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

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Origin of “Very Good, Sir!”

It's quite likely you've read a P.G. Wodehouse book. Well, then you'd also know about Jeeves, and something he says quite often: Very good, sir. Jeeves is a butler. And he isn't the only one to ...
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493 views

'-gate' as a suffix to coin words related to scandals and corruption cases

I noticed that for corrruption/scandals the usage of '-gate' suffix is pretty common, as we have recently seen with 'datagate' and before with 'watergate' Can anyone explain what the relation between ...
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Adjectives or words inspired by Helen of Troy's beauty

Are there any adjectives inspired by Helen's beauty? I can see examples from more recent history like: Boycott from Charles C. Boycott or Bowdlerize from Thomas Bowdler. Some Greek mythology ...
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Does the second (2nd) have anything to do with a second (1/60 minute)? [closed]

In my native language, second in the meaning of the 2nd is different from second in the meaning of 1/60 minute (one sixtieth). Also in Arabic, a language I kinda know of, they are different as well. ...
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119 views

Where does the word “totty” come from?

There's been a nice bit of totty on TV over the holiday period; that is attractive women. girls or women collectively regarded as sexually desirable: But what is the etymology of the word? It's ...
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66 views

Phraseme “THROW THE BOOK AT”. [duplicate]

I'm looking for info on how this idioms origin was documented to the USA? Can I grammatically eliminate any tie to the german book listed below. Could a latin spanish or Russian form translate well ...
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122 views

How come you say “best part” if meaning “most of something”?

When I read the first time that someone spend the best/better part of the day doing something, I took best literally. Although I now know its meaning, it's confusing me over and over again whenever I ...
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Phrasal verb “be a thing”

I’m looking for the origin of the phrasal verb “to be a thing”. It means roughly “exist” or more specifically “be recognised” or “be a phenomenon”. I first noticed it around 2008–2009. Is ...
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I heard someone use the term “dogs body” what does it mean? [closed]

I heard someone use the British slang "dogs body". What does it mean?
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473 views

“Where do you get off…?” Origin

I remembered a phrase this morning "Where do you get off...?" (last entry), which is similar to "Who do you think you are...?" or "What gives you the right to...?" or "How dare you...?". Due to its ...
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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 ...
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463 views

Why are promiscuous women known as “slappers”?

Women who aren't interested in much more than sex are referred to as "slappers" in British English. British informal, derogatory a promiscuous or vulgar woman. Why is this? I can't find any ...
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Why *are* pants? [duplicate]

Plural, that is. And it aint just "pants". "Shorts", "boxers", "trousers", even "panties" are all plural. (Although "underwear" ("where is my underwear?") and "thongs" ("He was wearing a thong." ...
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Origins of “Seedy”

seed·y ˈsēdē adjective 1.sordid and disreputable. "his seedy affair with a soft-porn starlet" synonyms: sordid, disreputable, seamy, sleazy, squalid, unwholesome, unsavory shabby and ...
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How did “ropey” come to mean “of poor quality”?

Rope is typically long, strong and fibrous. So how did us Brits come to use "ropey" to describe something of poor quality? British informal of poor quality:     a portrait ...
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215 views

Why does “going to kip” mean “going to sleep”?

"Night, folks; I'm off to kip." noun 1British a sleep or nap:       I might have a little kip [mass noun] :       he was trying ...
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193 views

Whence does “sprog” come?

The British informal word for a child. I couldn't get any work done because the sprogs were running riot. ODO has the following: 1940s (originally services' slang): perhaps from obsolete ...
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100 views

Where does the idiom “root for sth” come from?

I am familiar with the idiom “to root for sth” meaning that I am hoping for something to happen or taking the side of something. But what does this have to do with roots? Does it mean that I am ...
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“Yard” in the sense of pulling hard on something

I'm from New England. Here we use the expression to yard on something meaning to pull hard on it. For instance, you might hear She's stuck up in that tree. If you want to get her down, you're ...
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Where does the anglicisation “Ottoman” come from?

Wikipedia on Ottoman Empire gives its naming as coming from the Ottoman Turkish language, but on that very page, the name of the language is transliterated as Lisân-ı Osmânî. In Russian we call the ...
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88 views

Origin of the word “Bluechip”

The word "Bluechip" is used to refer to large cap companies which are in existence for at least 10 years. But why are they called Bluechips? What does the word denote?
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Are hatters really mad? [closed]

Given the winter festival and the wearing of hats on stackexchange, I'm reminded about the expression "as mad as a hatter." Does the term "mad" here apply to derangement or anger management issues? ...
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What's the etymology of “humdinger”?

A humdinger is a remarkable or outstanding person or thing. The OED has it as originally US dating (as hum-dinger) from 1905, but says the origin is unknown. Where does the word humdinger come from? ...
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217 views

Where does English get the word “condom” from?

Although once a word that dared not speak its name, thanks to popular-culture references as well as the devastating AIDS tragedy, condom seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. But does anybody ...
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Where does the word “sh**” come from?

