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

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Why a “bulb” is called “bulb”?

Why an incandescent lamp is called "bulb"? Does it have any relation to the "bulb" of a tulip?
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What did the English call alcohol before they had the word alcohol?

Presumably the English knew that there existed a compound common to fermented or distilled liquids that caused intoxication, but before they had the word alcohol, what did they call this chemical ...
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What was “Herbal Tea” called before ‘tea’ was introduced in Europe?

I recently got in a discussion with a colleague, about herbal tea not being a correct term, as it contains no tea. Instead, one ought to use the term herbal infusions. Tea (dried leaves from the tea ...
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Why “daily” and not “dayly”?

Checking how adjectives related to time are created, I see: year → yearly month → monthly week → weekly day → daily Why has “day” derivated into “daily” with an ‘i’ instead of “dayly” with a ‘y’? ...
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Why is the “a” in “have” 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 ...
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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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Origin of “Very Good, Sir!”

It's quite likely you've read a P.G. Wodehouse book. Well, then you'd also know about Jeeves, and something he says quite often: Very good, sir. Jeeves is a butler. And he isn't the only one to ...
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In the U.S., why is octothorp used to signal an apartment at a particular address?

In the book "Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers" it says: The octothorp ("8 fields" ) has been used in cartography as a symbol for "village "... . ...
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Are “gadfly” and “gadabout” related? [on hold]

A recent question prompted the answer of "gadabout" - which made me think of "gadfly". Are the two related? If so, which gave rise to the other; or, did they occur contemporaneously? What's a "gad"? ...
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Is it true that the 100 most common English words are all Germanic in origin?

There is an oft-quoted statement that the 100 most common (frequently used) words in the English language are entirely Germanic/Anglo-Saxon in origin. (Also sometimes said is that ~80% of the 1000 ...
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Word that Resembles The Dutch Word Kudde

Kudde, Couth, is there an english farmers word that resembles Kudde. Kudde means herd, flock, fold, drove, livestock, and bevy. So I'm looking for a word that means something along the lines of ...
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basketball expression 'from downtown'

In NBA basketball, TV commentators use the expression "shoot from downtown" when a player shoots beyond the 3-point line. What is the origin of this expression?
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What is the meaning of the expression “Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can”?

What does "Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can." mean? It seems that Google can't help me with this one. Could you also explain its origin and how it is related to the meaning?
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“Are you a man or a mouse” phrase origin

Robert Burns associated the fates of mice and men in his poem "To a Mouse" (1785): The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, But this seems to suggest that mice and men have a ...
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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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origin of phrase 'stone the crows'

Just as the title says — where, and how, did the phrase 'stone the crows' originate?
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Were there any other synonyms to “sustainability” before the 80s?

The German word for sustainability, Nachhaltigkeit, arose (according to Wiktionary) in the 18th century. Ngrams shows this. I was wondering if the concept of sustainability did not exist before ...
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Why does an ellipsis have three dots?

It might be an odd question, but I'm trying to comprehend why do we use three dots in an ellipsis. Wouldn't two dots suffice? An ellipsis serves a dual purpose, it can be used to either denote an ...
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Etymology of “Buff” and “Nerf” as used in video-game slang

In video games, when the makers increase the power of something, it is sometimes referred to as a buff. If they decrease the power of something, it is called a nerf or a de-buff. This also applies ...
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Origin and variations of “being handed your hat”

I heard the expression being handed your hat being used to mean that you are invited to leave. What is its origin and what are the possible variations?
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Why do we use the term “hike” to describe an increase in price, value etc?

The earliest reference I can find in the OED to this sense of hike is from 1904. 1904 Topeka Capital 10 June 4 City Center kept the price of ice cream sodas at five cents until the State ...
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“Death comes in threes” origin?

With David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a few days on each other (RIP), I've heard some people say, "Death always comes in threes, I wonder who's next." What is the origin of this phrase? How ...
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How has the phrase the “Mecca of some activity” originated and not the “Rome” or “Athens”

This is not a question about religion at all. My point is Rome and Athens are examples of older civilizations and there is the saying "All roads lead to Rome" indicating it's supremacy in the Ancient ...
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Is there a connection between the words “illicit” and “elicit”?

The words "illicit" and "elicit" seem to be spelled and pronounced similarly, although their meanings appear different. Is this a coincidence or is there a connection between the two words?
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What is the proper usage of “x (read y)” where y is another word/phrase for x?

