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

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Does it make sense to say “plummets upward”?

According to Google, the word "plummet" means "fall or drop straight down at high speed." So, if I want to say that something quickly shoots upward, would "plummet upward" make sense, or sound normal ...
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104 views

Since when and how did the word “virgin” have connotations of purity?

This is what my Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary says on the noun: 1 a : an unmarried woman devoted to religion b capitalized : VIRGO 2 a : an absolutely chaste young woman b ...
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193 views

Origin of “Rose tinted glasses”?

On another SE site I frequent, in a question a non-native English speaker used "pink glasses" where they clearly meant the idiom "rose tinted" or "rose coloured" glasses. The meaning of "looking ...
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Origin of “quid” in its sense of a sovereign or guinea

What is the etymological origin of quid in its sense of a sovereign or guinea? While preparing the question Origin of “not for quids” phrase I noticed that etymonline's quid entry merely says ...
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How did 'unless' evolve to mean 'if not'?

[Etymonline:] mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from on lesse (than) "on a less condition (than); see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the lack of stress changed it ...
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What is 'less' about 'unless'?

[Etymonline:] unless (conj.) [:] mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from on lesse (than) "on a less condition" (than); see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the ...
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What French phrase is the origin of “gardyloo?”

The word gardyloo is a warning cry uttered before throwing wastewater (literally and euphemistically) out of a window. Every source I've found has traced this word back to some French phrase ...
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Is “lexophilia” a word?

I've been using the word "lexophilia" for years, but only just realized that it might not actually be in popular use at all. I've even had heated arguments with fellow pedants over the veracity of ...
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681 views

What is the origin of “alrighty”?

It is a friendlier and more colloquial version of "alright". It is also heard in the exclamation/interjection "Alrighty, then!". I usually hear it at the end of conversations in Canadian English, ...
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521 views

Origin of New Jersey idiom “down the shore”

As a native Midwesterner, I was very puzzled to hear my wife (who is from northern New Jersey) use that idiom. I understand what it means, and as far as I can remember I understood what it meant from ...
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646 views

There's a pork chop in every beer, origin

I first heard this expression when, as a bartender, I asked a patron who'd ordered a pint if he wanted to see a menu. His response: "I'm all right, thanks. There's a pork chop in every beer." I've ...
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Origin of “Stick to your knitting”

I know that "Stick to your knitting" means to stick with what you're familiar with/good at rather than giving your opinion or trying your hand at something out of your area of expertise. But I can't ...
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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 is the origin of the phrase “in your backpocket”?

What is the origin of the phrase "in your backpocket"? As in "What song have you got in your back pocket?" for "what song have you got ready to perform comfortably now, without preparation".
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“Sober as a judge” vs. “Drunk as a lord”. Why judge? Why lord?

Sober as a judge is a simile that is used for someone completely sober. Drunk as a lord is a simile that is used for someone completely drunk. Why is judge equated with sobriety and lord with ...
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How did 'up to' evolve to mean 'regardless of', in maths?

Even the OED seems not to have featured it. I couldn't find an explanation on Etymonline. [Wikipedia:] If X is some property or process, the phrase "up to X" means "disregarding a possible ...
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Why does English spelling use silent letters?

Why have a letter in a word when it’s silent in pronunciation, like the b in debt? Can anyone please clarify my uncertainty here?
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On the origin of “exit poll”

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar ...
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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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Origin of “as all get out” meaning “to the utmost degree”

At reference.com, all get out is glossed as “in the extreme; to the utmost degree”, and at thefreedictionary.com as an unimaginably large amount; “British say ‘it rained like billyo’ where ...
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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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Describing People as from (or belonging to) a Country [duplicate]

People from India are Indians People from Rwanda are Rwandans People from Japan are Japanese People from China are Chinese What are these words (indicating citizenship of some country) known as ? ...
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Origin of the phrase “it’s been years if it’s been a day”?

I first heard this phrase in an episode of Family Guy, and they're typically fans of referencing older shows and movies, especially from the 80s. So I'd assumed it was a fairly commonly known thing. ...
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Etymology of “choice” — New Zealand vernacular

One of the things that I hear all the time over here in NZ is the phrase 'Choice'. Which is used in a similar way to great or fantastic or awesome. For example, That party was choice! I can't ...
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What is origin of the word “fluent”? [closed]

We often hear people say he speak English fluently. fluent:(of a person) able to express oneself easily and articulately.(dict) But what did that word come from? did it came from fluid or flow? ...
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Pure Applesauce: What does it mean and when/how was it created?

