Tagged Questions

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

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24
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13answers
3k views

Is there any “swearword” in English not associated with excrements, the genitals, sexual activity or religion?

SWEARWORD - A popular term for a word or phrase that is obscene, abusive, and socially offensive. For some reason, all of them seem to be associated with excrements, sex and religion. This ...
3
votes
3answers
128 views

What is the origin of “have a gander”? (When meaning “look”.)

The phrase "have a gander" meaning "have a look" is common in the UK. (Also can be "have a goosey gander" or just "have a goosey".) What is the origin/meaning of this phrase? I always assumed that it ...
-1
votes
1answer
57 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
88 views

How did the meaning of “come off” as “succeed” or “take place” originate?

Example sentences: A television series that never came off (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) He tried his Chaplin impression, but it didn't really come off. (from Wiktionary) The match ...
5
votes
3answers
148 views

What is the origin and sense of the phrase “put up or shut up”?

In researching the recent EL&U question Origins and Interpretations of "Put your money where your mouth is", I repeatedly came across the seemingly related but older phrase “put up or ...
1
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3answers
227 views

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 ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

Italian vs Italic

Although English is not my mothertongue, I am pretty sure the adjective for the modern country Italy is Italian as in Italian restaurant or Italian cars. I have just used the italic font for emphasis ...
-2
votes
2answers
86 views

How did 'inure' evolve into these two disparate meanings?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 with object that helps to remember its meaning: 1. inure = (usually be inured to) Accustom (someone) to something, especially something ...
1
vote
1answer
57 views

Which language do most polysyllabic words in the english language come from?

I am doing an english project and can't find any information on this topic. Help is much appreciated!! thanks
4
votes
2answers
115 views

How/why was the word “organic” chosen to represent natural foods or foods without chemicals?

I've always understood an object or item to be organic when carbon is a component of its composition, as noted in the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Now I see organic foods, and ...
-3
votes
1answer
165 views

Where did the slang word “basic” come from?

How did the word basic come to be used as slang for "the majority" or "the conformed." Where was it's first usage as such a word? Is it a new internet frenzy or has this word been used as slang ...
1
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2answers
117 views

Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
2
votes
3answers
57 views

'Communication" as a verb

I've seen the word 'communication' as a verb. Going by the provenance of the document, I'm reasonably sure that the author meant to use it in this context and that it wasn't a typo. E.g.: How ...
2
votes
1answer
379 views

What is the origin of the phrase “wind your neck in!”?

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the origin of the phrase in title.
0
votes
1answer
57 views

What's the etymology for the term “greensheet”?

I've been looking for the etymology of the word "Greensheet", specifically when used in the context of academia. I know it's just another way to say "syllabus", but where did the "green" in ...
2
votes
1answer
107 views

What is the origin of the phrase “the eleventh hour”

Someone happened to use the phrase "the 59th minute of the eleventh hour" just now on IRC (#lisp on Freenode). I remarked that that should be "the twelfth hour". This then started me wondering where ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

When did people start “boinking”?

Is "boinking" an onomatopoeic and/or a blend word? I would have said so, I believe the word boink refers to the sound of the mattress springs squeaking under the weight of a couple making love. A ...
1
vote
0answers
50 views

What is the etymology of “floccinaucinihilipilification”? [closed]

I recently encountered this word, "floccinaucinihilipilification" while watching Jason Bateman's directorial movie debut "Bad Words", in which he stars as a 40+ year old participant in a spelling bee ...
6
votes
1answer
888 views

Why is it spelled “curiosity” instead of “curiousity?”

I have been spelling the word "curiosity" with a u, "curiousity," my whole life, and only today was Chrome's spellcheck bold enough to highlight my lifelong error. I have two questions: The root ...
-3
votes
1answer
48 views

How could one quantify the typical modern non-literal usage style? [closed]

I was thinking, "'Nobody' (joke) uses words literally in English any more -- but, could we quantify that somehow?" So for example with "nobody," the word now only means "almost no-one". If you want ...
5
votes
3answers
95 views

A second crack?

Where does the word "crack" originate from in the phrase "Give me another crack at that"? Curious to know if it's in reference to driving horses? Perhaps a derivative of "craic" in Irish? Or in a ...
-2
votes
1answer
116 views

Where does the word “good” come from? [closed]

According to Google, and a few other sources, "good" was originally the verbal and adjective equivalent of "god" (hence the good news') but I was wondering where the word originally came from and what ...
5
votes
1answer
98 views

Was “God be with ye” grammatically correct at the time?

Several dictionaries I have consulted, as well as another question here on English.SE, state that the origin of the word goodbye is “God be with ye”. Shouldn’t it be “God be with you” or perhaps “God ...
0
votes
1answer
102 views

Words starting with “touch”

There are several words in English starting with touch, such as touchwood, touchstone, touchline, ect. (a list can be found here : http://www.scrabblefinder.com/starts-with/touch/ ) I would like to ...
4
votes
3answers
935 views

Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coin the proverb “A change is as good as a rest”?

The proverb a change is as good as a rest is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: A change of work or occupation can be as restorative or refreshing as a period of relaxation Cambridge ...
-2
votes
1answer
46 views

Why two 'be's in 'be bereaved'?

