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

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where does the expression “not to worry” come from?

I never heard the expression "not to worry" when I was young (I am 78 yrs old). Now i seem to hear it all the time. It sounds like a literal translation from some language where the infinitive is ...
2
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1answer
66 views

“In general,…”: do mathematicians use this phrase oppositely from everyone else?

In mathematical writings, one often encounters statements involving the phrase "in general" in the following sense: After the number 2, the next few prime numbers (3,5,7) are each odd numbers, and ...
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6answers
221 views

Was the blue screen of death ever just a blue screen?

Etymologically speaking, at least according to Wikipedia, the term Blue Screen of Death: originated during OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc, the makers of an early Windows ...
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1answer
69 views

Is there a relation between the words “import” (trade) and “important” (valuable)?

Is there a relation between the words import (in a trade sense) and important (special, etc)? It seems to me that there is, or rather that there should be, but I was wondering if anyone can give some ...
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2answers
177 views

Origin of terms Passed Away and Deceased

I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough. This from a Low Episcopalian.....
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221 views

What is a word that describes a secret that passes on from a person to person?

I forgot this word. I tell a person a secret and ask him not to tell it to anyone else. That 2nd person tells another person and tells him not to disclose it to anyone else. But this goes on. ...
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152 views

Use of the phrase with abandon

I came across this phrase on Stack Overflow and I was a little confused as to its meaning: Every major browser now has a built in console which your would-be hacker can use with abandon... I ...
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2answers
1k views

When did dogs start “wagging” their tails?

An earlier question of mine What does a cat's tail do? got me thinking. When did dogs begin to wag their tails? And do any other animals wag? According to Google, very few books have ever been ...
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How to remember the terms for noun declensions?

I'm aware of the etymological fallacy, but would knowing the etymology of the following words help me understand them? I'm always confused as to which is which, and I need to consult a dictionary ...
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1answer
99 views

What is the origin of the term “crash hot”?

The term "crash hot" is often used in the negative, such as "I'm not feeling too crash hot today". I am trying to find out when the term was first used and why. I have used Internet search but have ...
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3answers
390 views

Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English? [duplicate]

In general English doesn't seem to cater well for identifying relationships between people, and the classic example seems to be the term 'cousin' because you can't really work out whether it is ...
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2answers
310 views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
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1answer
82 views

“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
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2answers
47 views

How did 'undertake' evolve to mean 'take on'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: undertake = [with object] 1. Commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); take on: ...
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2answers
175 views

words derived from French that have re-entered French from English [closed]

I am looking for a few examples of words that originated in French (or in Latin and then entered French), entered English and were reimported into French.
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1answer
65 views

Do *appraise* and *apprise* come from the same root?

I am interested in the origin and usage of apprise versus appraise. There is overlap in usage. In one meaning the latter can be substituted for the former and this is recognised in sense 4 in the ...
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2answers
138 views

What is the etymology of “first crack”

The meaning is "first chance", for example, "I gave my oldest son first crack at trying to fix the car"
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0answers
38 views

How does 'be' + 'of' combine to mean 'possess; give rise to'?

I already understand and thus ask NOT about the definition, but instead want to dredge below it: to be of = Possess intrinsically; give rise to How does the juxtaposition of these two 'Top 1000 ...
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1answer
30 views

What is the source of “set”, meaning balanced?

In the sport of rowing, a boat is "set" if it's balanced and doesn't wobble. It can also be used as a noun as in "We had good set this morning", or as a verb- "Set the boat, gosh darn it". I've found ...
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1answer
82 views

Origin of the expression “skin of a rhinoceros”?

The Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has recently published an open letter where he says: ... It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros. I am wondering where this expression "skin of a rhinoceros" is ...
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0answers
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Real estate derivation [duplicate]

The derivation of "real" in the term "real estate". Can it be literal in describing parcels of land as distinguished from other appurtenances that was added or exists on the parcel? Could it mean ...
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3answers
653 views

The origins and usages of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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1answer
165 views

What is the origin of the expression “the big picture”?

The expression the big picture, meaning "the entire perspective on a situation or issue", is very common today. Where does this phrase come from? Was there a literal big picture that it once ...
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2answers
147 views

Why does the word delight have positive connotations? [closed]

I'm sitting here, and hear someone respond to a request with "I'd be delighted". I understand the words to say this is a positive response along the lines of "sure, I'd be happy to help". But I'm ...
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3answers
82 views

Does 'invidious' imply hatred/malice for 'envy'? [closed]

invidious (adj) = (Of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others Etymology: c.1600, from Latin invidiosus "full of envy, envious," from invidia "envy, ...
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What is the etymology of 'Chemistry'?

