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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

3
votes
1answer
241 views

What do you call a past participle+noun construction clause such as “No offense meant” “Your point taken,” “With that said,” and “Given that”?

In reference to my question about the usage of “No offense meant/taken,” I noticed that there are a lot of shortened forms like “No offense meant/taken,” “Your point taken,” “That said,” and “Given ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Proper usage/origin of the generic phrase “[action phrase] does not a [noun] make” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English? I occasionally come across a sentence formulated in a manner similar to the following: ...
3
votes
2answers
585 views

“Pardon me French”

Even though the phrase pardon my French is used much more often, I do constantly run across pardon me French as well. What's the deal with that? Wikipedia does have an entry on Pardon my French, but ...
2
votes
2answers
512 views

Etymology of testosterone-charged men?

A couple of weeks back I read the story 2 States: The Story of My Marriage by Chetan Bhagat. In the story, I found a weird phrase: testosterone-charged men. What is the etymology of that phrase ...
2
votes
5answers
757 views

History/connection/origin of using names as verbs/nouns?

There are a good few words in English that come from names: To jimmy a lock is to break it. To jack someone is to rob them. To peter out is to become tired. A john is a bathroom, or one who buys the ...
1
vote
3answers
5k views

Why does “information” not have a plural form?

Why doesn't the word information take an "S" in English even if the meaning is "plural"?
1
vote
0answers
592 views

Are there any words that are spelled the same but have separate etymologies? [closed]

There are many words that are spelled the same but have different meanings due to development of polysemy over time from an original etymology. Are there any word pairs in English that have the same ...
1
vote
2answers
616 views

Which words may start with “al-”?

Is there a rule which determines whether it allowable for a word to be "merged" with "all" to make a new word starting "al-" e.g. 1)All together -> Altogether 2)All right -> Alright The ...
0
votes
3answers
639 views

There is (there's) vs.There are

What are the roots of the creeping usage of "there's" for both singular and plural predicates? (This seems to be more common in spoken English.) I have 2 theories. Perhaps it is because spoken ...
0
votes
3answers
793 views

What is the origin for meaning of “Wild-card”?

Please go through the below excerpt from "The tales of Kasi" by "Madhira Subbanna Deekshitulu" 'Kasyam maranam mukti', goes the sanskrit saying, which means dying in Kasi leads to liberation. ...
0
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the origin of the term “throw the book”? [closed]

I'm curious if "the book" in question is the bible? Does anyone know where this term first entered the lexicon?
0
votes
1answer
2k views

Etymology of the term “curse words” and “swear words”

I'm having trouble finding the origin of the terms "curse words" and "swear words" when used as a synonym what many call "bad words" (although I don't agree). I've found that "curses" when used as an ...
0
votes
3answers
6k views

What's the evolution of the phrase “milk it for all its worth”?

The phrase "milking it" seems to have originated in the context of finance. According to the OED, "milking" can refer to The manipulation of funds for (esp. unscrupulous or illicit) financial ...
93
votes
10answers
7k views

Is there a word for a person with only one head?

Reading this article by the fantastic Douglas Adams I came across this interesting quote: ‘[I]nteractivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal ...
40
votes
5answers
4k views

“Screwed” vs. “nailed”: why is the slang so different?

While the two names nail and screw have similar shapes and functions, why do the verbs differ so much? Someone has screwed something sounds like they have ruined something to me, while someone has ...
19
votes
4answers
3k views

Why “e.g.” and not “f.e.”? Why “i.e.” and not “t.i.”?

As a non-native English speaker without a classical education, it took me quite some time to appreciate the "e.g." and "i.e." abbreviations. What is wrong with "f.e." ("for example") and "t.i." ...
47
votes
4answers
4k views

Why is “pound” (of weight) abbreviated “lb”?

Answers to Correct usage of lbs. as in "pounds" of weight suggest that "lb" is for "libra" (Latin), but how has this apparent inconsistency between the specific unit of weight "pound" and ...
19
votes
5answers
3k views

Why place a hand on the Bible instead of the Judge's genitals when taking an oath?

Etymonline gives the etymology of testify as ...from testis "a witness".. + root of facere "to make"... Biblical sense of "openly profess one's faith and devotion" is attested from 1520s. Related: ...
29
votes
2answers
1k views

Rhetoric vs. Mathematics: ellipsis/ellipse, parable/parabola, hyperbole/hyperbola

Do ellipsis, parable, and hyperbole from rhetoric have anything in common with the geometric curves ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola used in mathematics? There are three geometric curves known as ...
40
votes
5answers
2k views

What did we say before “clockwise”?

Before there were clocks, what did people say to describe the clockwise and anti/counter-clockwise directions? Whilst we're on the subject, when was the word "clockwise" first used?
29
votes
1answer
348k views

“Dieing” vs “dying”

Which is the formally correct spelling, dieing or dying? Is there any history of the alternative spelling? I type dieing naturally, but my spellchecker marks it wrong. This is largely an etymology ...
46
votes
5answers
4k views

Where did “cc” and “bcc” come from?

I've just realised that CC is "carbon-copy" and BCC is "blind-carbon-copy". Basically I'm wondering, where did these terms come from?
40
votes
4answers
2k views

Trolling: billy goats gruff or fishing reference?

Where does the internet jargon "Troll" come from? The way I see it. If it's a fishing reference, then you can't accuse someone of "Being a troll" and if it's a mythology reference then someone isn't ...
17
votes
5answers
1k views

Why are so many important verbs irregular?

In many languages, including English, the most important verbs are irregular. Examples include: to be to do to get to go to have to make The same applies (roughly) to many other languages I ...
14
votes
6answers
3k views

What's the origin of the idiom “cut corners”?

