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

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Why is “number” abbreviated as “No.”? [duplicate]

The spelling of number is number, but the abbreviation is No (№). There is no letter o in number, so where does this spelling come from?
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51 views

A word to describe someone constantly seeking bewilderment [closed]

So, Jason Silva coined the noun "wonderjunkie" to define this exact thing. However, I'm wondering if there's any adjective in ANY language to describe someone who is in constant search of awe, someone ...
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What is the etymology of “first crack”

The meaning is "first chance", for example, "I gave my oldest son first crack at trying to fix the car"
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Tabbed or Tapped [closed]

I've heard the word "tapped" quite frequently for selecting a person for a job or title but I've recently seen "tabbed" used instead, mainly by sports writers. It just sounds wrong to me considering ...
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Etymology of “midsummer” — why is the first day of summer called “middle of summer”?

I always found it strange that the day which marks the beginning of the season of summer is called "mid-summer", which I understand would mean "middle of summer". While midsummer is on the summer ...
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81 views

“Slay” and “Entertain”

I have recently been shown that "Slay" can also mean "Entertain", however this seems rather odd to me. "You slay me, you really do." I have two main questions: In what reasonable context would ...
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Why am I “happy as Larry”?

I was feeling in a good mood the other day, and the expression happy as Larry sprang to mind (the alternative, like a pig in shit, being perhaps a little coarse). I was wondering about the origin of ...
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“The Nuts” in Poker

I read a interesting article regarding origin of the term "The Nuts" in Poker. It means the best possible hand and though a well known term, no-one seems to know its origin. Wikipedia gives the same ...
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What line do they refer to in the idiomatic expression “on the line”?

The idiomatic expression on the line has two main meanings according to the American Heritage Dictionary: Ready or available for immediate payment. (A related expression is Cash on the ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “inconvenient knowledge” [closed]

Richard McCombs 2013 book, The Paradoxical Rationality of Søren Kierkegaard, contains this passage: "...the suspicion arises that the purpose of this investigation may well be to forget one's ...
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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". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=enemy The Latin in- changes to ...
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Where did the term “OK/Okay” come from?

I've heard lots of varying histories of the term "OK". Is there any evidence of the true origin of the term?
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Are the noun and verb forms of “badger” related etymologically?

Are the noun "badger", naming an animal, and the verb "to badger", describing the behavior of a person, related etymologically? Does the meaning of one come directly from the other? What about the ...
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What is the etymology of “french kiss”?

The french kiss is a kiss where the participants' tongues are used to touch the other participant tongue or lips. This is an expression I have heard since I'm little, but I am very curious about the ...
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292 views

What are the primary sources of surnames (other than occupation, descent and geography)

Many surnames in English come from occupations, presumably those of the progenitor or his kin, such as Baker Miller Chandler Smith Some reflect lineal descent, such as ...
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Origin of the expression “landed in a tub of butter” (meaning lucky)?

I've heard a friend say "he says he was so lucky, it's like he sat his ass in a butter tub" a few times. Even though I'm from the same area (northeast USA) as the speaker, the expression wasn't ...
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When did “More tea vicar?” start to be used after farting? Where did it come from?

In England when someone farts they might say "More tea vicar?" When did this start, and how did it come about? It feels unusual enough to have a definite creation - some comedian perhaps? Web ...
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Why two-dimensional presentation of data called “table”? [duplicate]

I just wonder why a word "table" is also used as two-dimensional presentation of data? It's just a single flat plate, I think "shelf" is more proper representation of such a concept.
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Different uses of 'kaffir' by white South Africans and Muslims

Back in apartheid-era South Africa and, in camera, probably even today, the word 'kaffir' is used in much the same way 'nigger' is used in the western world, ie. as a racist epithet directed at black ...
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How did 'how' + 'ever' = 'however' ⟹ 'but'?

[ OED: ] Etymology: < how adv. + ever adv. 8e. Qualifying a sentence or clause as a whole: For all that, nevertheless, notwithstanding; yet; = but at the beginning of the sentence. ...
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Knick-knack and bric-a-brac?

There are several interesting words to describe the same idea: Knick-Knack and Bric-a-Brac, both defined as: Small, decorative object(s) of little value. Bric-a-Brac derives from French and is ...
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1answer
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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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Origin of “for the birds” (Trivial; worthless; only of interest to gullible people.)

I really have looked, but the best I can come up with is this To say that something is "for the birds" is to call it horse manure. Dating from the days of horse-drawn traffic, the expression is ...
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“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
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A word that means cast aside and taken back repeatedly

I need a word that defines that which is commonly tossed aside to be grabbed back again, like a notebook. I'm trying to use a word that defines this implicit nature in an object: something that is not ...
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Etymology of adding articles to insulting or negative adjectives

Recently saw Deadpool(great movie), and noticed that Negasonic Teenage Warhead responded to something Deadpool said with "That a stupid." But a few months before that movie was released, I heard some ...
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Where does the phrase “neat but not gaudy” come from?