Isn't the infinitive be in be bereaved redundant? Etymonline looks complex and refers to bereft. 'Origin' on ODO suggests to 'see be-, reave', but doesn't the prefix 'be-' already suffice? reave ...
13
votes
2answers
441 views

Reversal of the meaning of the word “restive”

According to google etymology the word restive originally meant inclined to remain still. But then it changed the meaning to the opposite. I would like to know if such phenomenon of revresal ...
1
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1answer
48 views

Are “Speculate” and “Speculum” related? [closed]

I wonder if any etymology buffs can shed some light into this one. While commonly a speculum is a medical instrument, I know it has other uses in literature and history. Is speculate a verb extending ...
4
votes
1answer
94 views

Why do we call it “gum arabic” and not “arabic gum”?

Not in use so much these days, "gum arabic" can still be found for sale in small bottles. Is there a reason why it is called "gum arabic" and not "arabic gum"? Gum Arabic - Gum arabic, also known ...
5
votes
1answer
92 views

Why “on the books”, not “in the books”

On the books means "part of the law". These changes would add little to the civil rights laws now on the books. I know the meaning of this idiom, and idioms are used as they are, but idioms ...
1
vote
2answers
61 views

How did 'provide' evolve to mean 'stipulate in a document'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 3 that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. to provide [with clause] = Stipulate in a will or other legal document: Etymonline doesn't ...
0
votes
1answer
24 views

What is the etymology of “Pasifika”?

What is the etymology of the term "Pasifika", which can mean the Pacific Islands, people of Pacific Island heritage (in a New Zealand context), or a festival held in Auckland about Pacific Island ...
16
votes
3answers
497 views

What is the origin of “in a jiffy”?

What is the origin of "in a jiffy"? Etymology online Dictionary says origin unknown but speculates that it was slang (cant) for lightning and dates it as 1785. Wikipedia agrees but adds that the ...
0
votes
1answer
96 views

Dull as ditchwater (not dishwater) … specific questions thereon

(1) who specifically, or at least when specifically, did originate the phrase? {Example answer - "that was one of Shakespeare's!"} (2) why? (3) when first did someone screw up and use ...
2
votes
1answer
191 views

Words that changed meaning in past hundred years [closed]

I am looking for a list of words that were used to mean something different from for what they are used now. some words are such that whose meaning has changed completely and some words have more ...
1
vote
2answers
52 views

How did 'patriate' develop to mean 'transfer … from a mother country to its former dependency'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: to patriate = Transfer control over (a constitution) from a mother country to its former dependency: ...
3
votes
3answers
62 views

The origin of “It's just one of those things”?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "It's just one of those things" means: said about an event or situation that you cannot explain, or do not like but cannot change But what is the origin? ...
10
votes
3answers
902 views

Duane “Dog” Chapman, what is the word for the part in quotes between forename and surname?

Apologies if this has been asked before, I found it quite difficult to phrase what I meant! As the question title states: Duane "Dog" Chapman. What is the correct word to describe the part that is ...
2
votes
1answer
80 views

How did the verb 'leverage' evolve to mean 'use borrowed capital'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: to leverage = Use borrowed capital for (an investment), expecting the profits made to be greater than ...
1
vote
1answer
254 views

Where did the phrase “drop the hammer” come from?

Where did the phrase "drop the hammer" come from? It's what you do when you start to go balls to the wall. I've only heard it rowing.
-1
votes
1answer
113 views

What's the reason of having prefix “re” in the word “republic”? [closed]

Does that mean there was an even earlier form of government called "public"?
8
votes
1answer
289 views

What is the origin of 'koumpounophobia'?

I discovered that the fear of buttons is called koumpounophobia. I've been trying to look up it's etymology, but my usual sources are failing me: etymonline, wiktionary and wikipedia don't provide any ...
3
votes
1answer
98 views

Does the “elbow-handshake” have any relation to the phrase “rubbing elbows”?

This is probably answerable with a general reference (or a pair of such references), but I have not been able to find one. Etymology Online does not cover the origin of "rubbing-elbows" as meaning ...
1
vote
1answer
53 views

How does 'so much as' develop to mean 'even'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: so much as = [with negative] Even: I couldn't find the etymology for this adverbial phrase? Is this ...
-1
votes
1answer
45 views

Etymology of “age of majority?” [closed]

What is the etymology of the phrase "age of majority," meaning, e.g., 18 in the US? Does it have something to do with democracy, the age at which one can vote, and the fact that democracy is based on ...
0
votes
4answers
177 views

How does “not least” mean “in particular; notably”?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning? not least = In particular; notably I couldn't find the etymology for this ??adverbial phrase?? I ...
4
votes
3answers
697 views

The etymology of “redhead” vs. “ginger haired”

All my life I have known people with reddish, orangey hair, to be termed ginger haired. Just as you don't call a blonde a 'yellow head' red head just wasn't a word that was said (wouldn't orange head ...
10
votes
3answers
266 views

Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
2
votes
1answer
65 views

Etymology of the “Chicago Seven” construction

There are many examples of a construction of the form "City + Number" used to refer to an incident involving a particular small group of people. It is often used when it is alleged that the people in ...
1
vote
0answers
44 views

Why are redheads called “gingers” when ginger is yellow? [duplicate]

The term "ginger" is often used as a slang term for someone with bright red hair. But ginger (the spice) is actually a bright yellow in color. Where does this term come from, then?