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

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Why is it “description” but “describe” (b and p)?

I've just wondered by it is "description", but "to describe". It looks as if "to descripe" would be a more consistant choice. Is there any other explanation besides "this is how it is written for ...
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“Digital computer” in the 1940s

I was watching the DVD movie Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped crack the Nazi's enigma code in WWII. In one key scene, Turing uses the ...
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Dank memes. But why?

On the internet, when talking about memes, a "dank meme" means old and out-played. According to Wiktionary, "dank" means "to moisten, dampen; used of mist, dew etc.". This doesn't sound like the ...
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Why is German anti-aircraft fire called “Archibald”?

Reading The War Illustrated (January 30th, 1915 number), I came across this passage:- At this speed they offer a comparatively stationary mark for the German anti-aircraft guns, always known as ...
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Arcology (Paolo Soleri)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology Says Paolo coined the word. But the concept was in use in SF as early as 1899. I'd like to know when this word was coined, so that I could check my old SF to ...
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Why are “muscle cars” called so?

Merriam-Webster defines muscle car as: any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving Why is this term restricted to ...
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Origin and usage of “stay the course”

The popular expression stay the course means: Hold or persevere to the end, as in: "No, he's not resigning; he's going to stay the course." According the AHD this metaphoric expression, ...
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Where does “contango” come from?

Contango is a very common term in financial business that originally referred to: (on the London stock exchange) a fee paid by a buyer of securities to the seller for the privilege of ...
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Since when do scouts look, rather than listen?

Scout (verb) seems to be attested in English from late 14c.: "observe or explore as a scout, travel in search of information," from Old French escouter "to listen, heed" (Modern French écouter). ...
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Is the name Germany derived from the Spanish “hermano”? [closed]

Could the current term "Germany" have any roots or derivation in the Latin germānus, Spanish hermano, hence "land of brothers," i.e. "Anglo-Saxon brothers? hermano From Old Spanish ermano, from ...
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Origin and usage of “celestial openness”.

I've recently come across the expression "celestial openness" used to refer to high receptiveness of a child's mind: Dr. Kuhl talks about the ‘celestial openness’ of a child’s mind, and ...
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Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g ...
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Are there any “fake” French words used in English?

Are there any "fake" French words used in English? By "fake French" I mean words that are of French origin but are not actually correct French. This could happen if the word changes as it becomes ...
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How did 'of' come to take on so many meanings?

TL/DR: How did of (a Function Word) spawn such diverse meanings, too numerous to list here? Optional Reading and Supplement: [OED:] The primary sense was ‘away’, ‘away from’, a sense now ...
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“Death comes in threes” origin?

With David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a few days on each other (RIP), I've heard some people say, "Death always comes in threes, I wonder who's next." What is the origin of this phrase? How ...
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What's up with the use of the word “black” in reference to skin color? [closed]

I've never liked the word black to describe people with dark skin. Those of us with pigment-enriched skin are certainly not black in color. Why was the term black used to describe people with dark ...
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“the hell with” vs “to hell with”

What is the etymology of "the hell with", which on the face of it is a corruption of "to hell with" or possibly a shortening ot "to the hell with". (See below.) In my experience, the former is rather ...
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Why are there two “to”s in “from … to … to …”?

To denote that something applies to a wide range of items you can use the phrase "from ... to ... to ...", e.g. Animals can live anywhere, from forests to deserts to deepest pits of the oceans. ...
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Origin of “If the wind changes”

Please help settle an argument. There is a expression used by parents and teachers to threaten children who are pulling faces: If the wind changes, you'll stay like that! or simiarly If the ...
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Where does describing something as “the gold standard” come from?

In statistics (and some other fields, such as medicine, I believe), the best available benchmark under reasonable conditions is sometimes referred to as "the gold standard". This phrase is also used ...
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What is the origin of the phrase 'touch wood'?

The Internet says 'Touch wood is an example of a superstition: something that we do in order to have good luck. It is not based on human reason or scientific knowledge, but is connected with old ideas ...
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Where does the basketball term 'dagger' originate from?

Today someone made a comment on the Warriors NBA basketball team, specifically talking about Curry, talking in light about his "daggers". Specifically, they said, "When Curry shoots those 48% ...
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Use of “Holocaust” in The Great Gatsby

The final sentence of Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby: "It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardner saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was ...
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Are the words “phoenix” (denoting the bird) and “Phoenicia” cognate?

Are the words "phoenix" and "Phoenicia" cognate? The phoenix had a purple-red colour, similar to or the same as the colour produced by the purple-red dye that Phoenicia was famous in both Greece and ...
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Is English the only language that always capitalizes “I”? [duplicate]

Is English the only language where "I" is always capitalized, no matter where it occurs in a sentence? The other two languages that I'm familiar with don't do this. In German, "ich" is only ...
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Why does “one of a kind” mean “unique?”

The wording suggest the opposite. Something that is one of a kind is but one of a category of many, if you look at each word non-idiomatically. Why, then, does "one of a kind" mean "unique?"
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How did “perfidy” come to mean the absence of faithfulness / trust?