Once upon a time in America, particularly during the 1970s, if you asked an American whether they ‘fancied a shag’, they might well have thought of this: And therefore declined the offer for fear ...
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Etymology of “Mother Nature” and “Father Time”

Why are "Mother Nature" and "Mother Earth" (and perhaps other similar connotations I am unaware of) feminine personifications? The same question stands for "Father Time" - why masculine? Any ...
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Come on, don’t be such a nimrod!

According to the OED, the word English Nimrod is derived from the Hebrew, where in Genesis 10:8–9 he is described as ‘a mighty one in the earth’ and ‘a mighty hunter before the Lord’. It is ...
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Is “nowadays” the same as “today”?

When helping an Italian speaker with her written homework, a cover letter, I told her to change the expression nowadays to that of today. Her original sentence was the following: I would be ...
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Why is “feminism” good but “racism” and other “-isms” bad? [closed]

Feminism is generally seen as a good thing. It means something or other about achieving equality of the sexes; of treating people of different sexes the same or as well as each other. Racism is ...
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Where does “noogie” come from?

The OED says noogie means a "hard poke or grind with the knuckles, esp. on a person's head" with a first quotation from 1968. They say it was popularised by Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s but ...
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Is “fine” one of the strangest words in English language? How did it come to be this way and are there other examples? [closed]

Many words have multiple meanings but not many words have different meanings in the same context. Fine can mean both very good-to-excellent and acceptable but probably below average. For example, the ...
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What is the etymology of “squiffy”?

I am planning on get squiffy this evening, and then I wondered where that word had come from. Oxford Dictionaries has the following: British informal   1slightly drunk: ...
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Origin of the expression “landed in a tub of butter” (meaning lucky)?

I've heard a friend say "he says he was so lucky, it's like he sat his ass in a butter tub" a few times. Even though I'm from the same area (northeast USA) as the speaker, the expression wasn't ...
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What does “rachet” mean and when was it first used?

The word ratchet is all over Twitter. Some real examples from just now: "All these ghetto ass ratchet ass girls at mchi are wearing these Santa hats, and they all claim to be Santa..." "I was ...
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Where do “shenanigans” come from?

Shenanigans, or shenanigan, also with several variant spellings, can be dated to 1855 USA in both the OED and Etymonline, but the OED simply says "Origin obscure" and Etymonline throws a few guesses ...
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Where does the word “jism” come from?

Another word of mysterious origins of jism, in the sense of spunk. The OED mentions it is sometimes spelled jizz, and may even be the precursor word to jazz. But neither the OED nor Etymonline ...
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Where does the word “spliff” come from?

Neither the OED and Etymonline has any answer to the etymology of the word. The latter does suggest it may have an origin in the Caribbean, but offers nothing better. The first citation is from ...
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766 views

Where does the word “minge” come from?

The slang term minge in the sense of quim dates from the beginning of the 20th century. However, neither the OED nor Etymonline has any idea where it came from. Here are two of the OED’s citations: ...
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Where did the word “quim” come from?

Both the OED and Etymonline offer no clue as to origin of the slang term quim, meaning minge. The OED’s earliest citations are from the 18th, which isn’t quite as old as Adam, but has certainly been ...
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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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Where does the word “snogging” come from?

Where does the word snogging come from, in the sense of canoodling? I’m looking for it etymology, not for its connotation or phonoaesthetic properties, as the answer of the other question provides. ...
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Was the verb “bring” once used as a noun?

In the book of Amos (KJV, Amos 4:1), we find the verb bring is capitalized in the middle of a sentence. This is in sharp contrast to the same verb written in v. 4 in lower case letters. Finding a ...
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What is the origin of face 'turning around'?

I'm watching a documentary movie on the history of Roman Empire. There's a part where the narrator says "In 113 BC, the Roman General Carbo parleyed for peace with the barbarians. Then he turns around ...
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“… gets my goat”. What's my goat and why does it get it?

To get someone's goat is make them annoyed or irritated. But what is the goat and why does getting it annoy them? When and where does the phrase come from? What's the first known use?
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Origin of “Screw the pooch”

Wiktionary says this of "screw the pooch": The term was first documented in the early "Mercury" days of the US space program. It came there from a Yale graduate named John Rawlings who helped ...
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Why are women called chicks?

Why are women called chicks? Is there a negative connotation, I do assume there are sexist undertones there. Any idea about the etymology or origin of the term? Is it derived, in anyway, from 'chic' ...
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'Suffer' word etymology from Arabic ‎صفر‎ doubt? [closed]

'Suffer' word etymology from Arabic ‎صفر‎ (safar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safar) which is the name of a month of suffering has any relation?
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What does “thot” mean and when was it first used?

The word thot is all over Twitter. The @lovihatibot Twitterbot routinely finds it in searches for "I love the word [X]" and "I hate the word [X]", in fact it's the most hated word and third most ...
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What is the origin of the term “fresh fish”?

I'd only ever encountered this term in more modern movies and literature—typically in a prison setting—referring to new, and therefore more vulnerable, inmates. Recently, however, I noticed its use in ...
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Latin-derived verbs

Are all Latin-derived English verbs regular? For ex. decide, arrive add -ed in their past forms. Are there any specific rules to follow? To spend is irregular: why? Does it depend on when these verbs ...