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

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What does Antichronic mean? [on hold]

I recently came across a word "Anachronous" meaning something which is "out of (from ana) time (from chronos)". Usage eg: A person is wearing an 18th century dress to a 21st century formal ...
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The ultimate 'Heart' and 'Brain' question

Heart and Brain - although of significant importance in Anatomy, equally significant, but in a completely different sense in the realm of Literature. I'd like to know how the earliest literati ...
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Etymology of “on the blink”

I was wondering where the phrase "on the blink" comes from. According to the OED the first recorded usage is from 1901 ‘H. McHugh’ John Henry 83 A stranglehold line of business that will put ...
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Etymology of 'security' in finance [on hold]

[ Etymonline ] ... Legal sense of "property in bonds" is from mid-15c.; that of "document held by a creditor" is from 1680s. ... I share the same confusion as the author of this article : How did ...
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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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Origin of “for the birds” (Trivial; worthless; only of interest to gullible people.)

I really have looked, but the best I can come up with is this To say that something is "for the birds" is to call it horse manure. Dating from the days of horse-drawn traffic, the expression is ...
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Can the word “Sails” in any meaningful way equate to the number Six? [on hold]

Either historically, or even up through leetspeak, can it be understood by a group of English speaking people to stand-in for the number 6, and if so, how? It's understood that – for example purposes ...
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Etymology: 'as regards' and 'as concerns'

as regards = concerning; in respect of 2. regard [with object] {archaic} = (Of a thing) relate to; concern As per the above, because regard = concern, this question also applies to 'as ...
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What's the origin of the idiom “miss the boat”?

What is the origin of the idiom miss the boat? This is the definition of the idiom from Dictionary.com: a. to fail to take advantage of an opportunity: He missed the boat when he applied too late ...
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How do idioms come to be? [on hold]

All these questions about idioms here on ELU makes me wonder - how do idioms come to be? How are they made up? How do they become accepted? Common examples are: silly as a wheel that's another ...
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What does 'but' mean 'without its being the case that'?

but = 5. {with negative} {archaic} Without its being the case that I tried OED but its length overwhelmed me. Etymonline doesn't mention this definition. Would someone please explain, by ...
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Why does attach have two Ts and detach have only one?

The title says it all. We have two words: Attach Detach Shouldn't they be...? Attach Dettach Or? Atach Detach
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Did they say “hand job” in the 1800s?

Did they say "hand job" in the 1800s? I was watching an episode of Deadwood, and they just said it. For example, from episode 6 "Plague": (Al enters the back room, Dolly is scrunched up on the ...
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Is there an online etymology dictionary more comprehensive/detailed than Etymonline?

Douglas Harper, creator of Etymonline, considers himself an amateur linguist and warns ... if you're a professional linguist or a serious student of linguistics, you shouldn't be doing your ...
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What does “fleek” mean and when was it first used?

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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Yikes! Where did it come from?

(humorous, slang) Expressing fear. (humorous, slang) Expressing empathy with unpleasant or undesirable circumstances. [Wiktionary] Yikes! Where did it come from? OED says "Origin ...
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wrecking vs wracking vs wreaking

What I understand so far: Wrecking - to trash/destroy/be destroyed Wracking - to be tortured, possibly from variant of "rack". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=wrack also seems to mention ...
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Where did the phrase “you're welcome” come from?

"You're welcome" as a response to "thank you" makes absolutely no sense. You're welcome to what?
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Please kill me or just shoot me now

Please kill me and (just) shoot me now are two common idiomatic colloquial expressions which are generally used to mean that you, metaphorically, would rather die than do something or to express the ...
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What does “Schmissues” mean in “Issues, schmissues. Can the Presidential candidates sing”? [duplicate]

Today’s (May 7) New York Times carries an article under the title, “Issues, schmissues. Can the Presidential candidates sing?,” which begins with the following passage: “The cacophony of presidential ...
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Spelling etymology of “-il[l]” words

I've noticed that modern English seems to have a very strong bias to spell verbs which end with "-(consonant)-il" with double "l", i.e. "-ill". The overwhelming majority of such verbs (like to will, ...
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Did the English call a fruit “openærs” for 700 years?

There is a small apple-tasting fruit called medlar in English. It looks like a cross between an apple and a rosehip. It has two main curious features: first the fruit must be bletted before it can ...
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Origin of the phrases “out back” and “out front”?

I'm going through the Song of Ice and Fire books, and although it's mostly written in what appears to be British English, very occasionally Americanisms sneak in. One example that I just noticed is ...
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Did the word “evolution” exist before Darwinism?

I was talking about evolution with my friends and one of them said: The word "evolution" joined the English vocabulary after Darwin used it. The word itself is pretty new, therefore. Is that ...
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Using the term “love” instead of zero in tennis; other countries say zero, not love [duplicate]

The Americans and other English speaking countries seem to be the only ones that use the term "love" for zero in scoring tennis.
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Did “pertinacious” and “pertinent” come from the same origin?

