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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

1
vote
1answer
61 views

Why are some “-ist” suffixed words used as the adjective form over the more common “-istic”?

Generally speaking, for any kind of "-ism", the suffix "-ist" produces the noun form and "-istic" produces the adjective form. But there are some "-ist" suffixes that are acceptable or even more ...
1
vote
1answer
94 views

Why is “late” used in reference to a deceased person? [closed]

I get how and when it's used but what is its origin? Why the word "late"?
4
votes
1answer
109 views

The introduction of manmade structures in the etymology of harbor

In a Stackexchange post, a commenter offers a distinction between ports and harbors: Or to put it another way, "harbor" is a description of the natural geography, while "port" is something made ...
3
votes
1answer
57 views

What does it mean when someone has “golden pipes” and how did it originate?

I believe I saw this mentioned in an article/blog post I read a while ago. From what I remember, the article was about a person's amazing singing voice. However, I looked it up recently and didn't ...
1
vote
2answers
60 views

Canny means shrewd or wise how does uncanny turn out to be mysterious? [closed]

Canny means 'shrewd' while uncanny means mysterious. How?
1
vote
1answer
106 views

Why do we say “Fever broke”?

When someone is suffering from fever, at some point in time when it stops or it starts getting better, we say the fever has broken. His fever broke last night. He's going to be alright. What's ...
2
votes
1answer
133 views

The meaning of the word 'Han'?

In referencing Webster's dictionary of 1828 I came across the entry for the word 'Han'. The definition was stated as: "for have, in the plural." Source: Spenser. What does this mean and how was it ...
1
vote
2answers
70 views

Does 'lending' an object require its relocation?

I was recently in an argument with a friend who - equipped with an apparent understanding of the etymology of the words lend and borrow - insisted that to lend an object required not just the ...
2
votes
2answers
42 views

Etymology of type cast

What is the etymology of cast in the sense of type cast in programming languages? In Merriam Webster I found nothing suitable: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cast
70
votes
3answers
7k views

Why is it “behead” and not “dehead”?

The be- prefix in behead doesn't seem to match similar words like become, besmirch, or befuddle. Of course, the same prefix could serve different roles depending on the word. What role is be- serving ...
1
vote
2answers
394 views

Origin of milquetoast and the negative meaning of milk in modern usage

I searched the word milquetoast and found out that it is a very pejorative term used in American English (after a cartoon character- Casper Milquetoast) to refer to someone of an unusually meek, ...
1
vote
2answers
60 views

Is there an etymon for scam? [closed]

Is the word escamotage which is found in English dictionaries etymologically related to the word scam?
0
votes
1answer
65 views

Why are you saying something “for” yourself when your parent asks you what you have to say for yourself?

I was listening to a podcast today and heard someone mockingly ask the guest "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?". The conversation spun off in some other direction, but I momentarily ...
-1
votes
1answer
56 views

Trendline for historical usage of “prick” [closed]

How can I view one of those handy-dandy trend lines for the historical usage of the word "prick"? I am currently editing a book and need to know when and how (or how common) the use of the word was to ...
1
vote
2answers
95 views

Does 'knockoff', meaning 'copy', come from the German word 'nach'? [closed]

Does the English expression 'knockoff', meaning 'copy', come from the German word 'nach'? I am researching an old flute which is marked 'nach Myer', and it turns out that it signifies something like ...
-1
votes
3answers
319 views

What does the verb “nig” mean?

I have seen a photo on the Internet of a customer filling a large empty jug from a soda fountain at a fast food restaurant. It had caption that someone is "gonna nig". What does "nig" mean? Among ...
5
votes
3answers
150 views

What is the origin of auxiliary verbs?

When and why did we start using auxiliary verbs, particularly "do", to ask questions and make negatives?
-5
votes
2answers
57 views

Which came first, “Inception” or “inception” [closed]

Most people will know about the film Inception, about planting an idea into a mans head so that he thinks that it is his own. Possibly fewer people will know that inception is actually a real word. ...
2
votes
1answer
162 views

Isn't the term bully pulpit an oxymoron? [closed]

bully pulpit: A public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue. bully: A person who uses strength or power to harm or ...
3
votes
1answer
115 views

Does rational come from ratio or ratio come from rational?

Going through law school we often used the latin phrase ratio decideni - meaning the reasoning of a decision. In this context we took the latin word ratio to mean thinking process. Recently I saw an ...
-2
votes
2answers
90 views

How, when and where did the phrase 'state of the art' originate? [closed]

How, when and where did the phrase 'state of the art' originate?
2
votes
2answers
194 views

origin of “gingerly”

For years I thought gingerly meant "with spirit or liveliness," I suppose because "spirit and liveliness" define the noun ginger. But no; gingerly means "cautiously or carefully." How did it take on ...
3
votes
1answer
80 views

Etymology: Dutch Curry [closed]

I've heard of Continental's Dutch Curry and Rice Soup; and I've seen it mentioned here and there... I'm soon to have it later tonight... But seriously, what makes a Dutch Curry... "Dutch"? It's not ...
-3
votes
2answers
157 views

Since the Latin for 'manus' is 'hand' - does that make 'mankind' a non-sexist expression? [closed]

I heard the following view expressed today: Mankind is not a sexist expression, because it comes from the latin manus, which means hand, as in [genderless] means of action. Is this a false ...
10
votes
1answer
207 views

Relic as a verb: why the spelling relicing, reliced?

