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

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How does 'notwithstanding' mean 'in spite of'?

notwithstanding = [preposition] In spite of [adverb] = Nevertheless; in spite of this: Etymonline: late 14c., notwiþstondynge, from not + present participle of the verb withstand. A ...
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Etymology of legal meaning of 'dispositive'

Since Prof. Eugene Volokh has observed its counterintuitiveness, what's an intuitive derivation? Prof. Eugene Volokh: One way of remembering this is by looking at the stem, which turns out to be ...
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What does 'spite' mean in 'in spite of'?

in spite of = 1. Without being affected by the particular factor mentioned [From the same page as above:] spite = [mass noun] 1. A desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone I ...
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Is “denigrate” a racist word? [duplicate]

A few years ago I was told not to use that word because, in addition to its negative meaning, it comes from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare, which means to blacken. Therefore, "to ...
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A frog in the throat

While the French refer to the temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat as having a cat in the throat, the English version of the expression is to have a frog in the throat. I ...
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How did the term “X's finest” come to mean the police force of a city X?

I have often come across terms like London's finest, New York's finest, etc., intended to mean the police forces of the respective cities. I think in the case of Scotland Yard, the term even has some ...
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How did “party” come to mean “gathering”?

Is it just related to the fact that people participate in it?
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“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
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What is the origin of 'bird'

Bird: (Brit.) a girl or young woman, esp one's girlfriend (Collins Dict. ) According to Etymonline, bird: "maiden, young girl," c.1300, confused with burd (q.v.), but felt by ...
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“Iterate” vs. “Reiterate”

Definition of iterate: to say or do again or again and again Definition of reiterate: to state or do over again or repeatedly sometimes with wearying effect The distinction seems to be ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “pinky promise”?

A pinky promise (or "pinky swear") is a gesture in which two parties interlock little fingers in a symbolic gesture of agreement. What is the origin of this phrase? One possibility, and probably the ...
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Etymology of “queue” from “cue” [migrated]

Queue has such a strange spelling (80% of it is vowels!) that I wanted to see where the word came from. I searched for its origin at Etymonline.com, which had this to say: queue (n.): late 15c., ...
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What’s a “handegg”?

What’s a handegg? NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary. There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that ...
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What is the origin of ZOMG?

I have looked in a number of places, with contradicting results. The Urban Dictionary provides a whopping 73 "explanations", of which I will quote just a few. (Original spelling and punctuation ...
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History and usage of “dooryard”

I have been interested in the expression "dooryard stop" recently. This is an expression that is used to describe a short visit in someone's dooryard (driveway) that often means not staying long ...
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Is using “all” instead of “all used up” a regional thing?

My inlaws from Central Pennsylvania will say, "The milk is all" instead of "The milk is all gone". Another very common example, "Can you bring me some cookies?" "Sorry, the cookies are all". Anyone ...
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Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE

Idiom: in my neck of the woods (AmE) The meaning of this expression is: in the region where I live. I once tried to find out how a word that referred to a part of the body could later develop into ...
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What is the origin of “Kris Kringle”?

In Canada, we use the term "Kris Kringle" for gift exchange tradition in Christmas. It is also spelled as "Kriss Kringle". In US and UK, it is called Secret Santa. Wikipedia says "Secret Santa" is ...
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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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When was “emoji” first used?

Emoji is a small digital image or icon used in electronic communication. It is also mentioned as a standardized emoticon (emotion + icon) but emojis are usually depicted as pictographs and emoticons ...
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Where does the response “Anytime” come from? [on hold]

When someone says "Thank you" whenever I have helped them out, I naturally respond with "Anytime". I recently started thinking about this and couldn't quite figure out where this word originates from. ...
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Why is it “geometric” but “theoretical”?

I just came across a course name: Geometric and Theoretical Optics. The mismatched endings bug me. Why do we have both -ical and -ic endings? Is there any difference in meaning between, say, ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “bullet points”?

