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

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Why does Germany's English name differ from its German name?

Germany in German is Deutschland and the language is Deutsch. I'm used to words being anglicized, but why is there a complete replacement in this case?
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Origin of “rub someone the wrong way”

What is the origin of the idiomatic expression rub someone the wrong way? Is it correct to use the idiom in reverse, i.e. rub someone the right way, possibly meaning to calm or to please?
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Origin and exact meaning of “taken to the cleaners”

I know the meaning of this phrase by context, but the German analogs are no literal translations of this phrase and very dissimilar metaphors, meaning roughly: being tricked into something being ...
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Origin of the phrase, “There's more than one way to skin a cat.”

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
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What is the origin of British/Irish cinema names?

British and Irish cinema names from a certain period seem to come from a pool that includes The Odeon, The Curzon, The Savoy, The Adelphi (maybe you can think of more). Where did these names come ...
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Did “Mrs” originally imply possession?

Was Mrs ever intended to mean Mr's, as in mister's to indicate possession? I started thinking about this when someone brought a breakdown of the word history (his-story) to my attention. It ...
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What is the origin / reason for adding asterisks within swear words like f**k?

Several variants of this topic have already been covered here, such as: What name for bowdlerisation with asterisks (e.g., “f*ck”)? What the #$@&%*! is that called? However, these deal with the ...
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“Cannon” as plural

I'm reading a novel based in ye olde pirate-times, and I have come across the author's usage of "cannon" (without the "s") to refer to multiple cannons. The ship boasted 32 cannon onboard. Is ...
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Origin of “jack sh*t”

Why do we say "Jack Shit" to mean "nothing at all"?
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Why does “sucker” mean “unexpected” in “Sucker Punch”?

Sucker punch seems to mean "an unexpected punch" in slang. What is the origin of this term and why does sucker mean unexpected in sucker punch?
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Where did the “odd” in “N odd years” come from?

I was reminded this usage by the recent question asking about the origin of "-ish." Odd is often used in a similar way in the stock phrase "odd years" to mean "around" or "about" a certain length of ...
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Where “summat” came from

In Scottish English, I know that the word summat is used in place of standard something. But what's the etymology of this pronoun? It seems unlikely to me that summat could be merely a variant ...
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If a word has two different meanings, is it two different words or one word with different meanings?

My brother and sister-in-law are arguing about whether "train" meaning locomotive and "train" meaning teach constitutes one word with two different meanings or if it's two different words. I said ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “egg in your beer”?

The phrase "egg in your beer" refers to wanting a bonus or something for nothing. Its common usage is: "What do you want? An egg in your beer?" However, this does not seem to make much sense, as an ...
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Trapezium/trapezoid — why are the US/UK definitions swapped around?

These are the US definitions... Trapezoid — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides that has a pair of opposite sides parallel. Trapezium — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides and NO parallel ...
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Suffixing by “-rama”, “-orama” or “-arama” — how did this begin?

Suffixing by -rama, -orama or -arama — how did this begin? I mean words like futurama, foodarama, etc.
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Why do we use the word “oops”, if something goes wrong?

Why do we use the word oops in a sentence or when communicating with others, if something goes wrong? I would like to know the correct information regarding this question.
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What is etymology of the term “right up the Wazoo”?

I'm sure everyone here has heard the expression "right up the Wazoo", meaning "in large or excessive quantities, to disgusting excess". I was wondering if anyone knew exactly where "the Wazoo" ...
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Origin of the phrase “under your belt”?

Today, I found myself discussing what students should have "under their belts" during a lecture, and I wondered to myself if there was some inappropriate undertone here that I might be unaware of. ...
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Where did the “juices” in “creative juices” come from?

Where did the "juices" in "creative juices" come from? Isn't that just a little weird? I don't think juices would be the first word to mind, if I hadn't heard the phrase before, and was ...
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Gay (homosexual) and gay (happy)

When did the main meaning of the word 'gay' shift from happy to homosexual? How did the meaning evolve, if there is a relation between the two?
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Is “Dutch wife” one of those “Dutch words”?

The term "Dutch wife" is listed as having several somewhat related meanings. Wiktionary describes it as meaning 1) a body-length pillow, 2) a wicker or bamboo tube that someone sleeps in (also called ...
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The history of “softcore”

Over lunch recently, my colleagues and I were discussing the term "hardcore," and speculating on its origin. Our speculations evolved into "What has either a hard or soft core, where the hard cored ...
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How does a word come to have two completely opposite meanings?

Words like "cleave" and "egregious" have meanings that are completely opposite other meanings of the same word. How did such a bizarre, confusing state of affairs ever develop? I mean, I just can't ...
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Origin of “quarters” in the sense of living area

I was explaining to my son that HQ stood for "headquarters," when he surprised me by dividing the word into "head" and "quarters." I had never considered this word thusly before, but it's obvious to ...
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“Go, Yankees!”, “Go, Tigers!”, etc. — go where?