Cut corners is defined as to do something in the easiest, cheapest or quickest way, often by ignoring rules or leaving something out especially at the expense of high standards. What is the ...
12
votes
2answers
631 views

Etymology of certain words ending in “-en”

Tchrist's comment here on my answer to an etymology question brought the following to mind: Ox (from Old English oxa) maintains the same vowel in the plural oxen that it has in the singular. But ...
25
votes
6answers
28k views

Why is it “on *the* one hand”?

According to all dictionaries I can see and everyday use by native speakers, this is the correct way: On the one hand, it's larger; on the other hand, it's more expensive. What makes no sense to ...
20
votes
6answers
50k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “The morning constitutional”?

What exactly is the meaning of the phrase “The morning constitutional”? Is it an early morning walk or the first visit to the bathroom during the day? What is the origin of this phrase? What is the ...
20
votes
6answers
17k views

Why is the “ph” pronounced like a “v” in “Stephen”? Is this the only word like that?

While I know how my name is pronounced, I've run into many non-native english speakers who have stumbled over this unique exception to English. Even in the female name, "Stephanie", the ph is ...
18
votes
2answers
589 views

Hump, Rump, Lump, Bump

I’m referring to the similar definitions of these four nouns – something raised and rounded. Why do these four rhyming words have similar meanings? I have not found very specific sources for these ...
16
votes
4answers
13k views

Why “shrink” (of a psychiatrist)?

I know it originates from "head shrinking", but it doesn't help me a lot to understand the etymology. Why are psychiatrists called that? Is it like "my head is swollen [from anguish, misery, stress, ...
14
votes
2answers
447 views

Why has the word “thrice” fallen out of common usage?

I'm an American living in America, but my workplace has a lot of immigrants from India here. They all use "thrice" very commonly, which is wonderful to my ears! Thrice is such a delightful word. ...
12
votes
3answers
584 views

When and why did the N-word and “negro” go apart?

Both the terms nigger and negro come from the Spanish and Portuguese Negro which denotes "black". But today they have widely different connotations, the former is considered a horrible racial slur, ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

What are some good sites for researching etymology?

I'm wondering about the origins of a particular word and, while my first thought was to ask the ELU community, I decided I should do the work myself. Where should I start looking? I'd love to see ...
9
votes
2answers
10k views

What is the etymology of “…kick ass and take names”?

Inspired by What is this idiom?, but that question doesn't actually ask for where the expression originated. I Googled around, but couldn't find any reliable source. Surely the expression originates ...
41
votes
4answers
41k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
28
votes
3answers
1k views

What does the fox say?

It is true that as a fox, I should know this, so consider this a spoilers warning. In a recent post, Geek Girl mentions that the mating call of the fox is a series of sharp, eerie barks and that this ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

What's up with the word “egregious”?

According to Google's dictionary (and MacOS/iOS dictionary), egregious has the following definitions: I've seen words with multiple definitions, but not ones that are exact contradictions. Some ...
19
votes
5answers
3k views

The origin of the term “Baker's Dozen”?

There's a "hot question" at the moment about the use of the apostrophe in the phrase Baker's Dozen, and it got me to wondering: where did this phrase originate? Did bakers really offer 13 in a dozen? ...
17
votes
5answers
1k views

Tom, Jake and Jenny aren't looking forward to Thanksgiving. Why?

And "Hen" (their mother) isn't much looking forward to it either. Why? I can answer that question myself, it's because they're all turkeys. Tom is an adult male turkey (also often referred to as a ...
16
votes
7answers
22k views

Why is a woman's purse called a “pocketbook”?

It's not a book, and it doesn't fit in anyone's pocket. Why does my brother-in-law insist on calling his wife's purse a pocketbook? I'm interested in the etymology, and in the chronological and ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the etymology of the noun “temper tantrum”?

Can anyone tell me where the phrase temper tantrum came from? I found a couple of my usual online sources that just say "origin unknown".
12
votes
4answers
12k views

What are the jimmies that are being rustled?

This rustles my jimmies seems like a commonly used idiom recently to denote being annoyed, angered, touched. Still, every idiom has some origin, and I wonder what is the original meaning of this ...
11
votes
5answers
7k views

What is the etymology of “blackguard”? Does this British-sounding word have subtleties in its use?

The following is from My Fair Lady, where Eliza Doolittle's father, a man of working-class origins, is about to make his appearance. Prof. Higgins and Col. Pickering, our primary interlocutors in this ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

How did the slang meaning of “flog” come about?

I've searched multiple dictionaries and Etymonline but the only origin for "flog" that I can find is: 1670s, slang, perhaps a schoolboy shortening of L. flagellare "flagellate." This clearly ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do common swear words have four letters?

As a non-native speaker I always wondered why most (common) swear words have four letters. I know this is shifting and more words are araising and traditional swear words lose their "harshness", but ...
9
votes
8answers
6k views

“Out of pocket”?

I'm increasingly hearing the phrase "out of pocket" used in America as a colloquialism to mean "away from the office", "unavailable", or "incommunicado". I apologize for not replying sooner; I ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Origin of “they don't know they're born”?

Practising today for my forthcoming role as radgie gadgie, I was having a little rant about modern youth: "they don't know they're born!" This seems to me rather a strange phrase to describe someone ...
8
votes
2answers
6k views

what is the origin of the phrase “a penny for your thoughts”?

Googling for the origin of "A penny for your thoughts," I have only found the origin of a likely-related phrase "my two cents" and simple dictionary entries for "a penny for your thoughts." What is ...
7
votes
3answers
11k views

“Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco”

Is this a proverb? What does it mean and what is the origin?