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

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Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English? [duplicate]

In general English doesn't seem to cater well for identifying relationships between people, and the classic example seems to be the term 'cousin' because you can't really work out whether it is ...
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179 views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
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“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
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How did 'undertake' evolve to mean 'take on'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: undertake = [with object] 1. Commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); take on: ...
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How does 'together + to bear' cause 'confer' to mean 'grant something'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? confer = 1. [with object] [with object] Grant (a title, degree, benefit, or right): Etymonline: ...
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163 views

words derived from French that have re-entered French from English [closed]

I am looking for a few examples of words that originated in French (or in Latin and then entered French), entered English and were reimported into French.
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62 views

Do *appraise* and *apprise* come from the same root?

I am interested in the origin and usage of apprise versus appraise. There is overlap in usage. In one meaning the latter can be substituted for the former and this is recognised in sense 4 in the ...
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110 views

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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How does 'be' + 'of' combine to mean 'possess; give rise to'?

I already understand and thus ask NOT about the definition, but instead want to dredge below it: to be of = Possess intrinsically; give rise to How does the juxtaposition of these two 'Top 1000 ...
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30 views

What is the source of “set”, meaning balanced?

In the sport of rowing, a boat is "set" if it's balanced and doesn't wobble. It can also be used as a noun as in "We had good set this morning", or as a verb- "Set the boat, gosh darn it". I've found ...
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77 views

Origin of the expression “skin of a rhinoceros”?

The Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has recently published an open letter where he says: ... It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros. I am wondering where this expression "skin of a rhinoceros" is ...
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Real estate derivation [duplicate]

The derivation of "real" in the term "real estate". Can it be literal in describing parcels of land as distinguished from other appurtenances that was added or exists on the parcel? Could it mean ...
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Why does modern English only have one affirmative response? [closed]

I learned that nearly all Germanic languages have two affirmative responses, one of which answers a positively framed question and the other answer a negatively framed question. In modern English, ...
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616 views

The origins and usages of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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126 views

What is the origin of the expression “the big picture”?

The expression the big picture, meaning "the entire perspective on a situation or issue", is very common today. Where does this phrase come from? Was there a literal big picture that it once ...
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114 views

Why does the word delight have positive connotations? [closed]

I'm sitting here, and hear someone respond to a request with "I'd be delighted". I understand the words to say this is a positive response along the lines of "sure, I'd be happy to help". But I'm ...
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77 views

Does 'invidious' imply hatred/malice for 'envy'? [closed]

invidious (adj) = (Of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others Etymology: c.1600, from Latin invidiosus "full of envy, envious," from invidia "envy, ...
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What is the etymology of 'Chemistry'?

Most studies of science end with the suffixes -logy, -nomy and -metry, as defined in the answer to the question Meaning of '-onomy', '-ology' and '-ography', including examples like 'geology', ...
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72 views

Two quite different meanings of “bear”

As a noun, a bear is a type of carnivore. As a verb, to bear means to support or produce. I wonder how the two meanings finally ended up in one single word. Is there any connection between the two ...
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38 views

How did the noun 'remit' evolve to mean 'the task assigned' and 'an item referred'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definitions 1 and 2 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. remit = [chiefly British] The task or area of activity officially assigned to an individual ...
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63 views

Where does the “… take Manhattan” trope originate?

There are a number of creative works whose titles end in this way. For example, The Muppets Take Manhattan, a 1984 film “First We Take Manhattan”, a 1987 song Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes ...
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Does anyone know the origins of “lucks a mussy” ( phonetic as I don't know correct spelling).

My mother used the saying lucks a mussy ?correct spelling and I have always wondered about it origins and meaning. I think it means Lord have mercy but am not sure on this.
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A noun for phenomenon experienced by wave-particle duality

We have known for centuries that elementary particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. Does the English Language have a word that describes this wave-particle duality?
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Does “candlelight” mean “compare side by side”?

Some of my colleagues use the word "candlelight" to mean "directly compare similar things". A specific example is comparing two lines on a line chart like this: "We can use this chart to ...
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109 views

Etymology of the meaning of waste as a broad expanse [closed]

Merriam-Webster online dictionary says one of the meanings of "waste" is: a broad and empty expanse(as of water) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waste I'm interested in the origin of this ...
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203 views

What is the source of the phrase “phony baloney”?