Perfidy is (OED): Deceitfulness, untrustworthiness; breach of faith or of a promise; betrayal of trust; treachery. The roots are per- and fidēs (faith) Per- carries several senses, but ...
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Usage of “burn” as a form of mockery - How did it start?

I have come across numerous posts/memes on social media where, considering A,B and C are different people: A posts something seemingly innocuous. B comments on A's post, something either very funny ...
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Commute a sentence? To where? [closed]

A petition to pardon "Making a Murderer" subject Steven Avery made news recently when it was responded to by the White House's We the People team. I became interested by the response when I read ...
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What words in English convey love?

The word love is a cognate with its Germanic origin "luv," but I am wondering if English contains other words for love, such as relatives to the famous Greek "Four Loves:" Philia - This one has ...
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“cathouse,” “call house,” and “sporting house” for “bordello”

All three terms appear to be euphemisms for house of prostitution and are marked as Americanisms by Robert-Collins French and English Dictionary, Ed. 1985. cathouse being the most common one (as ...
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Origin of the term 'truther' as applied to conspiracy theorists

Today's Oakland [California] Tribune has a story from the Palm Beach [Florida] Post carrying the headline, "Sandy Hook truther fired by college." The story is evidently quite similar to one that ...
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“Hold your piece” or “Hold your peace”

Is the correct phrase “to hold your piece” or “to hold your peace”? This matter is often mentioned together with the matter of “saying one's piece”, which has already been answered. In that context, ...
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Origin of the “breach” sense of “compromise”

Both wiktionary and etymonline give the origin of compromise as Latin com (together) + promittere (promise). This is the most common use of this word: to mutually promise to [abide by an arbitrated ...
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“Polar” in polar coordinates [closed]

In mathematics, we use polar coordinates, I do not understand the reason of using the word "polar" here. What is the pole here? What does it have to do with the coordinates?
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Why do firearms “report”?

Walking in the country the other day, I heard the report of a shotgun. I started to wonder why this word is used. Merriam-Webster has report:- An explosive noise: the report of a rifle. ...
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Origins of “the weak are meat, and the strong do eat”

In the movie Cloud Atlas, Tom Hanks' earliest character ('Henry Goose') and Hugo Weaving's latest character ('Georgie') use the phrase The weak are meat, and the strong do eat Now, I don't think ...
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The Origin of the word, 'Soft Patch'

currently I'm TRYING to read some articles about the economy, however, I face one weird word, soft patch. I know what this word means but I don't know why it has that meaning, temporarily slowing ...
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92 views

Why is “welcome” spelled like this? [duplicate]

Why is the word "welcome" spelled with one "l"? Somewhere in the answers I found a good explanation of the meaning of " welcome". Example: "You have done well to come to me; I am pleased to do it" ...
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“Jolly good” meaning “extremely good” in British English

Like the intensifier bloody, I assumed that jolly as an adverb and intensifier is not broadly used in the U.S. meaning very or extremely. According to Oxford Online Dictionary, jolly as an adverb ...
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Has there ever been an antonym for “benefit” that includes the latin affix “neg-”?

I understand bene to roughly mean well, good, or rightly so from Latin, while neg- coming from Latin negare to roughly mean deny, negate, or against. The words benefit, beneficial, and benefactor all ...
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What is the etymology of “dope” meaning excellent, great, impressive?

Dope is a rather new slang word that is used to define someone or something excellent, great, impressive. OED says that it is originally in African-American usage and chiefly among rap musicians and ...
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A star is born!

I've always thought that the term "star", used to refer to a much celebrated artist, was originally a Hollywood expression used to refer to movie actresses (such as Gloria Swanson or Bette Davis for ...
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Is “anybody's guess” origin anybody's guess?

I was looking for the origin of the common expression "anybody's guess" but I couldn't find any much evidence. Checking with Ngram it appears the expression become suddenly popular during the 30's ...
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Why “the powers that be”?

In the phrase "the powers that be," as in the sentence: It would never have occurred to the powers that be to run and supervise the National Lottery from anywhere but London. Oxford ...
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Etymology of ~Getting into someone's “kitchen”~

Popular in the 80s and early 90s in Black-American culture, but I doubt it made it into many books so we may be at a loss. The meaning, quite visual, is walking into someone's house and banging all ...
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“Lest” or “Or?”

Colloquially, I would always use or where I would formally use lest. For example, "go to sleep, or you'll be tired" versus "go to sleep, lest you be tired." Has this usage of or been around for ...
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What's the origin of “lit”?

Since June 2015, use of the word lit has exploded on Twitter. Here's some recent examples. Nena Marie: My Year is starting off lit af👌🏼 ...but is gonna be TD by Monday morning Nick: Jason ...
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From the horse jockey to the disc jockey

Jockey was first used to refer to a person who rides a horse in races from the second half of the 17th century: Etymonline says that jockey (n.) is a variant of the name Jack: 1520s, "boy, ...
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“th” in mother, father, brother— but not sister

I was wondering why there is a "th" in mother, father, and brother, but not in sister? Is the etymology of the word different?