It's common to hear cheers of the form "“Go X!” where X is the name of a team or individual. I understand that its meaning is, as nohat said in another thread, “Go ___!” is a common exclamation ...
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Etymology of “goon”

The etymologies of "goon" that I've looked up seem to center on Alice the Goon, a "slow-witted and muscular (but gentle-natured) character" created by E.C. Segar (Popeye's daddy). But it seems like ...
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Opposite word for “cursive”, as related to writing

I looked up the etymology entry at etymonline.com for cursive, which reads: 1784, from French cursif (18c.), from Medieval Latin cursivus “running,” from Latin cursus “a running,” from past ...
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Does the phrase “The hills have eyes” predate the movie?

I'm under the impression that the phrase "the hills have eyes" predates the movie (including the 1977 one), but I can't find any use of it on Google. How can I find out if the phrase existed first?
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What is the origin of the word “conk”?

Is it obsolete to use this word? Where does it come from? I couldn't find the origin of this term. Can I use the phrase "The machine conked out" or should I replace conked out with something else?
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What is the origin of “like a bat out of hell”?

As far as I know, this expression means to appear suddenly and in a scary way. But what is its origin? I heard that it comes from Meat Loaf's song but I'd like to confirm it with reliable sources, if ...
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Why did Old Testament scholars choose to employ “to know” in a sexual sense?

For those of us not familiar, the verb to know once had an archaic sexual sense, often found in the Old Testament, and as illustrated in the following story found in Genesis 19: 4 But before they ...
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Where did the adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” come from?

In connection with my questions about the meaning of Pope Francis’s, remarks - 'Who am I to judge?' / 'You can add more water to the beans'. I found the following statement in a New York Times (July ...
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Logical meaning of the word “understand”

To understand something means to be aquainted with it, to know it very well, know how it "ticks". This is one of the basic words that has a direct "meaning" in mind. However, if we "dissect" it, is ...
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Is 'Safari' really an English word, and what are its origins?

We are all used to this word safari. I think most people will agree that its usage is ubiquitous when referring to going for holiday (esp. overland travel in Africa). So is this word a true English ...
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Where does “Santa” in Santa Claus come from?

Santa Claus is a man, right? In this case, he may not be fine with the fact that people call him Santa, which is the Spanish and Portuguese word for female saint names. For example, Santa Barbara and ...
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Origin of the term “wizard” in computing

In computer user interfaces a "wizard" is a set of screens that guide the user through a process. Does anyone know the origin of this term? I personally associate wizards with magic more than a ...
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Is it “a tough row to hoe?”, or “a tough road to hold?”

Is it an old farming metaphor, or a military saying? Where did this(these) saying(s) originate?
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What are the origins of the word “nice”?

The word "nice" tends to be used in rather a wishy-washy sense these days. In general use it tends to mean anything that is satisfactory. But what are the origins of this word? What did it originally ...
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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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Etymology of “medicine” and its Native American usage

What is the etymology of the word medicine and how did it come to be used by Native Americans to describe something that does not strictly meet the denotative meaning of medicine? Or is that just a ...
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How broad is the definition of sodomy?

In this article, a top French official is in trouble for sodomizing a maid. Yet, the article says that he forced her to perform oral sex. I always understood sodomy as involving anal as that seemed to ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “turns out”?

What is the origin of "turns out" as it appears in the phrases below: It turns out As it turns out Let me know how it turns out What is turning, what is coming out, and from where? I can't find ...
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Etymology of the phrase “Shiver my timbers”

I've been trying to search for the origin and meaning of the phrase "Shiver my timbers", but can't seem to find anything.
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Why is the spelling of “pronounce” and “pronunciation” different?

Why is the spelling of pronounce and pronunciation different? If one originally did not know the spelling of pronunciation, one would when hearing it verbally deduce its spelling to be pronounciation, ...
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Was “terror” ever a positive thing?

A friend has just told me that "terror" used to be a good thing, as opposed to the negative thing it is today: ter·ror (trr) n. Intense, overpowering fear. See Synonyms at fear. One ...
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What is the meaning and etymology of “ruthless?”

A "standard" definition is something like "cruel," or "remorseless." But what does this have to do with "ruth" (or lack thereof)? Is this a reference to a kind person named Ruth? Perhaps a clue may ...
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“Awesome” vs. “Awful”

How did the English language come to this? The play was awful. Is the complete opposite of The play was awesome. But if you break it down to awe followed by ful or some, it doesn't ...
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Why does a good gardener have a green thumb and not a green finger or hand?

Why is a gardener's thumb singled out for especial greenness? Where did that idiom come from?
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What is the etymology of “cornhole”?

Since being introduced to the bean bag-toss game of the same name, I've wondered about this word. The old farm game, similar to horseshoes, has recently gained such popularity that Googling cornhole ...