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

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What is the etymology of “run like a dog”?

I've used the phrase "runs like a dog" to mean that my car is on its last legs and can't, sometimes, run anywhere near as fast as a dog can. Can anyone shed light on where this meaning of the phrase ...
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622 views

“Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)”

"Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)" (idiom, used to agree to a suggestion that you think is good) It seems to be of relatively recent origin, if there's really a sound origin, that is. Main Q: What ...
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101 views

Origin of the saying 'all wet'

All wet is slang expression (mainly AmE) meaning: entirely mistaken. (TFD) All wet: The Phrase Finder, referring to OED, suggests that its first usage was: "c. all wet: mistaken, ...
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54 views

'insidious' : How does 'sit in' mean 'gradual, subtle' ? [closed]

insidious {adjective} = Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects: Etymonline: 1540s, from Middle French insidieux (15c.) or directly from Latin insidiosus ...
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94 views

did “born and bred” originally have different meaning?

Internet searching suggests the phrase "born and bred in Boston" means the same thing as "born and raised in Boston." But "bred" is the past-tense of "breed." Might "born and bred in Boston" have ...
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Origin of “janky” as in, “This setup is janky.”

The term "janky" is common in specific gaming communities and refers to using tactics that are bad or subpar. A specific example from Reddit: So Reynad just climbed about 800 ranks in legend with ...
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54 views

“hospitality”: does it refer to the guest or the host? [closed]

Is hospitality about being a good guest, or a good host? Or is it a little bit of both? Would it be the act of being a good host or is it different?
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44 views

What is the connection, if any, between 'adapt' and 'adept'?

The English adjective adept originates from the classical Latin adjective adeptus, to describe a person who has obtained knowledge of alchemy, magic and the occult. The verb to adapt would appear ...
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240 views

Does our word for [wrist] watch come from the 1735 English Longitude Prize?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson writes in the book Death By Black Hole on page 314: In 1735, the Board of Longitude's challenge was met by a portable, palm-sized clock designed and built by an English ...
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23 views

What is the origin of the verb 'to beef' (meaning complain)? [duplicate]

Why do we beef about things we are not happy with? The OED confirms that it is of US origin, and provides examples of its use from 1888 - to complain, grumble, protest.
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Where does the word “mean” come from in mathematics? [closed]

For the averages, mean, median and mode I can determine that median comes from latin for mid, mode comes from latin for measurement but cannot find where the word mean comes from. Is it an acronym? ...
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58 views

where did the term…falling down on the job come from?

What is the origin of Falling down on the job? what did it originally mean?
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'remit' {verb} : How does 'send back' mean 'to forward'?

remit {verb} [with object] = 2. Send (money) in payment or as a gift [Synonyms:] send, dispatch, forward, transmit, convey; ... [Etymonline]: late 14c., "to forgive, pardon," from Latin ...
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Etymology: The root of the words 'real' and 'reality'

I wish to identify the oldest known root from which we derive the words 'real' and 'reality', et cetera. I got as far as determining the origin of the English words real and reality is Latin res, ...
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51 views

Does 'fever' share an etymology with 'fervent, fervid, or fervour'?

The ODO entry for 'fervent' recommends to: Compare with fervid and fervour. I did read Etymonline's entry for 'fever' which doesn't explicitly answer this, but I think that I'd need to know ...
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Splitting of a word to create a past tense or verb

So, I was looking at the word "backup" recently. This is the only word I know of that splits the word to indicate an action("I'm backing it up now.") or for past tense("When was it last backed up?"). ...
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Etymology: 'pray in aid'

I wish to delve into the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I already tried the OED; it doesn't explain 'between the lines'. (See 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary ...
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'mawkish' : What's 'exaggerated or false' about maggots?

mawkish {adjective} = Sentimental in an exaggerated or false way [Etymonline:] 1660s, "sickly, nauseated," from Middle English mawke "maggot" (see maggot). Sense of "sickly sentimental" is ...
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276 views

Does “morning sickness” only relate to pregnancy? Did it always?

As far as I'm aware, "morning sickness" as a phrase relates specifically to pregnancy. So, even if you have a medical condition causing regular nausea/vomiting when you wake up and you typically wake ...
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Origin of the word “Thesaurus” [closed]

Thesaurus (Treasure) Origin from old Greek or Albanian language -> Thesari(in Albanian) - Treasure (in English). The word Thesari was build from two words in Albanian; Thes(in Alb)- Bag, + Ari or ...
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How does 'rude' mean 'hearty'?

ODO: rude {adjective} = 4. {attributive} {chiefly British} Vigorous or hearty OED: Etymology: < Anglo-Norman rud, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French rude, Old French (Lyons, rare) ...
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112 views

Which Mammoth came first: the animal or the description? [closed]

I thought to describe something in my writing as Mammoth, and that got me thinking: was the word originally used to describe the animal Mammoth, and adapted to describe anything that is colossally ...
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64 views

How does 'on' + 'against, toward' mean 'again'?

[Etymonline:] again (adv.) late Old English agan, from earlier ongean "toward, opposite, against, in exchange for," from on "on" (see on) + -gegn "against, toward," compounded for a sense of ...
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How did 'anticipate' evolve to mean 'forestall'?

