remember the definition? I purpose to burrow below definitions, which I already understand so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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Etymology of “ramp up”?

The idiom "ramp up" is frequently used in English to mean "increase the size/amount of"; for example: The company ramped up its advertising to try and sell more products. What, though, it the ...
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Add the prefix A to various words [closed]

I've seen several threads about the prefix "a" and its various uses. Can we simply add this prefix to change the meaning of words to mean "not"? ie. asymmetrical, apolitical etc. As long as the word ...
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Where did “God helps those who help themselves” originate?

I've always heard it said that "God helps those who help themselves." From a Biblical perspective this doesn't make much sense to me (since I've also heard that we should rely on God for everything). ...
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root words and affixes lead to a limitless vocabulary?

Could anyone explain how a solid knowledge about root words and affixes ( which can alter words meaning presumably ) boosts one's vocabulary? I want to know how it works? I've read somewhere that good ...
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“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
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What's up with 'recapitulates'?

I am puzzled by the the use of the word in the sense of the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". The meaning is taken to be 're-enacts' or 're-creates'. It's entirely different from what I would ...
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Where did “duck, duck, gray duck” come from?

Duck, Duck, Goose is a common children's game but a typical Minnesotan calls the game a slightly different name: Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. I have never talked to anyone outside of Minnesota that knows of ...
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Origins of “tie the knot”

A common symbol in modern weddings it the image of knot. The phrase "tie the knot" as a euphemism for marriage that is also commonly recognized. Where does this originate from?
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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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Why is the term “double-edged sword” used for something that can be favorable and unfavorable?

When something can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences, the term double-edged sword is often used to describe it. Why? Does a double-edged sword have unfavorable consequences? Are ...
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What Is the Origin of the Word “Sherpa”?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Subscription-only says: Sherpa n. a Himalayan person who is often employed to guide people through mountains and carry their equipment Word Origin ...
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What is the origin of the phrase ‘By the by…’?

What is the origin of the phrase 'By the by...'?
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Term or phrase for False etymology explanations

I'll try to make this make sense. I have heard of examples of people who take a word and wrongly explain its origin, usually in a way that makes sense; it is perfectly feasible for the word or phrase ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “grease the skids”?

What is the origin or derivation of the phrase "greasing the skids?" The phrase connotes preparation, in such a way as to make the subsequent activities easier. Definitions are available various ...
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Etymology of “a pride of lions”

Etymonline does not hesitate to assume that "a pride of lions" is the same word as pride, noun of adjective proud. There would be other possibilities, e.g. a connection with Latin praeda (prey). A ...
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Where does 'doofus' (or perhaps 'dufus') come from?

Both Dufus and Doofus seem to be common on the web, so I'm not sure which is the correct spelling, if either. It's kind of a cool word. Do we have any idea where/how it originated?
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intro- vs. intra-

I recently found out that “extrovert” is a misspelling and that it’s actually written extravert. That makes sense, because other words use the same prefix, e.g. extraordinary, extradite, etc., but ...
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Is “glass cannon” a generally recognized phrase?

"Glass cannon" is a popular term in gaming (especially online-gaming), where it refers to a character class that has remarkable offensive power, but has low defense. Urban Dictionary also defines this ...
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How does 'for all that' mean 'in spite of that'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. 1. What part of speech is for all that ? for all that = in spite of that ...
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What does the prefix iso- mean in “isolate”? [closed]

My question is referring to the prefix iso- and its meaning in the word isolate. My question is, if the prefix means equal, how does that make sense in the word isolate?
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How did the word “chunter” come about?

Did it arise from a mixture of chattering and murmuring?
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“Philippines” vs. “Filipino”

Why is Filipino spelled with an F? Philippines is spelled with a Ph. Some have said that it's because in Filipino, Philippines starts with F; but if this is so, why did we only change the beginning of ...
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What is the etymology of “gatefold”?

What does the word "gatefold" mean? Sure, I know what it is (the whole internet is very eager to tell me what it is), but where does it come from? The "gate" part that is, I can guess the "fold" ...
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What does “no love lost” mean and where does it come from?

