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

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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 “quick” of a fingernail, as in “cut to the quick”

Part of a fingernail known as the hyponychium is informally known as the "quick". It is referenced in the saying "cut to the quick". What is the etymology of the word quick as in reference to the ...
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Different Meanings of 'Jumper' (Transatlantic embarassment)

I'm originally from Wales, now living in the USA, and as the cold weather is approaching I'm determined, this year, to start using the word sweater to describe the item of clothing I'm wearing, as ...
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Does the word “table” have anything to do with a table?

I am curious to know why a numerical chart can be called a table. What is the relation to the table at which people eat?
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What is the origin of “shh”?

The word "sh" (or "shh") is an exclamation for silence: Shh! They're listening... Etymonline only mentions a date (1847) and the common practice of "putting a finger to the lips." Does anyone ...
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Why is the term “double-edged sword” used for something that can be favorable and unfavorable?

When something can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences, the term double-edged sword is often used to describe it. Why? Does a double-edged sword have unfavorable consequences? Are ...
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Why is the verb form of “record” pronounced [ri-kawrd] but the noun form is pronounced [rek-erd]?

Is there a different origin of pronunciation style for record as a verb and as a noun? Fun fact: in OS X, if you type say "this record" and say "record this" — the text to speech system picks up the ...
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What was the idiom for multitasking before chewing gum was invented?

A colorful idiom for someone who can only do one thing at a time is he can't walk and chew gum at the same time Obviously, this only makes sense if you know what the heck chewing gum is. Was ...
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What is the origin and meaning of the phrase “bane of my existence”?

A friend recently used the phrase bane of my existence, and while I’m familiar with the phrase, I would like to know its origin and meaning.
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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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What is the origin of the phrase “to go apeshit”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to go apeshit"? An example usage would be: And then he went apeshit over the prize he just won. Obviously there is a strong visual associated with an angry ...
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How old is “Bollocks!”?

As a non-English native it took me years to grow up and understand, what meant "Never Mind the Bollocks" as the title of Sex Pistols album. Using "bollocks" as "rubbish", "crap" or what so ever took ...
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Why does “lactic” have an “-ic”, while “unique” have an “-ique”?

Lactic: "pertaining to milk," 1790 (in lactic acid; so called because it was obtained from sour milk), from Fr. lactique, from L. lactis, gen. of lac "milk" (see lactation) + Fr. -ique. Unique: ...
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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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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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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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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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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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“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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What are the derivatives of position with respect to time

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jounce, the derivatives of position with respect to time are position, velocity, acceleration, jerk, snap, crackle, pop. Who came up with snap, crackle, and ...
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In the U.S., why is octothorp used to signal an apartment at a particular address?

In the book "Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers" it says: The octothorp ("8 fields" ) has been used in cartography as a symbol for "village "... . ...
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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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Origin of the phrase “it’s been years if it’s been a day”?

I first heard this phrase in an episode of Family Guy, and they're typically fans of referencing older shows and movies, especially from the 80s. So I'd assumed it was a fairly commonly known thing. ...
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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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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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What is the origin of the phrase ‘By the by…’?

What is the origin of the phrase 'By the by...'?
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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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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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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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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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Where does the idiom “beating around the bush” come from?

Where does the idiom "beating around the bush" come from?
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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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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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“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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What's the etymology of “props”?

Props can mean compliment / respect / credit, for example: Erika gets props for the great work she did on the music. Wiktionary states that props is: (slang) proper respect or proper ...
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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 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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Did British chef Jamie Oliver redefine “pukka” in 1999?

Recently I've been watching cooking programmes: MasterChef Italia (addictive), MasterChef USA (awful), followed swiftly by Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, and then onto Jamie Oliver's acclaimed The ...
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Does (or did) “a trouser” or “a scissor” have a meaning?

We say (a pair of) trousers, (a pair of) scissors. For these two particular words, is/was there something like "a trouser" or "a scissor"? Did it use to mean anything? E.g. in Czech, the word for ...
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What's the origin of the saying, “There's no accounting for taste”?

I hear it all the time in arguments over subjective judgements: There's no accounting for taste. Where does this saying come from? Is it a quote or old proverb?
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What are the correct spelling and regional distribution of “X, schmX” to indicate dismissiveness (e.g., “evidence, schmevidence”)?

There is a curious construct in American English in which a word is stated and then repeated with the prefix "schm-" or "shm-" in order to indicate the speaker's dismissive attitude toward a concern ...
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Etymology of “fixing to”

As a Southerner, I completely understand the meaning of fixing to. It means I'm getting ready to do something. But what I don't understand is where this rather unusual usage of fix comes from. Nothing ...
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“where's that to?”

In Plymouth, and other areas of Devon, it is common to suffix the question "where's that?" with to. e.g. Steve: I'm off to see Rita. Dave: Oh yeah? Where's Rita to? or Steve: I'm off ...
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“Inner” but not “outter”?

in -> inner out -> outer / (outter?) What is the history or set of rules behind why 'inner' doubles the 'n' but 'outer' doesn't double the 't'?
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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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'-ible' suffix vs. '-able' suffix

This question comes about because I usually always spell the word incorrectly and the spell checker underlines in red the word: compatible. In my head, I always want to spell it compatable, and my ...
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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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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'?