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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

8
votes
1answer
86 views

Prof. John Dalton, “daltonism” and “color blindness”

Daltonism is a term coined after the English chemist John Dalton (1766–1844), who had the condition and did early research into: the inability or defective ability to perceive or distinguish ...
43
votes
9answers
175k views

What is the origin of the term “ginger” for red-headed people?

I'd like to know the etymology of the word "ginger" in reference to red-headed people. In particular, if "ginger" in this context is related to the plant root used in cooking, I'd like to know how ...
7
votes
5answers
533 views

Why is taking a side street called a “rat run”?

I stumbled upon this expression for the first time while doing some research for an answer, and I have to admit I love it! An explanation of rat running/ a rat run is as follows "Rat running/ A ...
35
votes
4answers
2k views

Etymology of the use of “Drive” to refer to a digital storage medium

When did the word "drive" begin to be used to refer to a digital storage medium (e.g. disc drive, hard drive, USB drive), and why was this term selected?
1
vote
1answer
101 views

Origin and evolution of the term 'amen corner'

Geneva Smitherman, Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner (1994) provides this entry for the term "amen corner": AMEN CORNER 1) In the Traditional Black Church (TBC), ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views
+50

How or why did “sock” come to mean “punch”?

I see that sock as an article of clothing is derived from Latin soccus for slipper. But, how did it also become a synonym for "a punch" or "to punch"?
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Why is the action of removing a digital file named “Delete”?

After reading these questions: Difference between "delete" and "remove" How much use did the word 'delete' get before the technological boom? Delete or Remove (ell.SE) ...
17
votes
1answer
329 views

What word did Middle English have in place of “light" as in: “light blue”, “light green” etc.?

In English, we often use the adjective light before another colour to express a whiter shade of hue. For example, light blue, light green, light brown, etc. The term pale is used in a similar way, e....
2
votes
1answer
42 views

Etymology of “marketing:” how/when did it change meaning? [on hold]

The best etymology I could find says the definition of marketing has changed like this: 1560s, "buying and selling," verbal noun from market (v.). Meaning "produce bought at a market" is from ...
6
votes
2answers
5k views

Etymology of “at large”

The killer is still at large. Where does the meaning of at large (not captured; free) come from? Besides being big I know that large means also wide in range and involving many things. Is there any ...
9
votes
2answers
453 views

Where did the term “strawberry blonde” come from?

The term strawberry blonde refers to a person having reddish-blonde hair, or the color of the hair, usually used specifically for females (thus blonde and not blond). When checking a couple ...
7
votes
1answer
14k views

Is 'deuce' (tennis) a corruption of the French phrase 'à deux de jeu'?

The scoring system of tennis is somewhat arcane and the origins are not well understood. It is likely tennis derives from game played in medieval France in which a clock face was used to keep score. ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Why “pastime” but not “passtime”?

pastime n. An activity that occupies one's spare time pleasantly: Sailing is her favorite pastime. [TFD] Etymonline says that it is from pass + time: late 15c., passe tyme "recreation, ...
0
votes
1answer
172 views

What's the etymology of 'of' after verbs?

(TL;DR) While reading about preposition of on OED (eg avail of, enquire of), I encountered a possible explanation: quoted below, OED claims that the postverbal of originates from the genitive case, ...
1
vote
2answers
110 views

Difference between homo sapiens and homo sapiens sapiens? [closed]

I know the Latin homo means "human being" or "man", while sapiens means "wise". So, homo sapiens means "wise man." What does our subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens, mean? Is it, "wise man who knows?"
42
votes
4answers
7k views

When did men start to lose their “virginity”?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word virgin came from 2 languages: Anglo-French and Old French virgine "virgin; Virgin Mary" From Latin virginem (nominative virgo) "maiden,...
-1
votes
0answers
27 views

Where did the term 'a concerted effort' come from? [on hold]

The title pretty much says it all. I know the definition but I'm curious as to its etymology.
-2
votes
1answer
30 views

Origin of “Log” / “To Log” [on hold]

I've always wondered what it the origin of the word log (as in "a log file") and the verb to log (as in "The server logged this event in the event journal"), in the computer science context. Is there ...
11
votes
1answer
338 views

What is the origin of the expression “to twig to something”?

Oddly enough, the OED (1971 Compact Edition) has no entry for twig to, only for twig something: twig v4 slang or colloq. [Origin unascertained] [...] b. To become aware of by seeing; to ...
11
votes
5answers
15k views

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.
0
votes
1answer
69 views

What English guidelines determine the spelling of a unique name/word? [on hold]

If i only have the pronunciation of a unique name, with no cultural origin, what are the rules to follow, to spell it correctly? Or is it spelled any way i want to, but then i shouldn't expect people ...
2
votes
3answers
135 views

What are the pronunciation and etymology of the dog's name “Tige”?

"Tige" was apparently a popular name for American pet dogs even before Buster Brown (1902). I just ran across the same name in chapter 32 of Huckleberry Finn (1884): "Begone you Tige! you Spot! ...
10
votes
1answer
88 views

What is the origin of the term “cooling glass” as the term for sunglasses in Indian English?

I live in India, and in the region where I live, I have never heard the term "sunglasses" used while speaking English. The term used here is "cooling glass" (in singular.) The term gets used quite a ...
7
votes
1answer
10k views

Origin of the term “fat chance”

The phrase "fat chance" can be used as a way of sarcastically describing the impossibility of something, but where did it originate from? I've googled it several times, and it always comes up with the ...
7
votes
2answers
279 views

Orange “is the new” black!

