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

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Is “are” a borrowed word?

I read somewhere that English is the only language to have borrowed a form of its to be verb from another language. I want to say, if memory serves, that it was are that was borrowed from an early ...
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Etymology for the phrase “butterflies in stomach”

How did the phrase "butterflies in stomach" originate or what is the story behind this phrase?
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Why is the common meaning of logical terms ('and', 'or') incongruous from that in math?

If someone wrote that they want "nuts and bolts", they would get a bunch of hardware they could attach things with. If this was software or math, they would only receive nothing, because things are ...
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Where does the idiom “whole cloth” come from? [closed]

I have heard it used several times recently, but I had no idea what it meant until I looked the term up on the Internet, because I had never heard it before. Where does whole cloth come from? How ...
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What is the origin and use of “remember me to her/him”?

Is anybody familiar with the use of remember as in remember me to her/him? I think I've see it in 19th century literature. Most likely it's archaic. I believe the speaker is commanding someone to ...
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Etymology of 'slap-up'

Apparently this is a peculiarly British term, but we'll sometimes use the phrase 'slap-up' to mean 'excellent', as in: That's a slap-up meal! or They held a slap-up do. What's the origin ...
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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 ...
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ravel: opposite meanings?

From the definition found at Merriam-Webster and elsewhere, it seems that to ravel has completely opposite meanings; i.e. it means to unravel, to disentangle as well as to entangle. What's going on ...
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Why do we say “to fall in love”? Is it something unwished for?

I was exploring the phrases for "to fall in love" in some other languages. And I came out with the result, only English describes the state of starting to feel love for someone as "falling". I wonder ...
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“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 ...
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English from Icelandic?

Why is it that so many English words, as one traces their etymologies, run through Icelandic as one goes back?
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“Fire” a weapon before firearms existed?

Did the verb “fire a weapon” exist before the actual introduction of firearms on battlefields? More specifically, does it make sense for a creative work to have archers (or whatever ranged weaponry) ...
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How nutty are the terms “nut case”, “health nut” and “sports nut”?

If someone is nuts about something/someone it means they are a very enthusiastic— sometimes bordering on obsessive—devotee of that particular thing or person. To be nuts is a colloquial term meaning ...
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Etymology of “nick” in, in the nick of time?

We have the nick meaning prison, as in "he served time in the nick", then we have the verb to nick, meaning to steal; but if the police catch you red-handed, then "you've been nicked". And if you led ...
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What's the reason for calling cheap seats at the theatre nosebleed seats?

I've never heard of this idiom before today and thought it was an especially curious one. What's the origin of calling the cheap seats the nosebleed seats at the theater?
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When did things like ‑fu start to spread?

I have looked at the answers to the question Can anyone tell me what the suffix “‑fu” stands for?, and I understand what it means. When, though, did it come into use? Does its spread coincide with ...
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Since when did kidnapping come to include adults too?

As per this link, the word 'kidnap' originated to denote nabbing away of a child. When and how did kidnap come to denote nabbing of adults? Update: Just found a link to a 1650 book that mentions ...
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“Broken my duck”? Is this a common idiom/phrase?

I steal this phrase from a comment on Meta Stack Overflow: yep, I think I've broken my duck or so to speak :) – Kev♦ 51 mins ago The context is one of having been basically broken into a ...
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What is the origin of the phrase ‘By the by…’?

What is the origin of the phrase 'By the by...'?
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What is the origin of “earthling”?

What is the origin of the word earthling? Are there other words with a similar meaning (marsling, venusling)?
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What is the etymology of “business” and “busyness”?

Did the word business originally mean “the condition of being busy” as the word busyness currently means? Why did it change? It was surely a very useful word, since the awkwardly-spelt word busyness ...
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Why the letter “g” discrepancy between *giant* and *gigantic*?

A little look through an etymology dictionary shows that the root is Latin gigas with adjective form gigant. So in its derivation to English, why did the second "g" get retained in gigantic but was ...
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“Pretty please with sugar on top”

Where does this expression come from? I understand when it's used, but I was wondering about its origin.
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Source of “-bie” in “freebie”

Freebie means free things. Why is there a post-fix -bie? Does it have meaning itself?
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Etymology of “embarrass”?

It would seem that the Random House dictionary and the World English dictionary have different ideas about the etymology of the word embarrass, neither of which make it particularly clear as to how it ...
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Where does the saying “made from scratch” originate?