OALD: 4. anticipate somebody (doing something) (formal) = to do something before it can be done by somebody else Etymonline: anticipate (v.) = 1530s, "to cause to happen sooner," a ...
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111 views

Why is the tendon named after Achilles?

There are two main or obvious possible reasons: Achilles died of a wound to the heel, from a poisoned arrow shot by Paris/Alexander. This is sometimes fabled to be the only spot where he could be ...
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Usage and meaning of the word “Ragging” in India

This is my first post here on an unwelcome situation in India, described by a word, "Ragging". Wikipedia article states that: "Ragging is a practice similar to hazing in educational institutions. ...
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Polarly opposite connotations of 'head'?

Such aphorisms as 'Think With Your Head, Not Your Heart' connote positivity of the noun 'head', but such English words as heady and testy connote negativity. So why this clash and polarity of ...
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Where does the word mandate come from? [closed]

I am looking for historical information for the word mandate.
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49 views

Actual origin of the name Finagle's law

Finagle's law states that Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible moment. It is commonly attributed to SF editor John Campbell. Did he actually coin the phrase, or did he ...
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Where does the term “key-thong” (for flip-flops) come from?

In the east Bay Area of California, in the early '60's, we called flip flops key-thongs. (The spelling is likely wrong as I couldn't read at the time.) We moved to New Mexico in the late 60's, where ...
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275 views

Why do people say 'buck' for a dollar?

I grew up in South Africa. When someone said something costs 'two bucks' it meant two rand (like saying two dollars, but South African currency). It made perfect sense, as the 1 Rand coin had an ...
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Envy is the biggest tribute

The best football (soccer) coach in the world for the past 12 years said: Envy is the biggest tribute that the shadows do to the man. Where does the phrase come from?
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'suffuse': How can you pour something (from) below?

I already understand so ask NOT about definitions, below which I instead purpose to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ODO: Late 16th century: from Latin suffus- 'poured into', from sub- ...
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243 views

What's the origin of “this is going to come to a head”?

I have used the phrases "This is going to come to a head" or "coming to a head". I think I know what they mean, I think I'm using them correctly. So...where do these phrases come from? And, ahem, ...
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How do I invent a word targeted to english speakers? [closed]

I'm looking for rules, guidance, and structure that will allow me to invent a word (or series of words) that would be easy for an English speaker to pronounce and remember. The intent is to generate ...
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Historical meaning of “program” as a verb

Frozen since 1837, some guy just thawed up and confronted me with the verb 'to program' in the context of CS. If by programming an automatic computer, we mean “to put instructions in main memory for ...
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Idiom: to be at loggerheads

Idiom to be at loggerheads with someone over sth The meaning is to be in strong disagreement with someone struggling constantly as in The two governments are still at loggerheads over the island. ...
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What did it originally mean to 'bow and scrape'?

It is said, including in the OED, to refer to bowing, and at the same time drawing back the right leg so that it made a scraping noise. I don't recall seeing anyone scraping. I lived in Japan for a ...
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etymology and pronunciation of bowline knot

The wikipedia article for bowline gives two pronunciations /boʊlɪn/ or /boʊlaɪn/. The history section says: The bowline's name has an earlier meaning, dating to the age of sail. On a ...
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What do you call a pathway or hole made in a hedge or undergrowth by the track of an animal?

What is the word for a hole of pathway made by an animal in the hedgerow or undergrowth?
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628 views

How is “erogenous” incorrectly formed?

When I check the etymology of erogenous in OED, it is mentioned that it is incorrectly formed (along with erogenic). Etymology of erogenous from OED: formed as erogenic adj. + -ous suffix. ...
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Where did to “pore over” come from?

I used the phrase "pore over" the other day and realized that I have no idea where it came from (or how to spell it - I originally thought it was "pour over"). After looking it up, Merriam Webster ...
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Add the prefix A to various words [closed]

I've seen several threads about the prefix "a" and its various uses. Can we simply add this prefix to change the meaning of words to mean "not"? ie. asymmetrical, apolitical etc. As long as the word ...
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What's up with 'recapitulates'?

I am puzzled by the the use of the word in the sense of the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". The meaning is taken to be 're-enacts' or 're-creates'. It's entirely different from what I would ...
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Is “fillet” a different word in “salmon fillet” than in “leather fillet”

In the question "Is there a name for words which are pronounced differently depending on which definition is being used?" it was suggested by two people that when the word "fillet" is used to describe ...
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root words and affixes lead to a limitless vocabulary?

Could anyone explain how a solid knowledge about root words and affixes ( which can alter words meaning presumably ) boosts one's vocabulary? I want to know how it works? I've read somewhere that good ...
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How did 'decree' evolve from 'to separate'?

What's an intuitive derivation or rationale to help remember the definition? I purpose to burrow below definitions, which I already understand so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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Term or phrase for False etymology explanations

I'll try to make this make sense. I have heard of examples of people who take a word and wrongly explain its origin, usually in a way that makes sense; it is perfectly feasible for the word or phrase ...
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What Is the Origin of the Word “Sherpa”?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Subscription-only says: Sherpa n. a Himalayan person who is often employed to guide people through mountains and carry their equipment Word Origin ...
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242 views

What is the origin of the phrase “grease the skids”?

What is the origin or derivation of the phrase "greasing the skids?" The phrase connotes preparation, in such a way as to make the subsequent activities easier. Definitions are available various ...