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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

1
vote
2answers
2k views

Origins of round in “round of applause”

A round of applause is a short period or burst of applause. What are the origins of the meaning of round in this phrase, and indeed the phrase itself? Are there any other phrases that use round in ...
3
votes
6answers
12k views

If you can be “discombobulated”, is it possible to be “combobulated”?

I've often heard the word "discombobulated" used. But I've never heard of something being "combobulated", and it's not in any dictionary I've looked at. If "combobulated" is not word, where did ...
4
votes
2answers
3k views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
49 views

The history of 'aisle' and 'isle'

I've read about how the word 'aisle' and 'isle' each came from the French 'aile' and 'ile', respectively. I also read how the there was confusion between the two words, such that when 'isle' gained ...
0
votes
1answer
62 views

“Batchy” indicating a bad taste?

My grandmother uses the term batchy to refer to food and drink with tastes that young palates won’t appreciate. For example: “Nana, can I try some coffee?” “No, dear. You don’t want that. ...
6
votes
3answers
458 views

Etymology of “[Where/What/Why] in the world” idiom?

I've searched the internet and found definitions, but I cannot figure out when this would have EVER meant anything. Any ideas? Specifically, the type of phrase I am referring to is "What in the world ...
4
votes
8answers
14k views

What's the origin of “throwing someone under the bus”?

What's the origin of the phrase "to throw someone under the bus" or "so-and-so threw me under the bus?" (in the sense of betrayal)? It seems like a very specific phrase not to come from some specific ...
0
votes
0answers
23 views

Overcast and forecast [on hold]

Talking about the weather, I have always been confused with these two words: overcast and forecast. I wonder to know why they are so similar and in that time they have completely different meaning. ...
7
votes
1answer
239 views

Etymology: “main” meaning sea or ocean

In Kipling's "The Land" he writes: Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane. Here "main" seems to mean sea, i.e. the ...
6
votes
0answers
87 views

On the origin of 'blizzard '.

Blizzard is probably the most used word to indicate a violent snowstorm. Despite its popularity the etymology of the term is quite unclear. Some well-known sources hint at its onomatopoeic sound as ...
17
votes
3answers
5k views

Does a gerund always end with -ing? If so, why?

After asking what the difference is between a gerund and a participle, I began to wonder if all gerunds end with -ing, since I couldn't think of any that didn't. If they do, why?
1
vote
1answer
43 views

Etymology: Camelot

Camelot sounds, and looks, a lot like the French camelote. Camelote, though, means something like trash or junk. Camelot means just the opposite though: Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd Edition ...
-2
votes
0answers
28 views

Etymology for “oh so beautiful”

I was writing a creative piece, and unbeknownst to me, I used this phase "oh so beautiful". It fitted my description and it "felt" right, so to speak. I am just not sure were I have heard it or better ...
3
votes
2answers
253 views

What's the origin of the “memory lane”?

Where does this meme come from (as in a trip down memory lane) ? Is it from a book ?
5
votes
3answers
2k views

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?
2
votes
1answer
63 views

What's the meaning of “mean” in “in the mean time”?

As I understand it "in the mean time" means "in the time between now & a specific future occurrence." What's the meaning of "mean" here? I assume it has something to do with "average" but it's ...
9
votes
4answers
8k 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.
1
vote
1answer
44 views

Word and etymology for “small of one's back”

I've encountered the phrase small of one's back often when I was reading the Divergent series, and recently encountered it again on a Wikipedia article. I've searched its meaning on the internet, but ...
1
vote
1answer
51 views

How to rationalise the 'pro-' prefix in 'promiscuous' ?

I ask not about the definition itself, but about the impact or role of the prefix in English: promiscuous (adj.) c.1600, people or things, "mingled confusedly, grouped together without ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do we call cinema The Seventh Art?

Why do we call cinema The Seventh Art? Why not sixth or fifth?
7
votes
2answers
172 views

Nannicock - a young woman, a fool or something else?

What definition(s) are there for the word Nannicock and what it's the etymology for each definition. (I've checked OED already). I came across Nannicock recently and on looking it up in OED their ...
1
vote
3answers
157 views

What's the etymology for the term “greensheet”?

I've been looking for the etymology of the word greensheet, specifically when used in the context of academia. I know it's just another way to say "syllabus", but where did the "green" in greentext ...
1
vote
2answers
138 views

Trans vs Transgender vs Transsexual

As I understand it, trans means "an individual whose gender identity is different than what they were designated at birth". However, I also hear the terms transgender and transsexual used for similar ...
0
votes
0answers
58 views

English tv programme about the origins of words and idioms [on hold]

Does anyone remember a series of programmes on UK tv about the origins of words and idioms? They focused each programme on a different aspect of society, for example: church, navy, farming, pubs. I've ...
-1
votes
1answer
70 views

If pogonotrophy means to grow a beard, is there a term for shaving a beard?

