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

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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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Etymology of “Spaghetti and gravy”

In Nero Wolfe "Before I die", the gangster's sidekick asks for spaghetti and gravy. After Wolfe's chef Fritz prepares him spaghetti with the type of gravy used for roast beef, it turns out that the ...
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What's the origin of the “Dare to …” pattern for slogans?

There are many slogans stated as an imperative of the form "Dare to X", where "to X" is an infinitive phrase. This typically exhorts the listener to do X, without fear or hesitation. It may ...
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Etymology of 'clinical' in 'clinical professor'?

I searched for the meaning of 'clinical' and I could not find any association with academia. Why are non-tenure track jobs referred to as 'clinical'? What is the etymology?
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What does “wound for sound” mean and where did it come from?

This is a figure of speech that's been in my lexicon virtually forever. I'm not sure where I learned this, but to me it means "keyed up and ready to go". A combination of high energy, tension, and ...
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Etymology of “horny”

What is the etymology of "horny"? It isn't related to rhino horn, because rhino horn isn't used as an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine. Wiktionary doesn't have any etymology info The ...
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Where does “pizza pie” originate?

The Italianissimo pizza—pronounced /ˈpiʦ:a/—is not always spelled or called pizza around the world: In Bosnia, Belarusian, Macedonia, Serbia it's spelled pica but pronounced /pîtsa/ In ...
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Origin of Soccer

What is called football in most of countries, called soccer in US. However, there are some inconsistent usage of these terms. For example, in Australia, they have Football Federation Australia (FFA) ...
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How did 'to intimate' evolve to mean 'suggest indirectly'?

intimate (v.) [⟸] "suggest indirectly," 1530s, back-formation from intimation, or else from Late Latin intimatus, past participle of intimare. [...] intimate (adj.) [...] [⟸] ...
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Where did the phrase, “You did a bean,” come from?

I grew up in Texas in the 60s. My dad grew up in Waco and moved to New Jersey during World War II. He contributed may German phrases to our lives. My mom was born in central Texas, but her dad was ...
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Do “carat” and “karat” have the same origin?

Do carat and karat have the same origin? Is it correct to say that carat derives from the Italian carato, while karat derives from the from Arabic ḳīrāṭ? Is it possible that both words derive from ...
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Origin of mandarin

A friend of mine said that the Chinese language and the fruit are called so because the officials and governors of the Chinese Empire (initially, counselors) were called "mentors". This happened ...
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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 ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “needle in a hay stack”?

What is the origin of the phrase "needle in a hay stack"? Initially I thought it was a game once played but I haven't found any mention of it outside of it's idiomatic use.
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Origin and meaning of “chaff before the wind”

I've usually encountered the phrase "chaff before the wind" in the context of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I would like to know where it originates from historically and what imagery should come ...
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Origins and history for phrase “tote that barge”?

In the 1927 musical "Show Boat" there is a famous song -- Old Man River -- with the lyric "Tote that barge. Lift that bale." being sung by the slaves/laborers in the musical. The word tote typically ...
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Etymology of the phrase “Dependency injection” in computer science

It's my understanding that this used to be simply referred to as "reference passing" but later became formalized into a pattern that implemented a design principle and acquired the new name. Can you ...
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Where do the words for daughter, son, aunt, uncle, mother, father, cousin, nephew, niece come from?

Please see Title. I'm not specifically referring to which language they came from... but if they come from something else. In other words, do they come from words with other meanings. For example, do ...
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What do 'drive' and 'hard' refer to in 'drive a hard bargain'?

If I have to say that "this person(X) does very good bargaining" in a more refined way, I should ideally write "X drives a hard bargain". (I saw it in a book). I know that I have to use 'bargain' word ...
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What is the origin of “rag” meaning newspaper?

In Australia and the UK, some folks refer to a newspaper as a rag, and I am curious how this term was coined. Although most people would ask for a newspaper, I have gone around asking "Have you got a ...
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Origin of “Best boy” - a film crew position

For a long time I saw a title in the list of movie crew positions that was strange to me, Best boy. Wikipedia says about that: In a film crew there are two kinds of best boy: best boy electric ...
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The origin of the term half assed

Does this slang originate from half asked, since the difinition means exactly that. You only did half what I asked you.
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How did 'forthwith' evolve to mean 'immediately'?