In particular, was the expression coined by a single individual or is it attributed to a document? The only thing I've been able to find was a non-cited reference to its origins in the 19th century ...
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Origin of “washing up”

Where does the phrase "to wash up" (equally "to clean up") originate from? Particularly the word "up", how did that enter the phrase?
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Why can something be “touch and go”?

When a situation is risky or one isn't sure whether things are going to be OK, one might say that a situation is "touch and go". What is the origin of this phrase?
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Who originated “Merry Christmas”?

The first reference I can find in the OED to "Merry Christmas" is from 1534. This date very roughly corresponds with the English Reformation and Henry VIII's breach with Rome. From that time the ...
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How did the “erogation” word end up on displays of coffee machines?

According to many dictionaries, erogation comes from the Latin for "the art of giving out or bestowing", but currently seems to be heavily linked to the coffee business. I'd like to know how this ...
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Etymology of orchard

Etymology of orchard As a German I would assume that orchard is related to German Obstgarten (a garden with fruit trees), and as Obstgarten has a consonant group of four consonants bst+g the bst was ...
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What does “fleek” mean and when was it first used? [closed]

The word fleek 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 third most hated word over the ...
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The relationship between negative numbers and moral negatives

What is the origin of the analogy between numbers less than zero and bad things? This question just occurred to me. I have been using this analogy without thinking about its history.
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Origins of “up the duff”

In British English, the term "up the duff" is used to describe a pregnant lady. I've tried to research as to why this is the case but I can't find anything concrete. Oxford has it as: 1940s ...
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Etymology of 'commencement' (as in university commencement)

Some guy claims that I'll tell you why graduation is called Commencement (and no, it's not because it's the beginning of your "real life"). In the large halls where students and faculty ate, the ...
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When did “phone” become accepted as its own word?

In older print publications, I have come across telephone shortened to 'phone, with an apostrophe to mark where the beginning of the word had been omitted. Now, however, phone does not need an ...
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What is the etymology of “flabbergasted”?

Online Etymology dictionary suggests it's "likely an arbitrary formation from flabby or flapper and aghast". I'm wondering if anyone has any more insight.
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why do we say “deaf ears”- Is it not pleonasm [closed]

If one is deaf, he/she can't hear or have extremely limited hearing abilities. And since hearing is about ears or vice-versa... Can we say "deaf ears" when we refer to people?
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First use of the slang term “Scrub”?

The slang term "scrub", when referred to a person, can mean several things. It seems like the original usage as an adjective is someone who is not good at something - video games, sports, etc. I am ...
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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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How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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Origin of “Make someday today” [closed]

What is the origin of "Make someday today"? There are other variations for this expression that one can google on the Internet such as "Make today your someday" and "Make that someday today". ...
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Origin of the phrase: “they went back to the well”

I am fairly happy with the meaning of this phrase but am wondering are there any good theories on where it originated? I have one theory that makes sense in an Irish context. Dotted around Ireland we ...
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“bibs and bobs” - what does it mean and where does it come from?

Just exactly what is a bibs and a bobs? And where the heck did that expression come from, anyway?
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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) ...
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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, ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “wind your neck in!”?

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the origin of the phrase in title.
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Where does the term “Grand Slam” come from?

The four majors in tennis are known as Grand Slams. The "Grand" part clearly defines the prestige/size of the event but where do we get the word "Slam" from in this context? Basic research shows ...
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How does 'so much as' develop to mean 'even'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning: so much as = [with negative] Even: I couldn't find the etymology for this adverbial phrase? Is this ...
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How much of the English language comes from each of its influences?

I was watching a video linked in this answer and it made the following claim: [...] like most words in English is derived from German. That got me thinking. While I know that Germanic languages ...
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to bar vs to debar

1. These words seem to mean the same, so what does the de- prefix mean? Did I overlook any nuances? 2. What's this phenomenon called, when a prefix or suffix affects nothing? Etymonline: 15c., ...