If pogonotrophy means "to grow a beard", is there a term for shaving a beard? How would you use pogonotrophy in a sentence? And if there is an antonym for this word, how would you use it in a ...
0
votes
0answers
16 views

Looking for the source of “SJO” or “South Jersey Original”?

Looking for source of "SJO" or "South Jersey Original" used to describe a person from Southern New Jersey whose behavior (usually idiosyncratic) is startling or otherwise worthy of note.
1
vote
3answers
4k views
3
votes
2answers
74 views

Etymology for “loganamnosis”

It's a condition in which one suffers the inability to remember to the word he or she wants to use and then becomes obsessed with trying to remember it. What is this interesting word's root? Could ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

Etymology of “bizarre”?

bizarre n. "very strange or unusual" I know that it (likely) comes from Basque. Does anyone have a certain knowledge of this? I heard that it comes from Italian from some sources, too.
6
votes
1answer
316 views

Name for when an adjective modifying a noun leaves the class of objects the noun describes

When adjectives modify nouns, usually they restrict the class of objects that the noun refers to. For example: Red car A red car is, in particular, an instance of a car. However, in specialty ...
8
votes
4answers
630 views

What is the etymology of 'physician'?

I find myself confusing 'physician' and 'physicist' occasionally. While I know what they both mean, I am a little confused as to the use of 'physics' in 'physician'. How did the term 'physician' come ...
1
vote
2answers
64 views

How does 'to partake of' develop to mean 'be characterized by'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 3, that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. partake of = Be characterized by (a quality) [ODO] 1. How does the etymology (listed in that ...
1
vote
1answer
70 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
9k views

what is the origin of the phrase “a penny for your thoughts”?

Googling for the origin of "A penny for your thoughts," I have only found the origin of a likely-related phrase "my two cents" and simple dictionary entries for "a penny for your thoughts." What is ...
10
votes
2answers
14k views

Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
11
votes
4answers
6k views

How did “chopped liver” come to mean “of little value”?

Where did the phrase "chopped liver" originate? Why does it mean "of little value"?
2
votes
2answers
195 views

Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
-2
votes
2answers
1k views

Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
2
votes
1answer
49 views

Connection between arachnid and arachidonic? [closed]

Is there an etymological connection between words like "arachnid" (related to spiders) and words like "arachidonic" (related to peanuts)?
6
votes
4answers
3k views

What does “enough” mean in expressions like “Fair enough” or “Funny enough”?

As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it ...
2
votes
1answer
78 views

Where do all the fox references come from? [closed]

A person can be crazy like a fox, and attractive lady is foxy or even a fox, an old book might have foxing, to outsmart someone is to outfox them, if you are confused you are foxed, and there are ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

Does the phrase “begging the question” make any sense?

I know what "begging the question" originally means, but I just can't make any sense of the idiom. The phrase really seems to have nothing to do with its own meaning. The original Latin phrase, ...
2
votes
4answers
10k views

Why is “bloody hell” offensive or shocking?

It seems to me that if one describes hell as 'bloody', that is simply describing one of the properties you'd expect of it. So, why is 'bloody hell' used as an offensive or shocking phrase?
5
votes
2answers
126 views

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 ...
15
votes
2answers
999 views

What is the source of “Long time no see,” and when did it enter U.S. English?

A question from almost two years ago asked "In which countries is that “long time no see” greeting common?" The question drew a number of answers that were squarely on point, but also a couple that ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

Where did the adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” come from?

In connection with my questions about the meaning of Pope Francis’s, remarks - 'Who am I to judge?' / 'You can add more water to the beans'. I found the following statement in a New York Times (July ...
2
votes
2answers
547 views

Do “Bulgaria” and “vulgar” have some common etymology?

A Yahoo answer says no, but I thought I'd ask my more enlightened StackExchange friends.
4
votes
3answers
12k views

Why is the term “double-edged sword” used for something that can be favorable and unfavorable?

When something can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences, the term double-edged sword is often used to describe it. Why? Does a double-edged sword have unfavorable consequences? Are ...
1
vote
7answers
3k views

What is the origin and meaning of “racing to a red light”?

During the third episode of the HBO show "True Detective" the following dialogue is exchanged: Cop 1: "Certain linguist anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites ...
4
votes
5answers
264 views

What is the origin of the phrase, “I'm Game”

I'm trying to understand the origins of the phrase, "I'm game". Now, I understand how the phrase is used in everyday English, but what are the origins of this phrase? How did it come to imply a ...