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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

7
votes
3answers
137 views

Origin and meaning of the “-tar” suffix in photography

A very large number of photographic products have names ending in "-tar." Most of these are camera lenses, but there are examples of film and even camera brands that follow the same pattern. The ...
3
votes
2answers
73 views

Is the word “Ray” related to the Egyptian “Ra”

My Communications professor was quite adamant that the word "radio" could be traced back to the Egyptian word for sun, "ra". Radio comes from the Latin "radius" and I could find no sources that ...
5
votes
1answer
136 views

Name for when an adjective modifying a noun leaves the class of objects the noun describes

When adjectives modify nouns, usually they restrict the class of objects that the noun refers to. For example: Red car A red car is, in particular, an instance of a car. However, in specialty ...
5
votes
3answers
171 views

Origin of doolally [tap]

I've used doolally since I was a child, but I'd rarely heard the tap version until a few years ago in the company of several Welsh people (who all agreed the two-word version was their "standard"). ...
-1
votes
1answer
66 views

When do Americans began to use practice instead of practise?

I am writing an historical novel, and I try to make my characters speaking and writing as everybody did at the time. But I don't know when we began to use "practice" as a verb instead of "practise". ...
6
votes
3answers
381 views

What is the geographical origin of the idiom “be a fly on the wall”?

Does the following expression originate from English? I'd like to be a fly on the wall I discovered today that a similar expression exists in Brazilian Portuguese: "I'd like to be a fly" (with ...
0
votes
2answers
82 views

Is there an original etymology for “Xenomorph” outside of the origin in the movies?

This question on a different SE site asks the question of what the etymology of the word "Xenomorph" is, and the consensus, from the comments at least, is that it has none - that it was purely ...
4
votes
5answers
359 views

Etymology of “Feeding the dragon”

I have heard the phrase "feeding the dragon" used to describe pouring time, resources, and energy into a situation that is self-perpetuating, caught in a positive feedback loop with negative ...
3
votes
4answers
85 views

Regions and reasons for the usage of “sleep” as “go to sleep”

This question is very closely linked to this english.SE question, which discusses the usage of "sleep" as a verb meaning "go to sleep" and inspired by this ell.SE question, in which the accepted ...
2
votes
1answer
67 views

What is the origin of “journal” to mean a mechanical shaft?

What is the origin of "journal" to mean a mechanical shaft? A more common modern use is in "journal bearing" which refers to the sliding surface between a rotating shaft and a hole it passes through ...
4
votes
1answer
77 views

Can the term “G-Man” be used to describe a Government official who is not an FBI agent?

Earlier today I was doing Merl Reagle's crossword and one of the clues was "Fraud fighting Fed." The answer turned out to be "T-Man," being short for "Treasury Man." So, this got me thinking... ...
3
votes
3answers
127 views

What is the origin of the phrase “do a line with someone”?

What is the origin of the phrase "do a line with someone", meaning "have a regular romantic or sexual romantic relationship with someone"? I learnt this phrase from an Irish colleague of mine the ...
55
votes
3answers
4k views

Why would you “throw” a party?

Where does this "throwing" action come from when talking about hosting a party? Throwing usually has to do with hurling something, usually an object (but it could be an emotion: throwing a tantrum). ...
10
votes
1answer
255 views

Etymology of “bridge” (the card game)

I've always thought that the name of this card game comes from the English word "bridge" (the structure) but it is not quite like that. It's the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, which ...
2
votes
2answers
150 views

What is the source of the expression “nothing at all”?

I'm looking for the source of the distinction between "nothing" and the nearly equivalent phrase "nothing at all." In common usage the two are synonymous, but the preposition "at all" seems to ...
1
vote
3answers
77 views

are astronomy and astrology apt names for their concepts?

Or be switching them be correct, since the original assignment was a historical convention? Or do neither suffix convey enough meaning; we can create 'bionomy' if 'biology' was already taken?
3
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the origin of “water under the bridge”?

What's the origin/background of the phrase "water under the bridge"? To what does it allude? I understand it means to let bygones be bygones--to move on from the past. But I don't think I understand ...
1
vote
3answers
53 views

Where did the word “proc” originate?

The word "proc" is used to describe an event that occurs at various intervals and seems to be a term unique to programming and gaming: When does that event proc? If that trigger procs it will ...
1
vote
1answer
52 views

How did “stiff” mean cheating someone?

When someone gets taken advantage of, we would say "he got stiffed", where "stiffed" means "cheated". What is the etymology of the word "stiff" used this way?
0
votes
2answers
105 views

What is the origin of the culinary term “escabeche”

What is the origin of the culinary term or dish "escabeche"
0
votes
1answer
79 views

Origin of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”

One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (according to Stephen Covey) is: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood What is the origin of this phrase? My guess is that it was ...
5
votes
1answer
93 views

How did oxytonic come to mean “final accent” rather than “acute accent”?

In Samuel Martin's Reference Grammar of Japanese (1975), the author describes the location of lexical accent on Japanese words using the following terms: Prototonic: The accent is at the beginning ...
4
votes
1answer
50 views

Etymology of using 'joint' to mean a place

What's the etymology of using 'joint' to mean a place? Like burger joint or juke joint...
7
votes
4answers
228 views

Ne'er cast a clout till May be out. Meaning?