[OED:] Etymology: For forth with (preposition), = earlier forth mid, along with, see forth adv. 2c. The adverb forthwith originates from this phrase, the preposition being used absol. or with ...
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What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
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A word that describes different forms of the same word?

Is there a word that describes the many different forms of a root word (and I don't mean tense). In this example specifically the root word would be compare...and the form of it is comparatively. But ...
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Are these two meanings of “phenomenal” related?

I had seen the word phenomenal translated into Chinese words with an equivalent meaning "of phenomenon" in more and more text especially regarding sports. For example, LeBron James had a ...
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Origin of “zero”

Dictionary.com gave the origin as: 1595–1605; < Italian < Medieval Latin zephirum < Arabic ṣifr cipher I'm just wondering who coined the actual English term 'zero'? I know that ...
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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 ...
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Etymology of “Given up the ghost”

What is the origin of the phrase "Given up the ghost"? e.g. "After 10 years, my DVD player has finally given up the ghost." Does it have a religious connotation?
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Is there any relation between “genius” and “ingenious”?

They seems to mean the same thing, yet when spoken they sound like the negative of each other. What's the secret behind those two words?
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Why are reveries sometimes called “brown” studies?

Though this idiom is by no means very common, one comes across it now and then. (I just came across it again today, which is why I'm asking this question.) Why is a "brown study" so named?
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Why is “preconceive” wrong?

Spell checks always mark it as wrong, though its initial existence is pre + conceive; but it is always corrected to "preconceived." What about situations like this though? People preconceive ...
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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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Origins of “turn over in his grave”?; “turn over in her grave”? etc., etc

The best result of my google-search for the origins of the idiomatic phrase, “turn over in the grave” was this, from wikipedia: One of the earliest uses is found in William Thackeray's 1849 work ...
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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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Origin of “to have an axe to grind”

Where does the idiom to have an axe to grind come from? To have personal, selfish reasons to do or say something.
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Is “fasciae” related to “fascism”?

Somebody used fasciae in a game I was playing (it was the bundle of sticks or twigs carried by Roman consuls as symbols of their authority). Can anyone tell me if it is related to fascism as a word?
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Did “Dutch defence” pre-date the chess term?

Did the phrase "Dutch defence" pre-date the use of the term in chess? The Wikipedia article on Dutch Defence says the concept described by the term originated in the 18th century: Elias Stein ...
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Origin of “to blow your own horn”

What's the origin of the idiom "to blow your own horn"? Is there some metaphor behind it with some animal horn or whatnot?
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Is “Dutch wife” one of those “Dutch words”?

The term "Dutch wife" is listed as having several somewhat related meanings. Wiktionary describes it as meaning 1) a body-length pillow, 2) a wicker or bamboo tube that someone sleeps in (also called ...
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Etymology: to till the land

OED gives a connection between the German verb zielen and the English preposition till. The semantic connection between German zielen and the verb till (cultivating land) seems a bit far-fetched. I ...
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How did “but” mean “only”?

but (adv., prep.) : Old English butan, buton "unless, except; without, outside," [...] I don't know Old English. From the étymons overhead, how did but change semantically to mean but ...
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How did 'to treat' evolve from 'to draw, drag, move`?

treat (v.) ... frequentative of trahere (past participle tractus) "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)). ... tract (n.1) ... from stem of trahere "to pull, draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to ...
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Why do all new words come from English? [on hold]

English used to import words from other languages. I was listening to a French station and they used the words 'hate-free zone' and 'selfie'. The last time I remember English using importing a foreign ...
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Why “Koran” changed to “Quran”?

According to the article Quran or Koran?, in 2000, AP started to use Quran instead of the more familiar Koran. Does anybody have information as to why this happened, and why newspapers today are ...
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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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Where did the idiom “giving a heads up” come from?

I know giving heads up means to inform someone, but how does that relate to the literal meaning i.e. giving heads up? What's the background? Where did it come from?
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What is the origin of “GO + VERB + ING”?

The construction GO + V + ING is among one of the first things a learner is taught. Take for instance the verb swim, very often English expresses the activity in the present simple like this: I go ...
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To what do the “letters” in the title “a man of letters” refer?

The term man of letters, as I understand it, was used in the 18th and 19th centuries to describe an individual who lived a marked intellectual life; who might, for example, own a large library, ...