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

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Up in Annie's room behind the wall paper

My dad had a lot of phrases which I have not been able to identify the origins of. He would use "up in Annie's room behind the wallpaper" in much the same way as "to see a man about a dog" is used - ...
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What is the origin of the expression “ya think”?

Maybe I'm just slow on the uptake, but the expression "ya think" seems to have recently become nearly universal, at least as viewed from the US and the UK, where I encounter it all the time, spoken by ...
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Why “out” in “eat your heart out”?

I used the phrase the other day and it struck me as odd that out is needed. Wiktionary cites the following etymology of sorts: Disputed. Three schools of thought exist: From "This will eat ...
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Was “sexting” an Australian slang term originally?

To sext, (usually as noun sexting) refers to: sending (someone) sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone: Its earliest usage appears to be from 2005, thought other ...
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“Battery” and “Battery”, why are they called the same?

This post made an interesting point about what would be understood when the word battery is used. In the U.S. at least, the word battery is so rarely used outside the legal phrase assault and ...
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Why do we call snail mail “snail mail”?

Why do we call snail mail "snail mail"? So by default mail will refer to email?
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What really is a “Yester” in Yesterday or Yesteryear?

Apparently, Yester cannot be used alone in a sentence, except when accompanied by "day (yesterday) or year (yesteryear)". It cannot be used incombination with other portions of time like; yestermonth, ...
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“Digital computer” in the 1940s

I was watching the DVD movie Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped crack the Nazi's enigma code in WWII. In one key scene, Turing uses the ...
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the usage and etymology of the expression “I bags that”

This expression is used when you want to reserve or secure the right to do or to have something: he bagged the best chair. I see this listed as Australian slang but also have noticed references its ...
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Origin of “suit yourself”

The young daughter of a friend of mine said, "I think 'suit yourself' comes from a lazy tailor," which cracked us up. It also got me wondering. I did the obligatory google search and came up with ...
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Yod dropping - Why is there a distinction in the pronunciations of “sewn” and “hewn”?

"Sewn" is pronounced /sōn/, whereas "hewn" is pronounced /hyo͞on/. Is there a reason for the difference in their pronunciations despite their spellings and origins being similar?
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What made the “worst case scenario” a popular expression?

A worst-case scenario is a cliché that refers to: the worse possible future outcome. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms) Though the meaning is quite intuitive, the ...
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Metaphysician vs Metaphysicist

A practitioner of physics is known as a physicist. It seems like it would logically follow that a practitioner of metaphysics would be known as a metaphysicist; yet, in every text I've read, a ...
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“th” in mother, father, brother— but not sister

I was wondering why there is a "th" in mother, father, and brother, but not in sister? Is the etymology of the word different?
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What is the lost origin of 'hoodlum'?

The OED Online, in an entry "not yet fully updated (first published 1899)", gives this etymology for 'hoodlum': The name originated in San Francisco about 1870–2, and began to excite attention ...
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What's the origin of the word “nachos”? [on hold]

Just like it says on the tin! Looking for root words or early usages, ideally "first usage" or an unambiguous etymological origin.
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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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Is there any relation between the meanings of the word “cataract”?

Oxford defines "cataract" as "a steep waterfall" as well as gives the more common meaning of the word i.e. the medical condition that causes a loss of sight. Also, "cataract", as meaning ...
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Etymology: predicament

Can anyone explain how predicament from the Latin word family dicere ‘to say’ and praedicare, can develop the meaning precarious situation? Etymonline can't. early 15c., "category, class; one of ...
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Where does the idiom “root for something” come from?

I am familiar with the idiom “to root for something” meaning that I am hoping for something to happen or taking the side of something. But what does this have to do with roots? Does it mean that I am ...
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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, ...
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Quis? Ego! (Child's phrase)

In British private schools children shout "Quis?" and the person to shout "Ego!" in reply first gets whatever was on offer. The Latin derivation is clear but I have two questions. First, when did ...
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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". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=enemy The Latin in- changes to ...
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Phrasal verb “be a thing”

I’m looking for the origin of the phrasal verb “to be a thing”. It means roughly “exist” or more specifically “be recognised” or “be a phenomenon”. I first noticed it around 2008–2009. Is ...
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Where does “contango” come from?

Contango is a very common term in financial business that originally referred to: (on the London stock exchange) a fee paid by a buyer of securities to the seller for the privilege of ...
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What does “flustrated” mean, and is it a word?

What does the flustrated mean? Is it even a word? I am using Lingea Lexicon and it doesn’t know this word, but the Internet is full of it. I find myself getting mad at people for using it both in ...
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Were tongue twisters meant for fun? Or were they intended for improving speech?