Today across southern England, it was one of those glorious May mornings of which the poets wrote. The darling buds in bloom, the scent of the blossom hanging like nectar in the air, and the sun up in ...
1
vote
1answer
78 views

Where does the term “hardware” in computer science comes from?

The term Software was coined in 195x. And it was opposed the term Hardware, physical part of a computer system, which is tangible. But where does the term Hardware comes from (from which of the ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Cute as a button

Since buttons aren't particularly cute (IMO), where did this common phrase come from? I know it's old; I've seen it in 19th century literature.
10
votes
2answers
242 views

Is “kip” Chinese in origin?

While looking up the history of kip for a previous question of mine, I realized that the information about its origins is rather scant. The noun and verb to kip in BrEng is often said when a person ...
4
votes
1answer
45 views

Who was Buggins of 'Buggins' turn'?

'Buggins' turn' refers to the practice of assigning appointments to persons in rotation, rather than on merit. The OED records this and gives examples of its use from 1901. As regards etymology it ...
2
votes
3answers
269 views

“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
2
votes
1answer
101 views

Can someone provide an explanation regarding the etymology of the adjective “hell-bent?”

It's etymology is given as: hell-bent, 1835, U.S., originally slang, from hell + bent How do the the words "hell + bent," when taken together, form the definition "determined to achieve ...
31
votes
4answers
2k views

“Maths” for “Mathematics”; where does the S come from?

So in US English we shorten mathematics to math, and in the UK they say maths. Where does the 'S' come from in the UK version? For some reason I had it in my head that this was just because it's ...
1
vote
1answer
109 views

Differentiate and Integrate

Further to my last question about the history of calculus terms, I am wondering about the etymology of differentiate the etymology of integrate why we speak of a "derivative", but we "differentiate" ...
5
votes
2answers
51 views

Fluents and Fluxions

When calculus was first being developed, the terms "fluent" and "fluxion" appeared quite often in the Newtonian works. I am wanting to know the etymology behind these words. I assume that "fluents" ...
0
votes
1answer
189 views

What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
3
votes
1answer
44 views

Etymology of “Points” as a mark or unit of scoring

What is the etymology of the word "points" when used as a mark or unit of scoring. (i.e. "If you answer this question correctly you will get points").
1
vote
2answers
128 views

Etymology of the words “narky” and “narked”

Anybody have any idea where the word "narky" comes from? I speak British English and I understand the word to mean irritated or bad-tempered. Similarly I've heard the phrase "narked off". ...
0
votes
3answers
65 views

'For dear life' phrase origin

What does the phrase 'for dear life' (for example as in, He ran for dear life) originate from? And when was it first used and became popular?
11
votes
2answers
762 views

Etymology of Sleep like a Top

An explanation for the English expression "sleeping like (or as sound as) a top" is here. Apparently case closed. It derives from the Italian expression Ei dorme come un topo with topo being wrongly ...
10
votes
2answers
392 views

Can an English sentence have a 'dative subject'?

I have been thinking about this for a while. It seems to me that, sometimes, the subject plays a dative role in that it is the recipient of something. Take the following active sentence. He gave ...
-1
votes
1answer
60 views

Etymology: to till the land

ODE gives a connection between the German verb zielen and the English preposition till. The semantic connection between cultivating land and German zielen seems a bit far-fetched. I would rather see a ...
4
votes
1answer
75 views

Where does the word (magic) cookie come from? [closed]

Who named the file that websites can place on your computer for, for example advertising, and what is the connection with cookie as a food?
5
votes
3answers
173 views

If a word is coined / popularized / used only or mainly by second-language speakers of English, is it still considered to be an English word?

It seems that there are quite a few terms that look like English and are used in English spoken by non-fluent or fluent but nonnative speakers of English as a second language amongst themselves, but ...
3
votes
3answers
530 views

What's the etymology of spam when talking about bulk unsolicited messages?

What does spam stand for, when talking about unsolicited (mostly advertisement) messages? The nearest possibility I found was "Stupid Pointless Annoying Messages" but it seems like too colorful to be ...
2
votes
3answers
63 views

Is the word 'psychoanalysis' correctly constructed from its components?

The big question is, where does the 'o' come from? A small band of people have apparently stuck firmly to 'psychanalysis', which is similar to the French 'psychanalyse'. It's dealt with very ...
2
votes
2answers
252 views

What is the origin of “I calls ’em like I sees ’em”?

This expression seems to be pretty widespread, for example being in Wiktionary and Futurama. Does anyone know what the origin is? Also, what kind of dialect might I calls or I sees be?
3
votes
2answers
107 views

Does hunx have an origin?

I was reading Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. A character calls an old man, "an old hunx" during an argument. I was wondering if Trollope was writing in an accent or if hunx was an old slang ...
1
vote
3answers
125 views

How come “enemy mine” be a short version of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

I have found at several places (e.g., here) that Enemy mine is a short version for the proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This makes little sense to me, as the essence of the ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Why “soft” drink?

Why are soft drinks, such as lemonade etc., called soft drinks?
2
votes
1answer
69 views

Etymology of term “Rubberbanding” (video games)

As long as I can remember, "rubberbanding" has been the way of the machine giving the computer an advantage when the player is leading in video games. For instance in Super Mario Kart, you are in the ...
0
votes
1answer
89 views

What is a bromide?

I just finished reading Ayn Rand's wonderful Fountainhead, but one point that escaped me was Rand's near-constant use of the word bromide to refer to something disappointing, or a "bummer" in the ...