I've often seen this used for humorous purposes, but I would assume it has a formal usage as well. Example: Mortos (read mooch) is a demon from the Spooky Realm. As far as I can tell, it's ...
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What is the origin of mule in test mule?

A test mule is a prototype that is used for performance evaluation. It is a common term for preproduction cars, but is also widely used in non-automotive product development. Where did the term come ...
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Where did the word Yankee originate?

Where did the word Yankee originate? I was told it had Dutch origins. There is a lot of information on its usage today referring to northern, New England, American etc. but where did it come from and ...
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What is the origin of “not hold with”?

What is the origin of the expression not hold with with the meaning not agree with? For example: I don't hold with what you are saying.
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Names that are simultaneously verbs (and preferably don't share their etymology)? [closed]

My girlfriend yesterday asked me if I could think of any examples of names, in English, that are simultaneously verbs. We couldn't think of any good examples then (aside from "Hope" etc.), but today ...
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Do the words 'tied' and 'tight' have a common origin?

I was reading a book in supposed 'Ye Olde English' and came across the sentence 'Perhaps she has him so tied he cannot get loose'. This made me wonder if 'tied' and 'tight' have the same origin, in ...
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Go out into the world - The Tempest?

A few years ago, we studied the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony with our English teacher. The following words (spoken by Sir Ian McKellen if I remember well) are still echoing in my mind: ...
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Why *is* abbreviation such a long word?

No, seriously. I can't think of a single abbreviation that's longer than the actual word. Why isn't "abbreviation" nice and short like the word "terse"?
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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 is the origin of “analogue” as a term meaning “non-digital?”

This question came up when having a pun-ridden discussion with some of my colleagues: When and why did we start using the word "analogue" to mean "not using numerical digits?" Etymonline only has an ...
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Where does the word “hardcore” come from?

I was wondering when and why people would start calling music-styles or explicit films "hardcore", and when people started using it as slang. There's a German saying "harte Schale, weicher Kern" ...
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Why is a young man called “son,” but a young woman is never called “daughter”?

In American English, it is acceptable and common that an older man calls a man his junior, "son"—even if the younger man is not the older man's child (or related to him in any way). Definition of ...
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Are “Czech Republic” and “Chechnya” cognates?

Let me preface this question by saying that the Czech Republic and Chechnya are two different countries. Are the two countries' names etymologically related, like Austria and Australia are? ...
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Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g ...
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Did British chef Jamie Oliver redefine “pukka” in 1999?

Recently I've been watching cooking programmes: MasterChef Italia (addictive), MasterChef USA (awful), followed swiftly by Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, and then onto Jamie Oliver's acclaimed The ...
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A swallow does not make a summer … or a spring?

The famous proverb, one swallow does not make a summer means: A single fortunate event doesn’t mean that what follows will also be good. (ODO) the origin, according to the Phrase ...
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What is the etymology of the word “bae”?

What is the etymology of the word "bae" as a term of endearment?
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Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
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Man who confused word order [duplicate]

I'm trying to remember the name of a historical figure whose name has since entered the lexicon. He confused the order of words to say things like it's all nuff and stonsense for example. - I think he ...
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Alternative source of “blackguard”

It occurred to me to wonder when I ran across a French reference to practices of the Inquisition; it mentioned that imprisonment was fully intended to be torture that had a strong beginning when a ...
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Where does the word 'Simoleon' come from?

Simoleon is another word for money. si·mo·le·on /səˈmōlēən/ I once thought that the word Simoleon came from the popular PC game The Sims. However, recently I heard the word used in ...
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Origin of idiom “wearing the < role > hat?”

What is the origin of the idiom "wearing the < role > hat"? Here is an example from the post Getting things done when you wear multiple hats in PookieMD's Blog: I wear many hats, and I ...
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“advert” and “adverse”: same etymoloty but unrelated meanings?

From Wiktionary and other similar sources like etymonline, the meanings of "advert" and "adverse" are: advert: turn attention adverse: Unfavorable; antagonistic in purpose or effect; ...
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Arcology (Paolo Soleri)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology Says Paolo coined the word. But the concept was in use in SF as early as 1899. I'd like to know when this word was coined, so that I could check my old SF to ...
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Etymology of “cut someone some slack”

Teenagers. All the literature tells you one thing and one thing only – that whatever they are doing, give them a break, cut them some slack, it's normal. From the novel, Apple Tree Yard I'm ...
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What is the origin of “Here's How!”?

I own an antique store and found a canapé plate of a bar scene and two gentlemen toasting. The words under the scene are "Here's How!" What is the country of origin? This plate is dated 1933 from a ...