Of late, I have been reading and saying out loud a few tongue twisters in English after picking them up in one of the Facebook shares. While tongue twisters probably exist in all languages ever ...
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The striking interference of youthful reading

OED Online gives this meaning for 'to interfere with': Const. with: to molest or assault sexually. ["interfere, v.". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. ...
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Where does “give something a whirl” come from?

While My head is in a whirl. makes sense to me (whirl: a movement of something spinning round and round) I wonder about give something a whirl which means to try something to see if you ...
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Why is German anti-aircraft fire called “Archibald”?

Reading The War Illustrated (January 30th, 1915 number), I came across this passage:- At this speed they offer a comparatively stationary mark for the German anti-aircraft guns, always known as ...
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Deconstructing 'for crying out loud'

How did the phrase/idiom for crying out loud come about? I don't understand what is "for" doing here. For X means that X is a requirement that has to be fulfilled. Why don't you do it *for X* means ...
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What does plaster in “plaster saint” refer to?

The saying plaster saint is used to refer to: A person who makes a show of being without moral faults or human weakness, especially in a hypocritical way. (ODO) The expression is ...
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“Schlong” and its etymology

Donald Trump used a vulgarity to describe Hillary Clinton's loss to President Obama in 2008 Democratic presidential nomination as follows: Even a race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama. I don't ...
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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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Is the change from “m” to “n” within the descent from O.E.“æmette” to E.“ant” a regular one?

emmet "ant," from O.E. æmete (see ant), surviving as a dialect word in parts of England; also, in Cornwall, a colloquial name for holiday tourists. According to Etymonline; I can't help ...
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Origin of the “to hit someone” definition of “clocked” [closed]

Google's second definition for "clock" is: informal hit (someone), especially on the head. "someone clocked him for no good reason" What is the origin of this usage of the term?
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“Should it go through the formality of actually happening …”

When did phrases such as go through the formality of taking place and its logical equivalents (such as going through or experiencing the formality of actually happening or existing or ...
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When did the phrase “eat sh*t” enter the English Language?

I'm reading a book, The Known World by Edward P. Jones. It is a very well written book about Black slave owners before the Civil War, that is, freed slaves who went on to own slaves themselves. The ...
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“Explicit”, “classified”, “graphic” - did these words originate as abbreviations of longer phrases?

Explicit means clearly stated. Classified means assigned to a class. Graphic means pictorial. But these words have second meanings (respectively: offensive, secret, depicting something violent). Can ...
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Why is window “tinting” not window “toning” or “shading”?

In color theory, tinting means to add white while toning adds grey and shading adds black. What is the origin of the use of tinting then in terms of windows? Are they unrelated?
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Is “fillet” a different word in “salmon fillet” than in “leather fillet”

In the question "Is there a name for words which are pronounced differently depending on which definition is being used?" it was suggested by two people that when the word "fillet" is used to describe ...
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“All-American” … which usage came first?

In the U.S., "All-American" can mean two things. (1) It can be used as a general phrase, meaning simply clean-cut and middle class. "He's the all-American boy" is a cliché sentence. Note, this usage ...
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What is the etymology of the term “form factor”?

I'm a theoretical physicist, and am doing some work on quantities called form factors. To an expert, a form factor says something about scattering particles from fields. This probably originated from ...
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Origin of 'Dutch Courage'

I was wondering if anyone could shed some more definite light on the origin of the phrase 'Dutch Courage.' I have found two, almost certainly apocryphal, origins: 1: From the Thirty Years War in ...
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“Bob's your uncle” … no he's not!

What is the origin of the phrase "Bob's your uncle"? Is it used internationally or is this just a term used in the UK? I have often heard an extension of this phrase: "Bob's your uncle and Fanny's ...
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Why is white noise called 'static'?

People often use the term 'static' or 'static noise' to describe the sound of an untuned radio - which is more accuractely called white/pink/brown noise depending on the frequencies present. I'm ...
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Are there any “fake” French words used in English?

Are there any "fake" French words used in English? By "fake French" I mean words that are of French origin but are not actually correct French. This could happen if the word changes as it becomes ...
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When is the word *mail* used in the sense of rent or payment?

When looking up the etymology of the word mail for the clearly distinct senses of: things you use the postal service for; and armour (e.g. chain mail), I came across a third sense of the word, ...
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Why is a successful period for someone or something referred to as their “heyday”

I'm interested as to where the word heyday comes from, and how has it come to mean what it does. The definition is: hey·day 1     [hey-dey] noun the stage or period of greatest vigor, ...
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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?