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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

1
vote
1answer
108 views

Why is “messenger” the term instead of “messager”? [duplicate]

Just wondering how we got from message to messenger instead of message to *messager? When and why did this happen with this word? I'm not really interested in the rule so this isn't a duplicate, more ...
4
votes
2answers
143 views

Origin of *sheerleg* in reference to marine cranes

What is the origin of the term sheerleg in reference to marine cranes? Etymonline, most dictionaries, and Google ngrams don't have entries for this term. (OED1 (1914) has an entry for a related ...
-1
votes
1answer
62 views

How does 'such as' mean 'of a kind that; like'?

Since elementary school, I've known definition 1 (the most common) of such as = for example. Yet 2 confuses me, so what's an intuitive derivation or etymology behind it? 2. such as = Of a kind ...
2
votes
1answer
95 views

Origin of Spread Oneself Too Thin

Three questions: What is the origin of the English idiom, "spread oneself too thin?" Is this used as frequently in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.? What about Australia and New Zealand: Is it as ...
0
votes
0answers
12 views

The etymology of do/does for questions [duplicate]

What is the etymology of the use of do/ does/ did for questions forms as opposed to inverting the subject and verb?
0
votes
0answers
39 views

Why was the word “alluring” much more used in the 1920 than in the 1870 or the 1980?

As per title. This is the Ngram Graph for the word alluring: For comparison, this is the same graph for the word remarkable:
4
votes
1answer
193 views

Why is a calzone called calzone?

I was just researching its etymology and turns out that it comes from calceus the Latin for shoe! How did Latin for shoe end up as the Italian (and subsequently, English) for a snack? They seem so ...
7
votes
2answers
515 views

Where did the sports and game term “rubber” come from?

In sports, a rubber is a series that consists of an odd number of matches where a majority of wins takes the series. Wiktionary and Merriam-Webster both list the etymology of this definition as ...
1
vote
1answer
77 views

Origin, logic, and range of use of the verb ‘untrack’ and the phrase 'get untracked'

One of the terms that appears in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) but not in the Tenth Collegiate (1993) or earlier editions of the Collegiate series is untrack: untrack vt ...
-1
votes
2answers
134 views

Phant Latin root and similar words

I ran into an unfamiliar word recently: sycophant. I am wondering now if phant means anything but simple google searches aren't leading me anywhere. Hierophant - someone who shows sacred things ...
2
votes
1answer
57 views

Origin of the disapproval associated with “derivative” used as an adjective?

This is the first meaning of the word derivative used as an adjective(Oxford): 1 (Typically of an artist or work of art) imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for ...
2
votes
1answer
140 views

Term for a word with opposite meaning to its root?

I remember coming across a term for a word which has an opposite (or at least very different) meaning from its etymological root word's meaning, does anyone know what this term is?
9
votes
1answer
621 views

Etymology of 'swan song'

Can someone explain the historical background behind this phrase with context to its usage today? There are several versions of etymology, so which version is most widely accepted? I came across this ...
3
votes
1answer
111 views

Where did “Spineless” come from?

A spineless person is said to be, "without moral force, resolution, or courage; feeble" - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spineless. So they are cowardly. But where did that term come from? ...
0
votes
1answer
282 views

“Dead Rubber” definitive etymology

What's the etymology of the phrase dead rubber? Googling, I see references to diverse sports as well as a reference in attributes it to some obscure bridge reference. I do not understand it. Edited ...
0
votes
1answer
60 views

Fruitful? Fruitless? Fruitempty? Fruitmore? [closed]

I notice that the word fruitful's opposite is fruitless. It's kind of bizarre. Figuratively speaking, if the activity produces no fruit, it is fruit-less. But if it does produce fruit, shouldn't it ...
2
votes
2answers
92 views

Etymology of legal meaning of 'dispositive'

Since Prof. Eugene Volokh has observed its counterintuitiveness, what's an intuitive derivation? Prof. Eugene Volokh: One way of remembering this is by looking at the stem, which turns out to be ...
0
votes
1answer
74 views

Eytymology of the expression “Pissy Pants McGee.” [closed]

What is the origin of the expression "Pissy Pants McGee"? Thanks!
0
votes
0answers
38 views

How did “to derogate” evolve into 3 different definitions?

What are intuitive derivations behind the 3 (disparate) definitions? 1. derogate from = [no object] Detract from 2. derogate from = [no object] Deviate from 3. [with object] Disparage (someone ...
3
votes
1answer
527 views

What is the origin of “burning a hole in my pocket”?

It's an old expression, but when someone used it today it made me wonder about how the phrase came to mean what it does. Coinage would not seem to bear an association to being on fire, though if ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

Silent letters in English [closed]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z ...
3
votes
1answer
169 views

Why the word “Circle” doesn't start with “s”?

Today my daughter (goes to kindergarten) asked me this question which made me post here? I felt that was a good question. Can anyone help me with an answer?
68
votes
10answers
8k views

Is “denigrate” a racist word? [duplicate]

A few years ago I was told not to use that word because, in addition to its negative meaning, it comes from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare, which means to blacken. Therefore, "to ...
0
votes
1answer
115 views

What's the origin of the phrase “to be young and in love”?