Most studies of science end with the suffixes -logy, -nomy and -metry, as defined in the answer to the question Meaning of '-onomy', '-ology' and '-ography', including examples like 'geology', ...
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81 views

Two quite different meanings of “bear”

As a noun, a bear is a type of carnivore. As a verb, to bear means to support or produce. I wonder how the two meanings finally ended up in one single word. Is there any connection between the two ...
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1answer
40 views

How did the noun 'remit' evolve to mean 'the task assigned' and 'an item referred'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definitions 1 and 2 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. remit = [chiefly British] The task or area of activity officially assigned to an individual ...
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1answer
72 views

Where does the “… take Manhattan” trope originate?

There are a number of creative works whose titles end in this way. For example, The Muppets Take Manhattan, a 1984 film “First We Take Manhattan”, a 1987 song Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes ...
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79 views

Does anyone know the origins of “lucks a mussy” ( phonetic as I don't know correct spelling).

My mother used the saying lucks a mussy ?correct spelling and I have always wondered about it origins and meaning. I think it means Lord have mercy but am not sure on this.
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1answer
69 views

A noun for phenomenon experienced by wave-particle duality

We have known for centuries that elementary particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. Does the English Language have a word that describes this wave-particle duality?
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Does “candlelight” mean “compare side by side”?

Some of my colleagues use the word "candlelight" to mean "directly compare similar things". A specific example is comparing two lines on a line chart like this: "We can use this chart to ...
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1answer
116 views

Etymology of the meaning of waste as a broad expanse [closed]

Merriam-Webster online dictionary says one of the meanings of "waste" is: a broad and empty expanse(as of water) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waste I'm interested in the origin of this ...
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278 views

What is the source of the phrase “phony baloney”?

The term baloney means Foolish or deceptive talk; nonsense: typical salesman’s baloney [corruption of bologna] [Oxford Dictionaries Online] Etymonline provides the following derivation ...
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1answer
56 views

What is the origin of the word “copped”?

In the language used by footy (Australian football) commentators the word "copped" is frequent. For instance, if a player gets knocked on the head, say, then the sentence might be "player X copped ...
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2answers
43 views

How did 'adumbrate' evolve to mean 'represent in outline'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. adumbrate = [with object] Represent in outline: Etymonline for adumbration: 1530s, from Latin ...
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1answer
82 views

Same word with opposite meanings [duplicate]

The connotation of adjective 'appropriate' is positive, while that of the verb is negative. 1. What's this phenomenon called, though this question allows any part of speech (and not just an ...
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2answers
233 views

What is the origin of “alrighty”?

It is a friendlier and more colloquial version of "alright". It is also heard in the exclamation/interjection "Alrighty, then!". I usually hear it at the end of conversations in Canadian English, ...
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1answer
102 views

The connection between roosters and genitalia

It is a known fact that the same word (same spelling and pronunciation) is used to describe both a rooster and a part of male genitalia (I am not sure how vulgar it would be of me to use the word ...
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1answer
62 views

Movable Type vs. WordPress [closed]

Is the name of the blogging platform 'WordPress' word play? Does it have any additional meaning for a native English speaker? For example, the name of the blogging platform 'Movable Type' refers to ...
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3answers
524 views

Why is “to switch gears” used for “to change topic”?

The expressions to switch gears, to shift gears are often (too often for my taste, but that is a different matter) used to announce a switch from one topic to another in an oral presentation ...
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2answers
101 views

Why do we say “rips and tears”?

For example, "Clothing must be free from rips and tears." It seems to me that the words "rips" and "tears" can be used interchangeably, and that using both is redundant. Is there a particular reason ...
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63 views

How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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1answer
988 views

What is the etymology of the term “private eye”?

The term private eye has widespread use to mean private detective or investigator. See, e.g., Oxford Dcitionary Online Several websites, such as this one, suggest that the term was based on a logo ...
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219 views

Is “fresher” really a “proper” English word?

I see a lot of folks on Stackoverflow using fresher when describing themselves as beginners at any given topic. I have never really heard of "fresher" as a synonym for beginner. I know "freshman" as ...
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4answers
3k views

Etymology of a “pegged CPU”

There's a slightly obscure, slang meaning in tech circles of the word "pegged" as it relates to a computer's CPU. When it is fully utilised for a duration (at least several seconds), you can say that ...
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When and where did “spanking” begin to be used as an adjective? [duplicate]

"That's a spanking car." "A spanking little horse." Spank t.v. - To beat across the buttocks with the open hand, to strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand. i.v. - to ...
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509 views

Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about ...
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When/where/why did “Look who it ain't/isn't” appear?

It seems to me that... "Well! Look who it ain't!" ...is/was normally used quite dismissively, referring to a newly-arrived person of low social status, who the speaker would often then proceed ...
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160 views

Why is taking a side street called a “rat run”?

I stumbled upon this expression for the first time while doing some research for an answer, and I have to admit I love it! An explanation of rat running/ a rat run is as follows "Rat running/ A ...