I just discovered the verb relic, meaning “to make something look worn” and used as far as I can tell only about guitars. (Examples: 1 2 3 …) I was surprised to see that its participles are pretty ...
0
votes
0answers
61 views

How did the adjective “just” come to take on so many adverbial meanings?

Just is a pretty useful adverb. It can carry several different meanings: very recently: I just finished the novel. exactly: That’s just what he meant. by a narrow margin: He just missed me ...
4
votes
4answers
119 views

Source for tracing evolution of specific polysemes, e.g. “catamaran”?

Does anyone know a dictionary (or other resource) that traces the etymologies of words in such detail as to show how two, three ... different meanings may have come to apply to a given word? This ...
0
votes
1answer
77 views

Cloud nine Vs. Dante's Inferno!

I looked for the expression to be on cloud nine on Etymonline; it is stated 'of uncertain origin or significance'. My question is could there be a connection between the origin of cloud nine and ...
2
votes
1answer
313 views

Origin of “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide”?

What is the origin of the phrase You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. I see it occasionally bounced around, sometimes as an authoritarian slogan. Brief research indicates some ...
5
votes
4answers
677 views

If it's incorrect to “learn” someone, then why is “learned man” correct?

I am well aware that "learn" is incorrect when used as "teach" (referenced in Is 'learn' the new 'teach'?). So why is "learned" common fare, since it is apparently just a participial ...
4
votes
3answers
241 views

Is there a relationship between “boxing” (sport) and “box” (packaging)? [closed]

How is boxing (the sport) related to box (packaging)? Is there a relationship between the words which I am not aware of?
2
votes
1answer
63 views

Origin of Jessie

What's the origin of the name Jessie referring to an effeminate, weak, or cowardly boy or man. Since English is a gender neutral language, it strikes me as curious to see the female name Jessie ...
1
vote
1answer
73 views

Is there a categorization of different kinds of words like loanwords, compound words, slang… etc? [closed]

Is there a categorization of different types of words in which the following categories would fall for example: loanwords, compound-words, slang words, ...? Is there a hierarchical parent of these ...
1
vote
1answer
100 views

Why do the French say “dent” where the English say "tooth? [closed]

I am preparing for an exam in "Earlier Englishes" and I have following question out of a mock exam: Why do the French say dent where the English say tooth? The answer gives 3 points, so may be there ...
1
vote
1answer
177 views

What is the origin of “Boxing Day”?

OED gives the definition and a quote from 1833 as the earliest reference as below: The first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of ...
7
votes
2answers
196 views

Nannicock - a young woman, a fool or something else?

What definition(s) are there for the word Nannicock and what it's the etymology for each definition. (I've checked OED already). I came across Nannicock recently and on looking it up in OED their ...
0
votes
0answers
40 views

Origin of ZZZzzz [duplicate]

How did ZZZzzz in texting, in comic strips, or online come to mean sleeping or something boring? What's the connection between the repeated letter Z and sleep? And when did it start to be used?
1
vote
1answer
155 views

Why does English have a word for pink? [closed]

We have a word for light red (pink), but not light blue. Why is this? Russian, for example, has specific words for light and dark blue.
-9
votes
1answer
143 views

So which “wich'” is it? [closed]

It's generally not confusing to most the obvious differences between a sandwich, a witch and the word "which", but are they related in any way? While a sandwich can be defined jokingly as,"in my ...
2
votes
1answer
122 views

’Tis the season

Google has a new doodle that says ’Tis the season when you put your cursor on it: What is the origin of this usage? or even the contraction ’tis? Details: There is a popular carol called “Deck ...
2
votes
2answers
98 views

“all the virtues in the calendar”

Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "all the virtues in the calendar"? Doing a phrase search (with quotes) gives many example usages. Questions: 1. Is there an actual calendar of virtues ...
7
votes
2answers
548 views

Sultanas and raisins, I'm confused

Most Christmas pudding recipes call for both sultanas and raisins. It is my understanding that a raisin refers to any dried grape. A sultana is both the name of a seedless grape, originating from ...
3
votes
2answers
218 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
55 views

What does 'spite' mean in 'in spite of'?

in spite of = 1. Without being affected by the particular factor mentioned [From the same page as above:] spite = [mass noun] 1. A desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone I ...
6
votes
1answer
139 views

A frog in the throat

While the French refer to the temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat as having a cat in the throat, the English version of the expression is to have a frog in the throat. I ...
4
votes
2answers
117 views

How did “party” come to mean “gathering”?

Is it just related to the fact that people participate in it? UPDATE. Judging by the comments, dictionary articles are absolutely exhaustive, and it just must be obvious to everyone how 'to take the ...
6
votes
2answers
416 views

How did the term “X's finest” come to mean the police force of a city X?

I have often come across terms like London's finest, New York's finest, etc., intended to mean the police forces of the respective cities. I think in the case of Scotland Yard, the term even has some ...
2
votes
1answer
96 views

What is the origin of 'bird'

Bird: (Brit.) a girl or young woman, esp one's girlfriend (Collins Dict. ) According to Etymonline, bird: "maiden, young girl," c.1300, confused with burd (q.v.), but felt by ...
3
votes
1answer
215 views

What is the origin of “Kris Kringle”?

In Canada, we use the term "Kris Kringle" for gift exchange tradition in Christmas. It is also spelled as "Kriss Kringle". In US and UK, it is called Secret Santa. Wikipedia says "Secret Santa" is ...
1
vote
1answer
53 views

Where does the response “Anytime” come from? [closed]

When someone says "Thank you" whenever I have helped them out, I naturally respond with "Anytime". I recently started thinking about this and couldn't quite figure out where this word originates from. ...