I could find out what jiggery–pokery means (dishonest or suspicious activity), but what does "pure applesauce" mean? And when, where, by whom, and how was this expression created? Context: ...
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Etymology: The root of the words 'real' and 'reality'

I wish to identify the oldest known root from which we derive the words 'real' and 'reality', et cetera. I got as far as determining the origin of the English words real and reality is Latin res, ...
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Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
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Where does this usage “and you” as in titles come from?

So I'm noticing there are some occurrences of a fixed usage of “and you,” mainly in titles of articles introducing something new or important to reader. It goes like “object inheritance, ...
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Why are the buttons on computer keyboards called “keys”? [closed]

A computer keyboard is a board of keys. Why are these buttons called keys? Is it related to the usage of piano "keys"?
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Usage of Disproven [duplicate]

How would you use disproven in a sentence please? Is disproven interchangeable with disproved?
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“… gets my goat”. What's my goat and why does it get it?

To get someone's goat is make them annoyed or irritated. But what is the goat and why does getting it annoy them? When and where does the phrase come from? What's the first known use?
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Etymology of “high” and “low” notes

The words "high" and "low" generally refer to magnitude or vertical distance. How did these words come to be associated with pitch? We can draw comparison to high ("large") or low ("small") ...
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History and meaning of the word “clientelist” as in “clientelist politics”

In relation to news reports about modern Greece I see the term "clientelist politics" which I assume to refer to some sort of corruption. In order to learn more I looked up clientelist in the OED only ...
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How did 'of' 's figurative meanings evolve from 'away, away from'?

of (prep.) [⇐] Old English of, unstressed form of æf (prep., adv.) "away, away from," [...], from PIE *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Primary sense in Old English still was "away," but shifted in ...
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What is the meaning and etymology of the adjective “jammy”, of Yorkshire English?

What is the etymology of the adjective jammy? As in, Thou art a jammy bugger! I confess I've never seen the word before. When I looked it up, I found confusing etymologies: one source says it ...
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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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After verbs, how does 'from' compare with 'of'?

(TL;DR) 1. I've been plagued by the postverbal use of the preposition 'of'. After verbs, when describing attributes like origin or source, what are the differences between 'from' and 'of'? The verbs ...
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Origin of My thing

When did the term "my thing" as in "that is my thing" come into usage?
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Who is the originator of the proverb, “be (not) worth the candle?

There is the following passage in Jeffery Archer’s fiction, “Be careful what you wish for”: “If Diego failed to turn up, Cedric had already decided that the game wouldn’t be worth the candle, to ...
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Etymology of “dutchman” to mean a carpentry patch?

The term dutchman is used to describe a repair patch used in carpentry. Various dictionaries define it along the lines of Something used to fill or cover a gap, especially a block of wood or ...
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Is there a term for words that are holdovers from an old technology that aren't apt for a new, superseding technology? [duplicate]

(Old title: Is there a word for: A new word for a new technology is simplified, and the resultant word well describes the old technology, but not the new.) The example I have in mind is "to ...
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Origin of “the wrong end of the stick”

If someone has the wrong end of the stick it means they've misunderstood something. If they've got the shitty end of the stick it means they've got a bad deal in some bargain or share-out. This ...
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What to call words with permanent prefix, but no unprefixed form? (ex: nonchalant, untoward) [duplicate]

What do you call prefixed words with no unprefixed counterpart? For example, there's no such thing as a "chalant person". Bad behavior may be "untoward", good behavior is never "toward". What are ...
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Etymology behind “tim-” words involving honor and “tim-” words involving fear?

Words like timocracy (a form of government based on ambition for honor) and Timothy (honor to God) come from time, which means "honor" or "worth." According to Etymonline, timid (easily frightened) ...
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Non standard english: Slang. “That sucks man.” [closed]

Where does the term 'That sucks!' and putting 'man' on the end of sentences come from? "aw that sucks, man!" Thanks!
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What is the origin of “go suck an egg”?

"Go suck an egg" is a saying typically used similarly to "take a hike" or "piss off": Hey, you going to help me with this or what? Go suck an egg. An few Ngram searches shows that "suck an ...
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“Jiggery-pokery” - Can Anyone Remedy this Paucity?

Reading U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent (p. 8) from the majority in King et al. v. Burwell, I encountered the following term (emphasis mine), “The Court’s next bit of ...
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Etymology of “embarrass”?

It would seem that the Random House dictionary and the World English dictionary have different ideas about the etymology of the word embarrass, neither of which make it particularly clear as to how it ...
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origin of “5 seconds flat”

Does anyone know the etymology of this expression? "He ran down the street in five seconds flat" I found this explanation of meaning at Wordreference but would like to know where the expression ...