What's the origin of the phrase "to be young and in love"? I speculate that it's a quote from something influential, but I can't find a source. Anyone know?
5
votes
2answers
284 views

Etymology of “plough back” meaning to reinvest

What is the etymology of the phrasal verb plough back which Macmillan Dictionary defines as plough back: to put any profits made by a business back into it in order to make it more successful ...
1
vote
2answers
74 views

The relationship between negative numbers and moral negatives

What is the origin of the analogy between numbers less than zero and bad things? This question just occurred to me. I have been using this analogy without thinking about its history.
2
votes
2answers
135 views

Number of dots in an ellipsis

It might be an odd question, but I'm trying to comprehend why do we use three dots in an ellipsis. Wouldn't two dots suffice? An ellipsis serves a dual purpose, it can be used to either denote an ...
1
vote
2answers
103 views

There is any relation between “I'm fired” and “I'm on fire”? [closed]

I'm not english native speaker, and joking with a collague in my work we start a wordgame between "You are on fire?" "No, I'm fired". Because I'm spanish bachelor I want to know if there is any ...
0
votes
0answers
50 views

How to analyse/parse 'come what may'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, which I instead want to burrow into: come what may = No matter what happens Is this a case of anastrophe? Then come what may <= what ...
3
votes
3answers
95 views

What is the etymology of 'munge'?

My own brief investigation into the etymology of munge yielded the following entry from The New Hacker's Dictionary: [derogatory] To imperfectly transform information. A comprehensive ...
3
votes
1answer
134 views

United Kingdom's three-name-cities; is there a generic way to write them?

There are city names in the United Kingdom like "Stratford-upon-Avon" or "Newcastle upon Tyne". Then, I wonder: is there any general rule on how they should be written? Case: In general, I see the ...
-3
votes
1answer
70 views

Where does the word “turkey baster” come from? [closed]

Does it have anything to do with a turkey? (A side question: how is it different from a spoid?)
3
votes
3answers
98 views

where does the expression “not to worry” come from?

I never heard the expression "not to worry" when I was young (I am 78 yrs old). Now i seem to hear it all the time. It sounds like a literal translation from some language where the infinitive is ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

“In general,…”: do mathematicians use this phrase oppositely from everyone else?

In mathematical writings, one often encounters statements involving the phrase "in general" in the following sense: After the number 2, the next few prime numbers (3,5,7) are each odd numbers, and ...
5
votes
6answers
235 views

Was the blue screen of death ever just a blue screen?

Etymologically speaking, at least according to Wikipedia, the term Blue Screen of Death: originated during OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc, the makers of an early Windows ...
1
vote
1answer
72 views

Is there a relation between the words “import” (trade) and “important” (valuable)?

Is there a relation between the words import (in a trade sense) and important (special, etc)? It seems to me that there is, or rather that there should be, but I was wondering if anyone can give some ...
0
votes
2answers
292 views

Origin of terms Passed Away and Deceased

I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough. This from a Low Episcopalian.....
5
votes
3answers
237 views

What is a word that describes a secret that passes on from a person to person?

I forgot this word. I tell a person a secret and ask him not to tell it to anyone else. That 2nd person tells another person and tells him not to disclose it to anyone else. But this goes on. ...
0
votes
2answers
250 views

Use of the phrase with abandon

I came across this phrase on Stack Overflow and I was a little confused as to its meaning: Every major browser now has a built in console which your would-be hacker can use with abandon... I ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

When did dogs start “wagging” their tails?

An earlier question of mine What does a cat's tail do? got me thinking. When did dogs begin to wag their tails? And do any other animals wag? According to Google, very few books have ever been ...
-2
votes
2answers
94 views

How to remember the 6 most common grammatical cases?

I heed the etymological fallacy, but how can I connect the etymology to cases' meanings or rationalise/make sense of these esoteric words? I'm always confused as to which is which, and I need to ...
1
vote
1answer
123 views

What is the origin of the term “crash hot”?

The term "crash hot" is often used in the negative, such as "I'm not feeling too crash hot today". I am trying to find out when the term was first used and why. I have used Internet search but have ...
0
votes
3answers
468 views

Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English? [duplicate]

In general English doesn't seem to cater well for identifying relationships between people, and the classic example seems to be the term 'cousin' because you can't really work out whether it is ...
1
vote
2answers
586 views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
4
votes
1answer
89 views

“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
2
votes
2answers
51 views

How did 'undertake' evolve to mean 'take on'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: undertake = [with object] 1. Commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); take on: ...
1
vote
2answers
198 views

words derived from French that have re-entered French from English [closed]

I am looking for a few examples of words that originated in French (or in Latin and then entered French), entered English and were reimported into French.
2
votes
1answer
69 views

Do *appraise* and *apprise* come from the same root?

I am interested in the origin and usage of apprise versus appraise. There is overlap in usage. In one meaning the latter can be substituted for the former and this is recognised in sense 4 in the ...
1
vote
2answers
189 views

What is the etymology of “first crack”

The meaning is "first chance", for example, "I gave my oldest son first crack at trying to fix the car"
1
vote
1answer
93 views

How does 'be' + 'of' combine to mean 'possess; give rise to'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. 1. Which ODO definition corresponds? What does of mean here? to be of = ...