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

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“Slay” and “Entertain”

I have recently been shown that "Slay" can also mean "Entertain", however this seems rather odd to me. "You slay me, you really do." I have two main questions: In what reasonable context would ...
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84 views

The im- prefix in the word immigrate [closed]

So I know that, generally speaking, the prefix "im-" means "not" or "the opposite of" which is fine in words like immobile, impolite, impossible etc. However, while helping my wife with her uni work I ...
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32 views

“Gear Up” Etymology

Does "Gear up" come to you as more of a "Put on your equipment" image or a "Put the gears (with teeth) together and get ready/ start going" image? Both sense of "Gear" appeared at around the same ...
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History of the expression 'Liberal Wonk' [closed]

Anyone know the history of the expression 'Liberal Wonk' I imagine it comes from the wording 'Political Wonk' which I've heard of in the past but I'm not sure if it's a positive expression, neutral, ...
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52 views

Best form for language [closed]

I would like to compile lists of activities, things, actions etc. that are relevant in an engineering context. A common rule is to use a verb-object form when creating lists in an attempt to present ...
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97 views

A reality check on “reality check”

Reality check is a very common expression that refers to: a corrective confronting of reality, in order to counteract one's expectations, prejudices, or the like. (Origin 1970-1975 - Dictionary....
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Climbing the wall of worry.

Wall of worry is an informal expression often used in financial jargon to refer to: a market uptrend that occurs when there is significant uncertainty about its sustainability. For example, ...
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321 views

When did “brick-and-mortar” become a set phrase?

Brick and mortar (also bricks and mortar or B&M): in its simplest usage describes the physical presence of a building(s) or other structure. The term brick-and-mortar business is often ...
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How did it happen that there are two different words “insulation” and “isolation” for virtually the same concept? [closed]

This question is not about the meaning of and the difference between the words insulation and isolation, it has been already answered here: What's the difference between "insulated" and &...
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Why is it called a World “cup”? [closed]

I've noticed a similar trend (dishes, bowls, etc). There are other non-utensil words (like trophy) but I'm curious if there is some history behind why the usage of the word "cup".
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160 views

Is the term “tooltip” for the upvote and downvote button on StackExchange accurate?

It just occurred to me that the term tooltip used for SE's upvote and downvote button might be ambiguous and misleading. Doesn't tip here mean advice? Whenever I hover my mouse over an icon in Word (...
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boeuf (Fr. slang for “big theatre hit”) = boffo?

Reading my French slang dictionary I see that a big hit (as for a movie) is a "boeuf" and being an ardent reader of Terry Pratchett where "boffo" is often used as something like "glitz" but also can ...
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The origin of the derogatory usage of Guido

Guido: is a slang term, often derogatory, for a working-class urban Italian American. The guido stereotype is multi-faceted. Originally, it was used as a demeaning term for Italian ...
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104 views

Trump and Trumpery

Reading "Trumpery - A Twitter meme caused lookups to spike" on M-W got me wondering about Trump and Trumpery. I meant about the words itself and not about candidate Donald Trump's qualities. Trump ...
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Does the word 'fascism' come from emulating the Romans? [closed]

I saw this quote: A lot of Fascism was based on emulating the Romans, whose ruins are famous. It's right there in the name, taken from fasces. For context, this was a reply to the observation: ...
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277 views

Where does the phrase “wild horses won't keep me away” come from

I've heard the phrase "wild horses won't keep me away", as is if wild horses were dragging me away, I wouldn't be kept from going where I was going. Where does this come from?
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Etymology of “Run of Text”?

This is somewhat of a stackoverflow cross-over. In WPF programming, there is something called a Run. It is "intended to contain a run of formatted or unformatted text". Is "run of text" a phrase that ...
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The Word Bastard - Origin and Meaning [closed]

How offensive is the word Bastard? And when did it become more of an offense than a term used for child out of wedlock?
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What is “pishantosh”?

I found the word in Heinlein's "Friday": I apologized, saying that there was no excuse for me to be sleepy since it was still early evening by the zone where I had started the day. Janet said ...
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3answers
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Is 'stewer' a proper English word?

My mother used the word 'stewer' to refer to the pot that you cook stew in, but I have only rarely seen it used this way. Can you tell me what the origin is of this usage?
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What is the origin of “smell a rat”? [closed]

So an idiom, "to smell a rat," means to suspect trickery or deception. Where does that come from?
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What is the word origin for “ortho-,” “meta-,” and “para-” in chemistry?

The prefix "ortho-" means straight or right; "meta-" means beyond or after; "para-" means beside or along. How, then, did ortho-, meta- and para- come to refer to the carbon positions one, two, and ...
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Does the use of the symbol slash for “or” come from the use of “|” in computer programming? [closed]

Does the rise of acceptance in "/" for "or" come from the use of "|" in computer programming (For "OR")? If not is there any correlation?
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Do any other words make “barbeque” look like the standard spelling of the word?

Before today, I thought that "barbeque" was the standard spelling ("barbecue" is more standard) and that it was derived from French (it's derived from Spanish). Are there any other words in English ...
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What semantic notions inverted the meaning of 'with' (from opposition to association)?