From dictionary.com: pertinacious meaning: holding tenaciously to a purpose, course of action, or opinion; resolute. stubborn or obstinate. extremely or objectionably persistent. while ...
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Relationship between kingdom, dominion, and doom

I was struck recently by the -dom suffix in freedom and kingdom. Not having etymology references at hand, our lunchtime group settled on the theory that -dom in both these words was from "dominion." ...
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Why is Peruvian Brown so named?

There is a colour named "Peruvian Brown". This is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for shades of brown. The Wikipedia entry gives a reference to an offline book, and examples of modern use (the x11 ...
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Why is B.C. (Before Christ) in English, but A.D. (anno domini) in Latin?

There are some posts explaining the shift from BC/AD to BCE/CE, but my question is with the BC/AD terms: why is the former, older, time period in English while the latter, later period is in Latin?
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Why do the names of so many places end in -ia?

Many countries, continents, states, and cities have an English name ending in ‘-ia’: India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Asia, Alexandria, Philadelphia, California, … What ...
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Skeat's abbreviation “Cot.”

In his Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, W W Skeat often uses the abbreviation "Cot.", but I cannot find this mentioned in his lists of abbreviations and symbols.
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Origins of “from the outside” (to mean from the beginning)

I came across a sentence that went something like this: I wish I'd known about this from the outside - I would have done a better job. I've heard "from the outside" used like this before a ...
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Origin of “It's been a slice”

What is the origin of the phrase "it's been a slice"? I understand its meaning, but cannot find any listing of its origin, or possibly to what specifically "a slice" is referring.
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When and why do you call it a sister-site?

Usually some sites are referenced as sister-sites by others, Why are they called sister-sites? And what relation should both sites have to call each other sister-sites? Same authors? Same owners? In ...
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Use of 'cum' as the interstitial in a three-word semi-comparative adjective? [duplicate]

I have occasionally encountered and often written a three-word adjective of the form 'X-cum-Y' to describe a person, where the X and Y are normally set somewhat in tension with one another, if they ...
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What is the etymology of the Baseball term “meat hand”?

The term is used to signify the non gloved hand of the pitcher. I've only ever heard it used relative to the pitcher. For example, “On the bunt the pitcher used his meat hand instead of gloving the ...
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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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Origin of “deez nuts”

I really hate to ask this one, but... When I was a child, some thirty plus years ago, there was a popular juvenile game where you would try to trick a friend into asking a question that could be ...
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Etymology of “amoral”

Many internet sites (like this one) say that the word amoral was coined by Robert Louis Stephenson (1850-1894) as a differentiation from immoral. The thing that is unclear to me is that these sites ...
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Etymology for “Mc‑” and “O’‑” prefix in surnames

There is clearly a prefix in names like McDonald, McChrystal, O’Brian, O’Neal. What does this Mc- and O- prefix signify? It looks like Donald, Chrystal, Brian, Neal are perfectly fine names on their ...
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Why is “biblical” the only proper adjective to not use upper case?

Generally, when an adjective is derived from a proper noun, the adjective also has a capital initial, hence Googleable, Mancunian, British, and Shavian. (In contrast, verbs are not given capitals, ...
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Etymology of the term “salty” when used as slang [on hold]

I often watch Hearthstone streams on Twitch, and many streamers will use the term "salty" to describe their emotions they feel when something unlucky happens to them. It seems to be synonymous with ...
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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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How did the Old French 'rejoindre' mean a retort (only in English)?

I know of the 2 different homonyms behind 'rejoin'; I ask only about the one that means 'retort'. rejoin (2) = {reporting verb} Say something in reply, typically in a quick or critical manner ...
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Etymology of the word 'galligu'?

I came across a word in an chemistry lecture which appears in plenty of places but none explaining where the word came from. The word in question is 'galligu' From wiktionary, Galligu 1. The ...
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Why are these spellings pronounced “non phonetically?”

In Anglo English, the word ewe (female sheep) is pronounced "you," rather than, say, "e-weh." Likewise, the surname Ewell, is pronounced "yule," rather than "e-well." Why is that?
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When did 'the D' for penis come into common use?

I had never heard of this until last year, but suddenly everyone on the internet is using it. I was wondering where it came from and why it took off so quickly. eg. She wants the D.
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Turn the world upside down

What does this expression really mean and where did it come from? I'm assuming that it means you are just hanging upside down. Maybe it means that your head is always hanging low and you are sad, ...
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What is the origin of the term “toots” to refer to a woman?

When speaking to my female friends (who know me well enough to not take offense), I frequently use the term toots to refer to them. These are friends who know that I'm using it ironically as part of ...