The term baloney means Foolish or deceptive talk; nonsense: typical salesman’s baloney [corruption of bologna] [Oxford Dictionaries Online] Etymonline provides the following derivation ...
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What is the origin of the word “copped”?

In the language used by footy (Australian football) commentators the word "copped" is frequent. For instance, if a player gets knocked on the head, say, then the sentence might be "player X copped ...
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How did 'adumbrate' evolve to mean 'represent in outline'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. adumbrate = [with object] Represent in outline: Etymonline for adumbration: 1530s, from Latin ...
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77 views

Same word with opposite meanings [duplicate]

The connotation of adjective 'appropriate' is positive, while that of the verb is negative. 1. What's this phenomenon called, though this question allows any part of speech (and not just an ...
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189 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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The connection between roosters and genitalia

It is a known fact that the same word (same spelling and pronunciation) is used to describe both a rooster and a part of male genitalia (I am not sure how vulgar it would be of me to use the word ...
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59 views

Movable Type vs. WordPress [closed]

Is the name of the blogging platform 'WordPress' word play? Does it have any additional meaning for a native English speaker? For example, the name of the blogging platform 'Movable Type' refers to ...
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Does the English prefix hiberno- mean that the Irish were associated with winter? [closed]

In Medieval Latin, hibernus meant Irish: https://www.google.com/search?q=hiberno+etymology In Latin, hibernus meant wintry: https://www.google.com/search?q=hibernate+etymology Therefore, can I say ...
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Why is “to switch gears” used for “to change topic”?

The expressions to switch gears, to shift gears are often (too often for my taste, but that is a different matter) used to announce a switch from one topic to another in an oral presentation ...
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Why do we say “rips and tears”?

For example, "Clothing must be free from rips and tears." It seems to me that the words "rips" and "tears" can be used interchangeably, and that using both is redundant. Is there a particular reason ...
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55 views

How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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What is the etymology of the term “private eye”?

The term private eye has widespread use to mean private detective or investigator. See, e.g., Oxford Dcitionary Online Several websites, such as this one, suggest that the term was based on a logo ...
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Is “fresher” really a “proper” English word?

I see a lot of folks on Stackoverflow using fresher when describing themselves as beginners at any given topic. I have never really heard of "fresher" as a synonym for beginner. I know "freshman" as ...
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Etymology of a “pegged CPU”

There's a slightly obscure, slang meaning in tech circles of the word "pegged" as it relates to a computer's CPU. When it is fully utilised for a duration (at least several seconds), you can say that ...
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When and where did “spanking” begin to be used as an adjective? [duplicate]

"That's a spanking car." "A spanking little horse." Spank t.v. - To beat across the buttocks with the open hand, to strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand. i.v. - to ...
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374 views

Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about ...
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When/where/why did “Look who it ain't/isn't” appear?

It seems to me that... "Well! Look who it ain't!" ...is/was normally used quite dismissively, referring to a newly-arrived person of low social status, who the speaker would often then proceed ...
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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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How did 'pummel' evolve from the meaning of apple?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to pummel = [with object] 1. Strike repeatedly with the fists 1.1. [North American, informal] ...
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Why does 'with' mean 'against' and not 'alongside' in phrases of opposition?

In phrases like fight with, argue with, combat with etc, why does with mean the subject is opposing the object (grammatical object, technically a human opponent)? Phrases like go with, study with, ...
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Why is “work” spelled with an “o”

Why is the word "work" spelled with an "o"? I can't find the answer anywhere. I know it comes from Old English "weorc" but I can not find how it came to be spelled "work" instead of "werk".
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What is the origin of “over index”?

I often encounter (and use) this phrase in a context meaning to weight more heavily during decision making than is sensible, or to focus more heavily during a discussion than is warranted. For ...
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What's the etymology of “dash”?

Dash is one of those words with more meanings than letters. These include to rush (I dashed out), to destroy (my hopes were dashed), and a punctuation mark (em dash etc.). There are also various other ...
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What is “Broken Britain”?

It's not a flattering term for Great Britain but due to its catchy alliteration it has not run out of steam among newspaper editors. Wikipedia says Broken Britain is a term which has been used ...
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323 views

Is “Holy” in “Holy s**t” an intensifier or a euphemism?

I asked this question two days ago: Why is the word “Holy” used before swear words? I got many answers, but now I have a new doubt after reading all the answers and comments. For Example, one ...