I've heard the saying "made from scratch" many times in my life from living in the southern part of the United States. What is scratch in this context and how did this saying come about?
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“Decimate”: has it been used in the “classic” sense in modern writing?

In this question, I learned that "to decimate" meant to reduce by 10% (hope I got that right). And it is lamented that no-one uses it in this sense anymore. Now, given that I never until today knew ...
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Origin of the meaning of “à la mode”

In American English, à la mode means: in fashion, up to date. with ice cream. (of beef) braised in wine, typically with vegetables. While the first meaning matches the French meaning, the other ...
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Origin of “the wrong end of the stick”

If someone has the wrong end of the stick it means they've misunderstood something. If they've got the shitty end of the stick it means they've got a bad deal in some bargain or share-out. This ...
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Do “to pony up” and “to pungle” come from the same Latin root?

For to pony up, etymonline.com says 1824, in pony up "to pay," said to be from slang use of L. legem pone to mean "money" (first recorded 16c.), because this was the title of the Psalm for March ...
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Why “thanks” Can Never Be Singular as a Noun?

While looking at the part of speech of the noun "thanks" in an online dictionary I noticed that it was a plural noun and wondered if it could be used in singular form. Glancing at the origin it ...
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Where and why were capital letters first used in headlines?

The words in headlines are capitalized. I'm interested in the history of this. Where and why were capital letters first used in headlines? Where is this practice of capitalization of words in English ...
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Where did the expression “have at it” come from?

Couldn't find its etymology... anyone knows? What does its meaning break down to? Also, when should it be used best? Thanks.
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Where does the word “wankers” come from?

The term wanker is derived from the verb wank in the sense of to masturbate. However, neither the OED nor Etymonline can trace it further back than that: both claim it is of “obscure origin”, which ...
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Origin of current slang usage of the word 'sick' to mean 'great'? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How and why have some words changed to a complete opposite? How did 'sick' come to mean 'awesome' or 'really good / cool' in modern U.S. slang? I'm interested in origins ...
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how did the epithet “nigger” come into usage?

My research has resulted in theoretical reasons for the usage of the term "nigger", and I have failed to uncover any evidence as to how this nasty little epithet evolved into the usage and connotation ...
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Merging words into one. When is it allowed?

There are several words in the English which have been created as a "merging" of multiple existing words. e.g. Insofar- Merged from words "in, so, far". How do such words come about? It surely ...
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Is the expression “showed it what for” or “showed it one for”?

For some reason I thought the expression was "showed him one for" but someone I know just said "showed it what for". Which is it? I have also heard the idiom as "give it what/one for". If anyone has ...
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What is the origin of the term “woo”?

On the Skeptics StackExchange you quite often read users referring to certain things and practices as "woo". What is the origin of this word? How did it come to be synonymous with skeptics?
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How does 'give it up for …' mean 'clap for …'?

Well, now I understand that this is so, but the first few times I heard this, I had no idea what 'giving it up' meant. What is the derivation? How do you get from 'giving it up' to 'clapping'?
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Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
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Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
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Etymology of “seat-of-the-pants”

Where does the expression seat-of-the-pants come from? These dictionaries (1, 2, 3) don't give much insight. What is the etymology of seat-of-the-pants?
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What are the origins of the regional pronoun “yinz” of southwestern Pennsylvania?

A common informal word used in southwestern Pennsylvania and the forefront example of what is commonly known as "Pittsburghese" is the word yinz, pronounced /jɪnz/ in IPA. Alternatively it is less ...
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“Freshwater” as opposed to salty water

I'm curious to find out why we talk of freshwater (or fresh water) when we refer to water with a very limited amount of salt dissolved in it. Looking at various sources, both online and in books, I ...
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Origin of “one man's trash is another man's treasure”

This might be tough considering the gesture is iterated so many ways, but it's worth a shot. What is the origin of the expression one man's trash is another man's treasure?
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What is the origin of the phrase “to take a rain check”

I know what it means, but can't really see the reasoning of this phrase. Anyone with an insight?
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“Well” as an introduction to an argument

Say a child says: I want some ice cream! The parent's response is: Well, you can't have ice cream right now, we need to have dinner first. Why is the word "well" used as a conversational ...
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Why can 'kick back' mean 'get relaxed'?

I came across the following sentence in today's NPR news: In 2011, boomers start turning 65, the age when Americans traditionally stop working and kick back. A dictionary at hand gives the ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “and nothing of value was lost”?

What is the origin of the phrase "and nothing of value was lost"? Is this from a movie, book, or show, or did it get its start on Slashdot or some other online forum?