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

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Origin of “Arachnoleptic fit”

In various websites on the Internet, including http://www.joke-archives.com/dictionaries/dictionarywords.html, I've come across the phrase Arachnoleptic fit. Apparently all the words in that set ...
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86 views

What is the primary meaning of 'knocked up'

There seem to be several meanings; Awoken in the morning; Made pregnant; Put together/prepared quickly or on the fly; Made tired/worn out. I have never heard of this last meaning which (used earlier ...
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60 views

Why is the OED's first reference to *irredentism* as late as 1886?

Irredentism (from the Italian irredento, 'unredeemed') has a first reference in the OED as late as 1886. Yet irredentism, the problem which had plagued European statesmen for generations was deeply at ...
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119 views

Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
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Origin of “tail over teakettle”?

"Tail over teakettle" is one of several similar phrases to describe a tumble or fall. But where/how did this originate? A few web searches give me pages where people use the phrase, and one of the ...
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What word can I use instead of “tomorrow” that is not connected with the idea of the rising sun?

I'm working on a novel while trying to take into account the historical context surrounding it. It begins in 1140 AD, so the characters would use Old English, Latin, Old French, and other similar ...
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734 views

Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
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1answer
702 views

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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116 views

“Nightmare” derivation

I did some research about word nightmare. In most cases this is what I've found: night + Old English mære "incubus." I would like to use the word mare for poetic purposes, but its meaning in ...
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243 views

Where does the slang word “bad” + “ass” (badass) come from?

What is the origin of the word badass? Why a "bad" ass/"bad" + "ass"? What is an ass that is bad and how can an ass that is bad describe a tough person?
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1answer
37 views

When did 'permission' become popular as a therapy term

Permission has several uses, but somewhere around the 1990s it became common to hear it in the context of therapy sessions as in "you need to give yourself permission to..." do this or that. When did ...
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2answers
75 views

“Stadiums” vs. “stadia” [duplicate]

I'm not that old, but when I was a child/teen, stadia was the common term. As in: Wembley, the Nou Camp, and the Santiago Bernabeu are football stadia. The MCG and Lord's are cricket stadia. ...
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71 views

How does the word “cardinal” relate to “cardinal numbers”

Cardinal number In linguistics, more precisely in traditional grammar, a cardinal number or cardinal numeral (or just cardinal) is a part of speech used to count, such as the English words ...
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6k views

Why is there no “autumntime” or “falltime”?

Why is "autumntime" (or "falltime") not a word? wintertime => sure springtime => fine summertime => lovely But apparently autumn/fall has no equivalent. Why?
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1answer
158 views

“So I told a porcupine…”

I heard this phrase spoken on a British TV show. It was obvious from context that it meant 'a little white lie'. How did this colloquialism arise? I have my own theory about about how this may have ...
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219 views

How did nominal come to mean “within acceptable tolerances”?

The word "nominal" has a number of definitions. For example, the Free Dictionary gives seven: nom·i·nal (nm-nl) adj. a. Of, resembling, relating to, or consisting of a name or names. ...
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125 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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Does anyone know where “crack down” comes from?

There’s crack up, crack down, and crack on (?). I am curious about the origin of the phrase crack down. Also, what does it literally mean?
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139 views

What is the origin of “dox” and “doxing”?

Wikipedia has a solid description of what "doxing" is: Doxing is the Internet-based practice of researching and publishing personally identifiable information about an individual. They also make ...
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1answer
63 views

Etymology/Origin behind using “bitching” in a positive sense

Etymonline.com mentions this: bitch (v.) "to complain," attested at least from 1930, perhaps from the sense in bitchy, perhaps influenced by the verb meaning "to bungle, spoil," which is ...
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1answer
64 views

'equity' in finance

I'm not asking about its formal definition (a windy one here) or its general definition in English, the latter of which states: Stocks and shares that carry no fixed interest: Instead, I'm ...
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1answer
61 views

Why football and rugby clubs use “Racing Club” in their names?

There are many sport clubs with the name Racing Club of [town name]. It seems that Racing Club is an old name for clubs of runners. But I don't understand why is it used for football or rugby clubs ...
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Why are female wizards called “witches”?

I was looking up these two words in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: Wizard: Witch: It's mentioned in the Word Origin section that Wizard comes from "Wise", while for "Witch" it ...
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1answer
72 views

What's the original meaning of “Abraxis”?

Today I realized that I'd been running into the name 'Abraxis' in quite a few different places, and I didn't know what it meant. If it appeared once or twice as the name of a fictional character or a ...
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3answers
135 views

What is the origin of the phrase “knock-down, drag-out”?

I can find this phrase in a few dictionaries: knock-down, drag-out — marked by extreme violence or bitterness and by the showing of no mercy knock–down, drag–out political debates But I ...
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How to guess/divine definitions from etymology?

I've been using the word 'intuition' to characterise such questions, of which I've asked many, so I'd like to learn or be enlightened about the general methodology. Is there a formal term? ...
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How does “to subsist in” come to mean “to be attributed to”? [closed]

What's the logical derivation behind this definition of subsist [Definition 2.1] Be attributable to: the effect of genetic maldevelopment may subsist in chromosomal mutation In that link, the ...
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108 views

When did “sci-fi” become popular?