I have trouble with the idiom "no love lost". I understand that it is used when people are at odds or don't get along, but I don't understand why. Interpreted literally it sounds like there should be ...
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Origin of the phrases “out back” and “out front”?

I'm going through the Song of Ice and Fire books, and although it's mostly written in what appears to be British English, very occasionally Americanisms sneak in. One example that I just noticed is ...
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Why “soft” drink?

Why are soft drinks, such as lemonade etc., called soft drinks?
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History of the phrase “break wind”

The choice of the verb "break" seems a strange choice for the phrase. Does anybody know where this phrase originated?
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The meaning and etymology of the exclamation “Lawdy me!”

What does a speaker mean if he/she exclaims "Lawdy me!"? I noticed this exclamation when I was reading a short story "the Conscience of the Court" by Zora Neale Hurston. There was one brown-skinned ...
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Origin of “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”?

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. - Confucious What is the origin, and evolution, of this popular quote? It has a nice air of pseudo-profundity to it; one problem ...
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Who first coined the term photobomb?

Do anyone have an idea about the exact etymology of this word? Also, would it be correct to use the same word when referring to a live broadcasting on television? Or would the term videobomb be more ...
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What is the origin of “dibs”?

Etymonline has this entry for dibs: Children's word to express a claim on something, 1932, originally U.S., apparently a contraction of dibstone "a knucklebone or jack in a children's game" ...
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Etymology of “hysteresis”

Wikipedia (correctly IMHO) defines hysteresis as the dependence of the output of a system not only on its current input, but also on its history of past inputs. The dependence arises because the ...
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What is the origin of “rat”?

A simple little word for a common little fella. Yet, the origin is unknown (or not?). Both OED and Etymonline are bold enough to say "of uncertain origin"; but, of course, they try to explain the ...
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Origin of golden parachute

noun 1. an employment contract or agreement guaranteeing a key executive of a company substantial severance pay and other financial benefits in the event of job loss caused by the company's being ...
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Where does the phrase “Job Lot” come from?

The phrase "Job Lot" is used in auctions to mean an often assorted quantity of something, for example a "job lot of bicycle parts" could be a load of tyres, wheels, handlebars, frames, chains, etc. I ...
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Origin of 'a rising tide lifts all boats'

'A rising tide lifts all boats' is a saying that has become more and more common in recent decades and is often used in economic and political contexts: The aphorism "a rising tide lifts all ...
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Why are Irish people called “turk” and “turkey”?

Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (edited by John Ayto, John Simpson) lists the below slang words used for Irish people: bog-trotter, harp, Mick, Paddy, Pat, turk, turkey I can guess why these ...
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How does 'notwithstanding' mean 'in spite of'?

notwithstanding = {preposition} In spite of {adverb} = Nevertheless; in spite of this: Etymonline: late 14c., notwiþstondynge, from not + present participle of the verb withstand. A ...
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How did 'to purport' evolve to connote negativity?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. Please beware that I replicate the noun(al) etymology from Etymonline, and not ...
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Where did the phrase “you're welcome” come from?

"You're welcome" as a response to "thank you" makes absolutely no sense. You're welcome to what?
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Etymology of “save” in the meaning of “except”, “but”, “unless”

Why does save also mean other than : but or except "We had no hope save one." except for the fact that : only —used with that but, except —used before a word often taken to be the ...
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How to rationalise the legal definition of 'to procure'?

How can I resolve the contradictions below? What's the right derivation? I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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What is the relation between plastic surgery and plastic? [closed]

Reading some books, I am wondering if there is any connection between plastic surgery and plastic itself? One definition from OED seems to fit: (Of substances or materials) easily shaped or ...
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How did “s***” and “the s***” come to mean opposite things?

Your idea is shit Your idea is bad. Your idea is the shit Your idea is good. The same does not apply to "the crap" or "the poop", or other profanity like "the fuck". I can think of ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “needle in a hay stack”?

What is the origin of the phrase "needle in a hay stack"? Initially I thought it was a game once played but I haven't found any mention of it outside of it's idiomatic use.
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Phrasal verb “be a thing”

I’m looking for the origin of the phrasal verb “to be a thing”. It means roughly “exist” or more specifically “be recognised” or “be a phenomenon”. I first noticed it around 2008–2009. Is ...