What is the origin of the phrase neat but not gaudy? I’m thinking that it might possibly be from Samuel Wesley or Dorothy Sayers — or, just possibly, from Josephine Tey.
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How was 'Sundae' derived from 'Sunday'?

On Sunday, April 3,2011, Google displayed a commemorative graphic for the 119th anniversary of the first documented case of the Ice Cream Sunday. (Image comes from: ...
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When did “sale” become “sales event”?

It seems like during this generation somebody decided that a "sale" wasn't adequate to describe the selling of discounted goods. Can anyone shed light on the emergence of the "sales event," which ...
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How does one determine when a comedian is also a humorist?

Wikipedia's list of humorists are categorised as people who write or perform humorous material, but the article also states: A humorist is usually distinct from a stand-up comedian. Woody Allen ...
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Etymology and Meaning of “geodeter”

While researching the source and use of mathematical formulas to calculate the radius of the earth, I came across this passage: Mitchell also showed that the mean radius of the earth was defined ...
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Why did the word, “shellac” come to mean “to defeat completely” as a U.S. slang?

There were clamorous arguments about appropriateness or inappropriateness of Mr. Donald Trump’s comment, “Hillary Clinton – former first lady, former U.S. senator, former secretary of state, woman got ...
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Are effect and affect related to efferent and afferent?

In my work I occasionally write about neurons. A common description of the relationship between two populations of neurons is to describe one as being "afferent" or "efferent" with respect to another. ...
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Who coined the term “baseball diplomacy” (and when)?

President Obama's recent visit to Cuba has prompted some news sources to dust off the term "baseball diplomacy" (one example here). According to a paper I found on the topic, "the ... term ...
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Origins and meaning of “Put your money where your mouth is”

I heard this phrase uttered by a Canadian (from Vancouver) once; it left me in awe and elicited my curiosity. Wikipedia was not helpful. What is its origin? Is this expression used more in certain ...
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“Birds and bees” origins

"The birds and the bees" is a euphemistic way of referring to sex. As in, a parent 'telling their son about the birds and the bees' would be giving them "the talk" about sex. Growing up, I got ...
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Did “pertinacious” and “pertinent” come from the same origin?

From dictionary.com: pertinacious meaning: holding tenaciously to a purpose, course of action, or opinion; resolute. stubborn or obstinate. extremely or objectionably persistent. while ...
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If something is considered the best why is it said to be “the berries”?

According to From Flappers to Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang by Dr. Thomas Dalzell, "the berries" was a 1920s widely used slang term among American youth to describe something wonderful or ...
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What's the etymology of “props”?

Props can mean compliment / respect / credit, for example: Erika gets props for the great work she did on the music. Wiktionary states that props is: (slang) proper respect or proper ...
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What is the origin of the slang 'kicks' meaning sneakers

Street culture uses the term 'kicks' to describe sneakers/athletic shoes. I've been using this term for as long as I can remember so I'm comfortable with it's meaning however, as I'm sure I could make ...
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Spendthrift vs Thrifty - origins

I have always been curious to understand the origin of these two seemingly similar words. Looking at them for the first time, I thought they were synonyms, but ever since I learned of their existence, ...
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What is the origin of Bishy Barney Bee?

The attached picture is of a delightful little creature which throughout the UK is known as a Ladybird (not sure what you call them in America) EXCEPT in Norfolk, where it is known as a 'Bishy Barney ...
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What is the etymology of 'superstitious'?

Clearly superstitious is of Anglo-Norman origin, used in English since well before Chaucer's time to refer to 'unorthodox religious beliefs'.(OED) But the classical Latin is often written hyphenated ...
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A reality check on “reality check”

Reality check is a very common expression that refers to: a corrective confronting of reality, in order to counteract one's expectations, prejudices, or the like. (Origin 1970-1975 - ...
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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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Is there such a thing in English as “other payment for use of land” that is not, in the broad sense, “rent”?

I ask this as an inquiry into the validity of the logic behind the currently accepted answer to Do you still pay 10x the dice when getting the chance card that takes you to the nearest utility if the ...
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Meaning and origin of “Get someone's shirt out”

I was wondering to myself about the word "shirty". It seemed so curious a word. After all, what did its meaning have to do with shirts. "Were the two words even related?", I wondered. So I looked up ...
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Origin of “moke,” used in the mildly derogatory term “you lil' moke”

Does anyone know the origins of this term? I have only managed to track one reference to it. I heard it from my Granny who was Romani. The Online Etymology Dictionary has this short entry: moke ...
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Where did “Pew! Pew!” come from?

To elaborate, I'm talking about the "sound effect" that people often make when imitating gunfire. Eg. "Pew! Pew! I shot you Billy, you're dead now!" I suppose this developed from the "Bang! ...
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What is the “explicit”'s equivalent of “imply”?

Note: The original title of this question was "Why is 'exply' not a word? While considering the words implicit, implicate, and imply, it struck me that I can't think of an equivalent to imply for ...