When did the term sci-fi come into usage?
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228 views

Why the ring finger is called the third finger?

I’ve long puzzled about why the ring finger is called third finger in spite of it being the forth finger from the thumb (counting the thumb as the first, the pointing finger the second, the middle ...
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180 views

Please explain the pronunciation of “indict.”

The word indict is not pronounced as it is spelled (big shocker in English, right?). It looks like it should be pronounced in-dikt, but it is pronounced in-dite. Why is it pronounced like this? Are ...
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183 views

Using “So” Followed by a Noun Phrase to Express Boredom, Disgust, Tediousness, Dullness, Banality

In the BBC TV series Sherlock’s episode two from series three, “The Empty Hearse", John Watson waxes maudlin over being left out of the loop for two years regarding Sherlock’s faked death. Sherlock ...
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229 views

How was the term 'payload' coined?

Wikipedia describes payload as, Payload is the carrying capacity of an aircraft or launch vehicle, usually measured in terms of weight. Etymonline says, payload 1930, from pay (n. or v.) + ...
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Why does “enjoy” (almost) not have a causative sense?

Its etymology confirms that the en- is the same prefix as in enshrine, encourage, encircle, etc., which would normally suggest a causative sense. But rather than "to give joy to", the predominant ...
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is “merablum” or “merablem” a word?

is there a word "merablum"? maybe "merablem"? It means scrap or remnant of food left on a plate. I always thought it was a word but I googled it and - nothing. Is Google unaware of it or is it a made ...
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137 views

What is the origin of “pretty” as slang for “somewhat”?

We now often hear phrases like: That's pretty interesting. The word "pretty" here is used to say "somewhat," "considerably/rather," or something along those lines (if a little stronger). ...
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86 views

Drinks Shirley - Slang for overhead dispenser? [closed]

In a TV series, a man from London (living in Canada) asked for the house bar using the word "Drinks Shirley". What does it mean exactly? Is it this kind of dispenser?
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Does (or did) “a trouser” or “a scissor” have a meaning?

We say (a pair of) trousers, (a pair of) scissors. For these two particular words, is/was there something like "a trouser" or "a scissor"? Did it use to mean anything? E.g. in Czech, the word for ...
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Isn't the word “shotgun” a self-redundancy? [closed]

I was googling the reason for why it's called "shotgun" to ride beside the driver when it suddenly hit me - why on Earth is the firearm called "shotgun"?! Is there any other kind of a gun than one ...
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46 views

Are “bunk” and “bunker” directly related?

When did the term bunk (in the sense of sleeping berth) arise, and what if any connection does it have to the noun bunker? Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) gives a first ...
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141 views

Is there any connection between “machination” and Machiavelli?

Is there any connection between the term machination and the writer Niccolò Machiavelli or is it just a coincidence that they are so similar? It seems logical because aside from having similar ...
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What causes the euphemisation of medical terms?

George Carlin has a famous sketch where he laments the dehumanising of ailments by “euphemisation”, illustrated by the use of “shell shock” during World War I, followed by “battle fatigue”, then ...
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First use of “bunk”

My question is simple: Which came first, bunk as in "bunk beds" or "to bunk" as in to find a place to sleep? Almost suredly, the definition of one created the definition of the other by association, ...
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“Soccer mom”: why soccer?

...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom? Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic ...
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Is the term “professional” justifiably reduced to “being paid to do something”?

I very often hear people call themselves professional at something they haven’t been doing long. On the rare occasions that I ask them how they feel able to qualify themselves as professional, the ...
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58 views

When was the term “idiot box” coined?

also .. who coined it ? I am interested as it would probably point to a time when "mindlessness" invaded television. I am not trying to be overtly biased against TV. There are some good shows and ...
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636 views

Etymology of certain words ending in “-en”

Tchrist's comment here on my answer to an etymology question brought the following to mind: Ox (from Old English oxa) maintains the same vowel in the plural oxen that it has in the singular. But ...
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Etymology of “mortgage” and “deed”. Are they both related to “death”?

I read something that said the word deed was related to the word dead, deed being the document signifying ownership of a house and dead being no longer alive. The article didn’t elaborate but after ...
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Help me understand the meaning of a phrase I use regularly- “just ducky” [duplicate]

When people ask me; "how are you"? I love to answer with "just ducky" (sp?) and it usually gets a disarming smile and sets a light-hearted tone for conversation to follow. I adopted it as part of my ...
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70 views

“Show” and “Shower” [closed]

I'm a programmer and found myself naming an entity, which shows things, as Shower. Of course, the first time I read it, I remembered the freshness of the drops of water and nothing related to what it ...
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Name for the bumper at the end of a parking spot - is it a “turtarrier”? If so, why?

I was trying to find out if there was a single word to mean the bumper at the end of a parking spot. "Parking bumper" is a little unwieldy, and "wheel chock" seems to be more about airplanes or ...