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

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Where and when did “Bucket List” come to mean what it does today?

I'm not sure I had even heard the term "bucket list" until the movie came out. I get the feeling though that the term long predates the movie. Can anyone identify how "bucket list" came to mean what ...
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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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Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyal coin the proverb: “A change is as good as a rest”?

The proverb a change is as good as a rest is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: A change of work or occupation can be as restorative or refreshing as a period of relaxation Cambridge ...
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What is the origin of “in a jiffy”?

What is the origin of "in a jiffy"? Etymology online Dictionary says origin unknown but speculates that it was slang (cant) for lightning and dates it as 1785. Wikipedia agrees but adds that the ...
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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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Words starting with “touch”

There are several words in English starting with touch, such as touchwood, touchstone, touchline, ect. (a list can be found here : http://www.scrabblefinder.com/starts-with/touch/ ) I would like to ...
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Why is the English devil “old”?

Looking up the etymology of the Devil's nickname, Old Nick, I came across this article in OUPblog written by Anatoly Liberman For some reason, devils, at least in English, are often called old: ...
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What is the origin of the colloquial term “bum” meaning a homeless person?

Just out of curiosity, I was wondering about the history of the term "bum" meaning a homeless person, not the UK version referring to someone's posterior. Bonus: If you know the background on "Hobo" ...
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Not to Mention ≈ [Let Alone ≈ Much Less ≈ Still Less]

According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/let+alone, the following are synonyms, which I denote with ≈: not to mention ≈ let alone According to ...
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How did 'subordinate' evolve? [on hold]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning: 1. subordinate = Lower in rank or position Etymonline: mid-15c., "having an inferior rank," from ...
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Why two 'be's in 'be bereaved'?

Isn't the infinitive be in be bereaved redundant? Etymonline looks complex and refers to bereft. 'Origin' on ODO suggests to 'see be-, reave', but doesn't the prefix 'be-' already suffice? reave ...
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Does the “elbow-handshake” have any relation to the phrase “rubbing elbows”?

This is probably answerable with a general reference (or a pair of such references), but I have not been able to find one. Etymology Online does not cover the origin of "rubbing-elbows" as meaning ...
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Reversal of the meaning of the word “restive”

According to google etymology the word restive originally meant inclined to remain still. But then it changed the meaning to the opposite. I would like to know if such phenomenon of revresal ...
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What does “campy” mean?

I was reading this answer to another question and came across the word campy (towards the end of the answer). I’ve definitely seen it used before to describe science fiction movies and shows but have ...
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The etymology of “redhead” vs. “ginger haired”

All my life I have known people with reddish, orangey hair, to be termed ginger haired. Just as you don't call a blonde a 'yellow head' red head just wasn't a word that was said (wouldn't orange head ...
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Why do we call it “gum arabic” and not “arabic gum”?

Not in use so much these days, "gum arabic" can still be found for sale in small bottles. Is there a reason why it is called "gum arabic" and not "arabic gum"? Gum Arabic - Gum arabic, also known ...
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Are “Speculate” and “Speculum” related? [on hold]

I wonder if any etymology buffs can shed some light into this one. While commonly a speculum is a medical instrument, I know it has other uses in literature and history. Is speculate a verb extending ...
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Origin of “Why is a mouse when it spins?” riddle

Question: "Why is a mouse when it spins?" Answer: "Because the higher the fewer." There are some great responses regarding the provenance of this seemingly-nonsensical riddle at this ...
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Best etymological calque of the word Schadenfreude

This question is purely theoretical (i.e. I don't foresee actually trying to use the word), but using arguments based on etymology, as well as euphony and (least importantly) comprehensibility, what ...
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Why “on the books”, not “in the books”

On the books means "part of the law". These changes would add little to the civil rights laws now on the books. I know the meaning of this idiom, and idioms are used as they are, but idioms ...
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How did 'provide' evolve to mean 'stipulate in a document'? [on hold]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 3 that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. to provide [with clause] = Stipulate in a will or other legal document: Etymonline doesn't ...
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What is the etymology of “Pasifika”?

What is the etymology of the term "Pasifika", which can mean the Pacific Islands, people of Pacific Island heritage (in a New Zealand context), or a festival held in Auckland about Pacific Island ...
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Where does the use of “why” as an interjection come from?

Examples: Why, I'd love to. Why, of course! I get the concept of starting a sentence with a word not completely related to the overall response, but this one seems to be a particularly ...
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What does “no love lost” mean and where does it come from?

