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

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Etymology: Camelot

Camelot sounds, and looks, a lot like the French camelote. Camelote, though, means something like trash or junk. Camelot means just the opposite though: Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd Edition ...
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Etymology for “oh so beautiful”

I was writing a creative piece, and unbeknownst to me, I used this phase "oh so beautiful". It fitted my description and it "felt" right, so to speak. I am just not sure were I have heard it or better ...
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210 views

Etymology of “in the world” idiom?

I've searched the internet and found definitions, but I cannot figure out when this would have EVER meant anything. Any ideas? Specifically, the type of phrase I am referring to is "What in the world ...
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245 views

What's the origin of the “memory lane”?

Where does this meme come from (as in a trip down memory lane) ? Is it from a book ?
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2k views

Origins of “tie the knot”

A common symbol in modern weddings it the image of knot. The phrase "tie the knot" as a euphemism for marriage that is also commonly recognized. Where does this originate from?
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What's the meaning of “mean” in “in the mean time”?

As I understand it "in the mean time" means "in the time between now & a specific future occurrence." What's the meaning of "mean" here? I assume it has something to do with "average" but it's ...
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What is the origin of “rings a bell”?

Where does the expression "rings a bell" come from? e.g. Bob: Have we met before? Geoff: Well, your face rings a bell.
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34 views

Word and etymology for “small of one's back”

I've encountered the phrase small of one's back often when I was reading the Divergent series, and recently encountered it again on a Wikipedia article. I've searched its meaning on the internet, but ...
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50 views

How to rationalise the 'pro-' prefix in 'promiscuous' ?

I ask not about the definition itself, but about the impact or role of the prefix in English: promiscuous (adj.) c.1600, people or things, "mingled confusedly, grouped together without ...
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2k views

Why do we call cinema The Seventh Art?

Why do we call cinema The Seventh Art? Why not sixth or fifth?
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171 views

Nannicock - a young woman, a fool or something else?

What definition(s) are there for the word Nannicock and what it's the etymology for each definition. (I've checked OED already). I came across Nannicock recently and on looking it up in OED their ...
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155 views

What's the etymology for the term “greensheet”?

I've been looking for the etymology of the word greensheet, specifically when used in the context of academia. I know it's just another way to say "syllabus", but where did the "green" in greentext ...
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Trans vs Transgender vs Transsexual

As I understand it, trans means "an individual whose gender identity is different than what they were designated at birth". However, I also hear the terms transgender and transsexual used for similar ...
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English tv programme about the origins of words and idioms [on hold]

Does anyone remember a series of programmes on UK tv about the origins of words and idioms? They focused each programme on a different aspect of society, for example: church, navy, farming, pubs. I've ...
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If pogonotrophy means to grow a beard, is there a term for shaving a beard?

If pogonotrophy means "to grow a beard", is there a term for shaving a beard? How would you use pogonotrophy in a sentence? And if there is an antonym for this word, how would you use it in a ...
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Looking for the source of “SJO” or “South Jersey Original”?

Looking for source of "SJO" or "South Jersey Original" used to describe a person from Southern New Jersey whose behavior (usually idiosyncratic) is startling or otherwise worthy of note.
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71 views

Etymology for “loganamnosis”

It's a condition in which one suffers the inability to remember to the word he or she wants to use and then becomes obsessed with trying to remember it. What is this interesting word's root? Could ...
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167 views

Etymology of “bizarre”?

bizarre n. "very strange or unusual" I know that it (likely) comes from Basque. Does anyone have a certain knowledge of this? I heard that it comes from Italian from some sources, too.
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Name for when an adjective modifying a noun leaves the class of objects the noun describes

When adjectives modify nouns, usually they restrict the class of objects that the noun refers to. For example: Red car A red car is, in particular, an instance of a car. However, in specialty ...
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625 views

What is the etymology of 'physician'?

I find myself confusing 'physician' and 'physicist' occasionally. While I know what they both mean, I am a little confused as to the use of 'physics' in 'physician'. How did the term 'physician' come ...
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64 views

How does 'to partake of' develop to mean 'be characterized by'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 3, that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. partake of = Be characterized by (a quality) [ODO] 1. How does the etymology (listed in that ...
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68 views

Etymology for “petrichor”

It means "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather" according to my Oxford Dictionary of English. But if it is broken down or traced, what ...
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what is the origin of the phrase “a penny for your thoughts”?