[Wiktionary :] From Middle English with, from Old English wiþ ‎(“against, opposite, toward”), a shortened form of wiþer, from Proto-Germanic *wiþr- ‎(“against”), from Proto-Indo-European *wi-tero- ‎(“...
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Possible meaning for 'long' in 'not long for this world'

I have come across the phrase 'not long for this world' in many English novels, but it has always struck me as odd, as if a word or part of the sentence were missing. I visited numerous websites but ...
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What is the etymology of the word “gong” in reference to medals?

This came up in a crossword and apparently 'gong' is British slang for a military decoration such as a medal. However I couldn't find any information on how this came to be by searching google and ...
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The different uses of “-ing” in english [closed]

This may be a bad question, but I have noticed that the suffix, "-ing" is used in mainly three different ways (there may be more, I just haven't noticed them). The first way being the most common ...
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When did egregious become something bad? (archaic was something good) [duplicate]

The archaic meaning of egregious is something good. Now it means the opposite. When did this occur and is there any reasoning on why this occurred?
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Etymology of “nine-edge” and “twelve-edge”

Leafing through A Fortran Coloring Book (Kaufmann, MIT Press, 1978) I came across this passage, describing punch cards:- There are twelve rows that go across each card. For reasons known only to ...
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What's the origin behind the phrase “assume room temperature” which means “to die”?

I stumbled upon this phrase in Urban Dictionary and was rather taken by surprise to know that it is a slang expression for a person who has died (or will die in the immediate future.) Medical ...
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Term for appending “-esque” or “-ish” to a a word to form an adjective

What is the name of the term for when someone transforms a noun into an adjective by appending -esque or -ish to the end of the noun? I see this in cases where an appropriate adjective doesn't readily ...
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Why did -ful prevail instead of -full for adjectives?

A lot of adjectives in English are based on a noun + the ending -ful. The opposite adjective is usually constructed with the ending -less According to Wiktionary, both endings -ful and -full existed ...
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origin and first use of the word “comforter” when used to describe something worn around the neck?

What is the origin and first use of the word "comforter" when used to describe what, in the US, is known as a scarf?
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Did “white” in “decent white folk” originally refer to race?

Nowadays, the "white" in "decent white folk" can refer to race. But did it always refer to race, or did it have another meaning? I tried looking at Google NGrams, but it has very few hits.
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What is the etymology of 'Romanticism'?

[OED:] 7. Freq. as Romantic. Designating, relating to, or characteristic of a movement or style during the late 18th and 19th centuries in Europe marked by an emphasis on feeling, individuality, and ...
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“olfactory” and “factory” - just a coincidence?

As a non native speaker I was always wondering is there is any relation between the words Olfactory and factory. They seem strikingly similar yet there is apparently no connection.
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Recent shifts in semantics which lead to misunderstandings [closed]

I was just answering this question. It is about a use of "should". The word seems to have undergone a semantic shift away from a simple first-person form of "would". Instead it is today most often ...
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What does “It is warmer on the peaks than those in the valleys will ever know” mean?

I was looking for a phrase to put at the end of a worksheet just as a nice to have for the students when they were doing work and I came across the phrase: "It is warmer on the peaks than those in ...
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What's the story behind “read my lips”?

The famous (or infamous) expression "read my lips" is often associated with a phrase spoken by then American presidential candidate George H. W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention who ...
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Etymology of the “half your age, plus seven” phrase? [closed]

Stories vary online about the origins of this. It comes up in French in the early 20th century, and apparently American newspapers in 1931. What are the earliest known examples in the English ...
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How did English end up with names for days of the week like Monday, borrowed from latin but then also translated?

Learning about the origin of English names for days of the week, I found it it curious that some of them had an original meaning borrowed from Latin, but the words themselves were a translation. So ...
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What does the colloquial “b” mean? Is it a gangland expression?

If you watch The Wire, you'll notice that Stringer calls Avon "B" quite often. What does it mean? Is it short for "buddy"? When and where did people start using this expression?
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How did 'fast' evolve to mean 'quick', from 'firm'?

[ OED on 'fast' (adv.) :] 6.a. Quickly, rapidly, swiftly. For the development of this sense from the primary sense ‘firmly’, cf. 1d, 4, 5, and expressions like ‘to run hard’. It does not appear ...
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What is the word and/or process used to describe mashing two words together or inserting phonetic sounds to create new written words?

The question Portmanteau seems to apply in cases like: Phablet - Bigger than a smart phone, smaller than a tablet. Smog - Smoke and fog. Vlog - Video and blog. There must be another word for ...
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Meaning of once and while in “once in a while”

How did "once in a while" come to mean "occasionally, from time to time"? I understand it is an idiomatic usage, but "once" means "one time" and "while" means "in the meantime" , so how can the ...
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“On” and “Off” for Lights, Electrical Switches, etc

Simple question: Why were the prepositions "on" and "off" used for things like "The lights are on" and "The computer is off", and when did these words gain their new usage? I'm guessing back in the ...
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Etymology of the word “smaragd”?

I know that this word is used to describe a variation of an emerald, although many dictionaries do not include this word. One that does is Merriam-Webster: Middle English smaragde, from Latin ...
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What is the origin of 'as long as' meaning 'on condition that'?

According to dictionaries 'as long as' means "during a period of time" (as long as you live), but it also means "on the condition that" (I will attend the conference as long as I can arrive on time). ...
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What's the origin of the phrase - “For the life of me”?

The ODO definition is: (informal) However hard I try; even if my life depended on it I have come across this phrase quite a lot of times in EL&U: For the life of me, I can't remember that ...