The expression "is the new" is often used to introduce a comparison between two things, where the latter has actually replaced the former in terms of popularity. The only reference I could find for ...
0
votes
1answer
108 views

Unexpected Google Ngram for “wifi” [on hold]

If we look at the word "internet", we can see that it was virtually unused until around 1990. Next, if we look at the word "wifi" we can see that there was a huge jump in around 2000. My question is ...
0
votes
0answers
100 views

What is the origin of the word 'aphotic'? Is there a noun meaning “the state of being aphotic”?

Some adjectives ending in -ic are derived from nouns. For example, hyperbolic is derived from hyperbole, and parabolic is derived from parabola. Aphotic is an adjective meaning "lightless; dark" (...
9
votes
2answers
433 views

Preservation of the en- prefix form of Latin negative prefix in-, in enemy & enmity

The en- in enemy is a prefix meaning "not": the origin is Latin inimicus, from in- + amicus — a "not friend" or an "unfriend" (Online Etymology Dictionary—enemy). The Latin in- changed to en- when ...
36
votes
7answers
25k views

Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
1
vote
1answer
51 views

What is the future for the Word *“Womyn”*? [on hold]

The Word "womyn" has an interesting and debated history. It has become ever more pertinent since it's creation. My question is: Does "womyn" have a future?
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Is Jutland so-called because the region it describes 'juts out' into the ocean?

I know that 'Jutland', a part of Denmark, comes from the Danish 'Jylland', which describes the same region. But was that name just invented at random, or does it come from the verb 'jut', as the land ...
6
votes
3answers
16k views

What is the origin of “A cat in hell's chance”

What is the origin of the phrase: "A cat in hell's chance"? I understand it to mean "not a chance", but it seems a very curious saying and I wonder how it originated. e.g. Bob: Do you ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Origin of the word “shill” (“shillaber”)

I was recently looking up word origins for various types of tricksters, in honor of April Fool's Day. Interestingly, I couldn't find much about the word "shill" other than that its origin was around ...
3
votes
2answers
681 views

Knock me over with a feather

Where does the expression "you could have knocked me over with a feather" come from? My students had never heard it when I used it in class the other day.
5
votes
2answers
292 views

What is the entomology of “ligger”?

This answer on a prior question points out that ligger is defined by UrbanDictionary as: Ligger An individual who attends parties, openings, social gatherings and events with the sole ...
2
votes
1answer
332 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
10k views

Where does “on one's last legs” come from?

To be on one's last legs means to be worn out, tired, run down, and ready to die or otherwise cease working. Some examples I've found are Grandfather is on his last legs. He'll be on his way to ...
1
vote
0answers
25 views

Is it good to leave things out on the pitch?

Started re-watching The West Wing recently, and came across the phrase "leave it all out on the field": Everyone's walking around here like we're finished. We have 365 more days… For both of us, ...
6
votes
0answers
28 views

Etymology of 'rime' and 'unrime', meaning 'to put on/takeoff outdoor clothing'

These terms were in use when I was a boy in South London back in the 1930s/1940s. My grandmother would tell me to "Rime up well." or "Get well rimed up." when I was going to go outdoors on a cold day ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Where does the suffix “-tine” come from?

Where does the suffix -tine come from? For e.g., Ovaltine, Creatine, etc. all have a -tine suffix. What is the meaning connoted to the noun attached?
12
votes
4answers
286 views

What game did “game changer” originally refer to?

Game changer is an expression , often used in business contexts, to refer to: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. Origin ...
19
votes
4answers
941 views

Why the “top” in “top hat”?

I've always wondered why it's called top hat, and not just a hat, or some other word, which would better describe this specific type of hats. I mean, all hats are placed on "top", right? Could it ...
4
votes
1answer
49 views

Source of “miscarriage of justice”

What may be the source of the phrase "miscarriage of justice"? I keep hearing this phrase being used for cases where an innocent has been convicted. While the phrase paints quite a picture, I'm not ...
10
votes
7answers
13k views

How did “gesundheit” work its way into common American usage?

Once upon a time I was hanging out with a fairly international group of people. Somebody sneezed, and one of the Americans reflexively responded, "Gesundheit!" A German in the group seized on the ...
0
votes
1answer
5k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
60 views

Origin of the phrase “go west” (to die)

I was curious, what is the origin of the phrase "to go west" or "to pass into the west" (as in the sense of to die)?
7
votes
2answers
3k views

Was “tickle (someone's) fancy” originally a double entendre?

Recently, I asked users to provide modern-day equivalents of idioms and expressions that contained the words fancy and tickle. The question is titled Whatever tickles their fancy in the US? I was ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is “have” pronounced with a “short a” sound?

As far as I'm aware, every word of the form consonant-a-v-e has a long a sound - cave, Dave, fave, gave, lave, nave, pave, rave, save and wave - every word except have. What is the story behind this ...
0
votes
1answer
25 views

Why are visa application centres called “visa sections”?

In this article, the term "visa sections" is used to refer seemingly to visa application centres, in the following passage: Applications around the world soared and visa sections in parts of India,...
9
votes
4answers
4k views

What is the origin and meaning of “coyote ugly”?

I overheard two scoundrels discussing one of their dates as being "coyote ugly".