Googling for the origin of "A penny for your thoughts," I have only found the origin of a likely-related phrase "my two cents" and simple dictionary entries for "a penny for your thoughts." What is ...
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Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
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How did “chopped liver” come to mean “of little value”?

Where did the phrase "chopped liver" originate? Why does it mean "of little value"?
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192 views

Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
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Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
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Connection between arachnid and arachidonic? [closed]

Is there an etymological connection between words like "arachnid" (related to spiders) and words like "arachidonic" (related to peanuts)?
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What does “enough” mean in expressions like “Fair enough” or “Funny enough”?

As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it ...
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73 views

Where do all the fox references come from? [on hold]

A person can be crazy like a fox, and attractive lady is foxy or even a fox, an old book might have foxing, to outsmart someone is to outfox them, if you are confused you are foxed, and there are ...
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Does the phrase “begging the question” make any sense?

I know what "begging the question" originally means, but I just can't make any sense of the idiom. The phrase really seems to have nothing to do with its own meaning. The original Latin phrase, ...
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4answers
10k views

Why is “bloody hell” offensive or shocking?

It seems to me that if one describes hell as 'bloody', that is simply describing one of the properties you'd expect of it. So, why is 'bloody hell' used as an offensive or shocking phrase?
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123 views

Was “God be with ye” grammatically correct at the time?

Several dictionaries I have consulted, as well as another question here on English.SE, state that the origin of the word goodbye is “God be with ye”. Shouldn’t it be “God be with you” or perhaps “God ...
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What is the source of “Long time no see,” and when did it enter U.S. English?

A question from almost two years ago asked "In which countries is that “long time no see” greeting common?" The question drew a number of answers that were squarely on point, but also a couple that ...
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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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Do “Bulgaria” and “vulgar” have some common etymology?

A Yahoo answer says no, but I thought I'd ask my more enlightened StackExchange friends.
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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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What is the origin and meaning of “racing to a red light”?

During the third episode of the HBO show "True Detective" the following dialogue is exchanged: Cop 1: "Certain linguist anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites ...
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What is the origin of the phrase, “I'm Game”

I'm trying to understand the origins of the phrase, "I'm game". Now, I understand how the phrase is used in everyday English, but what are the origins of this phrase? How did it come to imply a ...
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Origin of the expression “his/her face is a map of the world”

What is the origin of the expression "his/her face is a map of the world"? Bonus points to a literary origin (as in, the first written usage of the phrase in the English language). The phrase is ...
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“Out of pocket”?

I'm increasingly hearing the phrase "out of pocket" used in America as a colloquialism to mean "away from the office", "unavailable", or "incommunicado". I apologize for not replying sooner; I ...
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The introduction of manmade structures in the etymology of harbor

In a Stackexchange post, a commenter offers a distinction between ports and harbors: Or to put it another way, "harbor" is a description of the natural geography, while "port" is something made ...
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Origin of different past tenses for verbs with the same endings?

Why do we have a situation where the past of "to blow" is "blew", but of "to glow" is "glowed"? And don't say "flew" if you mean "it flowed". The poem Lovers, by Phoebe Cary has many examples of ...
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what is a word for something that someone can't live/deal/bear with but yet can't live without? [closed]

I'm writing an essay describing the speakers perception on a particular topic and i got stuck at a articular point because in want to keep my answer as brief and articulate as possible
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where does the phrase “sitting duck” orgin? [closed]

Where does the phrase "sitting duck" come from? It is a a person or thing with no protection against an attack or other source of danger.
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669 views

'Throne' for a Lavatory

I have come across the usage of 'throne' for a lavatory. Is there any special etymology to this? Is it simply because a throne is a seat? Or does the equivalence have any royal *under*pinnings to it? ...
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4k views

Why is a disastrous mess called a “pig's ear”?

Looking at the results of yesterday's programming effort, I concluded that "I have made a right pig's ear of this." I then wondered, why a pig's ear? Does anyone know why pig's ear is used to mean ...
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Origin of “to have an axe to grind”

Where does the idiom to have an axe to grind come from? To have personal, selfish reasons to do or say something.
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Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...