I have trouble with the idiom "no love lost". I understand that it is used when people are at odds or don't get along, but I don't understand why. Interpreted literally it sounds like there should be ...
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Should I wash my hands of this?

Should I wash my hands of this? Has this expression ever been used as a way of suggesting a bribe?
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Erf as term for plot of land in a town or city. Is this word only used in southern Africa?

The Free Dictionary website states and so does Wikipedia: erf [ɜːf] n pl erven [ˈɜːvən] (Engineering / Civil Engineering) South African a plot of land, usually urban, marked off for building ...
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Why would the “wind blowing in the East” be considered a bad thing?

I've been recently working through the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, and enjoying it very much. However, there's a particular motif that's bothering me, whose logic I haven't been ...
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Where does the pejorative meaning of “shower” come from?

shower British informal a group of people perceived as incompetent or worthless I think this term is becoming obsolete. It's certainly not something I've heard in the street recently. The ...
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Who were the 'pros from Dover'?

I was reading Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy this morning, and he compares his characters to the 'pros from Dover'. This was a phrase that I also remember hearing in the movie M*A*S*H - so it seems to be ...
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Why is it called an adam's apple?

Why is it called an adam's apple?
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Dull as ditchwater (not dishwater) … specific questions thereon

(1) who specifically, or at least when specifically, did originate the phrase? {Example answer - "that was one of Shakespeare's!"} (2) why? (3) when first did someone screw up and use ...
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“My pigs are killing me!”

How has the word "pigs" come to be used as slang for feet? As in the phrase: My pigs are killing me! It seems to me that "pigs" and "feet" have very little in common. I'm not sure how common ...
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Words that changed meaning in past hundred years [closed]

I am looking for a list of words that were used to mean something different from for what they are used now. some words are such that whose meaning has changed completely and some words have more ...
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Origin of “toffee-nosed”

What's the origin of toffee-nosed (snobbish, disdainful, stuck-up)? Is it related to "toff" (upper-class)?
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How did 'patriate' develop to mean 'transfer … from a mother country to its former dependency'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: to patriate = Transfer control over (a constitution) from a mother country to its former dependency: ...
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Which is the older sense of the word “linguist”?

I have been listening to some rants on YouTube against people learning a bunch of languages calling themselves "linguists". I'm personally interested in both linguistics and languages as a hobby but ...
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Why is something fried on a griddle called grilled?

To my understanding, to grill is cooking with a heat source located beneath an open slatted grate (or ribbed closed pan). (For example, using a barbecue grill on one's patio.) The word grill is ...
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Original Meaning of Blood is thicker than water, is it real?

I recently read that the phrase "Blood is thicker than water" originally derived from the phrase "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb", implying that the ordinary meaning ...
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Origin of the idiom “falling off the wagon”

I often hear the idiom "falling off the wagon", as in "Has Robert Downey Jr. fallen off the wagon?" (i.e. Is he drinking alcohol again?). Where did the phrase originate? What wagon? And why is being ...
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The origin of “It's just one of those things”?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "It's just one of those things" means: said about an event or situation that you cannot explain, or do not like but cannot change But what is the origin? ...
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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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Where did the phrase “drop the hammer” come from?

Where did the phrase "drop the hammer" come from? It's what you do when you start to go balls to the wall. I've only heard it rowing.
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What's the reason of having prefix “re” in the word “republic”? [closed]

Does that mean there was an even earlier form of government called "public"?
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Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
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Antonym of selfie

I am looking for an antonym of selfie, meaning a photo/portrait of others. The ancient Greek word for self is like auto, and what I am looking for is an English word for hetero (its opposite). Do you ...
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Does “grim” share an etymology with the surname “Grimm”?

People have often punned about Grimm's fairy tales being very grim. For example, TV Tropes has the trope Grimmification about tales being made more grim. (The Brothers Grimm didn't engage in ...
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Why does “not least” mean “notably”?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: not least = In particular; notably I couldn't find the etymology for this adverbial phrase? Is that ...
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Duane “Dog” Chapman, what is the word for the part in quotes between forename and surname?

Apologies if this has been asked before, I found it quite difficult to phrase what I meant! As the question title states: Duane "Dog" Chapman. What is the correct word to describe the part that is ...
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How did the verb 'leverage' evolve to mean 'use borrowed capital'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: to leverage = Use borrowed capital for (an investment), expecting the profits made to be greater than ...
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Where does the phrase “fit to be tied” come from? Has its meaning become diluted?

While looking into an answer for "Sick and tied" and "sick and tired", I stumbled across the idiom fit to be tied which according to thefreedictionary means angry and agitated. (As ...