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

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Origin of “sapiosexual”

The word sapiosexual describes one who is attracted to intelligence. And while it's formed from Latin roots (sapiens + sexual), it appears to be a very new word. Google Ngram has no record of the ...
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Is the -old morpheme in 'threshold' an OE locative?

I remember in days of yore being told by a professor that threshold held the meaning of "stepping (or more literally, treading) through," implying a locative sense to the remaining -old morpheme. ...
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etymology and pronunciation of bowline knot

The wikipedia article for bowline gives two pronunciations /boʊlɪn/ or /boʊlaɪn/. The history section says: The bowline's name has an earlier meaning, dating to the age of sail. On a ...
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194 views

Term for a word with opposite meaning to its root?

I remember coming across a term for a word which has an opposite (or at least very different) meaning from its etymological root word's meaning, does anyone know what this term is?
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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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How did 'up to' evolve to mean 'regardless of', in maths?

Even the OED seems not to have featured it. I couldn't find an explanation on Etymonline. [Wikipedia:] If X is some property or process, the phrase "up to X" means "disregarding a possible ...
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where did the term…falling down on the job come from?

What is the origin of Falling down on the job? what did it originally mean?
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36 views

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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'plight' (as 'predicament'): How did 'to fold' evolve to mean a predicament?

Of the two dichotomous noun homonyms 'pledge', below I ask only about that derived from Latin. For the homonym derived from Proto-Germanic , please see this. [Etymonline for 'plight (n.1)' ] ...
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Etymology: 'to commit'

I was researching the etymology of 'commission {noun}' which just diverts you to: commit (v.) late 14c., "to give in charge, entrust," from Latin committere "to unite, connect, combine; to ...
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How did French “cacher” divide into English “cache” and “cachet”?

I encountered Merriam-Webster's article on cache vs cachet (while researching another word). I understand it and other websites that broach the confusion caused by these two nouns, but none explain ...
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Etymology: The root of the words 'real' and 'reality'

I wish to identify the oldest known root from which we derive the words 'real' and 'reality', et cetera. I got as far as determining the origin of the English words real and reality is Latin res, ...
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Does 'fever' share an etymology with 'fervent, fervid, or fervour'?

The ODO entry for 'fervent' recommends to: Compare with fervid and fervour. I did read Etymonline's entry for 'fever' which doesn't explicitly answer this, but I think that I'd need to know ...
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'mawkish' : What's 'exaggerated or false' about maggots?

mawkish {adjective} = Sentimental in an exaggerated or false way [Etymonline:] 1660s, "sickly, nauseated," from Middle English mawke "maggot" (see maggot). Sense of "sickly sentimental" is ...
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Origin of “kill the ghost”, “killing the ghost”

A British friend of mine who used to work with us came back from London for a short visit to the town.Before going back home again he showed me photographs of the town beach and hotel saying he came ...
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How to parse 'to avail oneself of'?

[ODO:] {verb} 1. avail oneself of = Use or take advantage of (an opportunity or available resource) 2. avail = [with object] Help or benefit [Etymonline] c. 1300, availen, ...
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49 views

Who needs a haircut?

Haircut is a relatively recent term, considering that Romans began to cut the hair about A.U.C. 454, when Ticinius Maenas introduced Barbers from Sicily: (Etymonline) also hair-cut, 1887, "act ...
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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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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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How did 'deign' upend its meaning from 'worthy' to 'condescend'?

I was researching the etymology of disdain which rechannels to the following: [ Etymonline for 'deign (v.)' ] c. 1300, from Old French deignier (Modern French daigner), from Latin dignari "to deem ...
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38 views

Derivatives of “ea” in the sense of “river”?

"Ea" is a largely archaic word still used in some dialects to mean a river or watercourse. The Online Etymology Dictionary mentions "ealand" as a term formerly used to mean a watery place or meadow ...
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'exert' : How can you 'attach or join out' something?

Etymonline for: 'exert (adj.)' = 1660s, "thrust forth, push out," from Latin exertus/exsertus, past participle of exerere/exserere "thrust out, put forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + serere ...
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How did 'legacy' evolve from 'contract, law'?

I was researching legacy {noun} which rechannels to legate {noun}: legacy (n.)   late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval ...
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How did 'to hint to, remind privately' mean 'to summon'?

[Etymonline:] summon (v.) c. 1200, "call, send for, ask the presence of," especially "call, cite, or notify by authority to be at a certain place at a certain time" (late 13c.), ... from Vulgar ...
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How did 'purchase' evolve to mean 'firm contact or grip'?

[1] purchase = 2. [mass noun] Firm contact or grip I've been trying to understand how the noun purchase evolved to mean definition 2 above. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. I tried OED but it's ...
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How to identify if a word is positive, negative, or neutral?

I am studying for SAT and English is not my first language. I really struggle with vocabulary. I memorized about 1000 words for the test, but only a few showed up on the test. I am planning on taking ...
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How did the spelling of 'mien' evolve?

I ask only about mien's definition of 'A person’s look or manner', and not the Yao people. OED: Etymology: Probably a merging of two words of distinct origins: (i) shortened < demean n.; ...
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Polarly opposite connotations of 'head'?

Such aphorisms as 'Think With Your Head, Not Your Heart' connote positivity of the noun 'head', but such English words as heady and testy connote negativity. So why this clash and polarity of ...
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How did 'to purport' evolve to connote negativity?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. Please beware that I replicate the noun(al) etymology from Etymonline, and not ...
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35 views

How to rationalise the legal definition of 'to procure'?

How can I resolve the contradictions below? What's the right derivation? I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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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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Why are some football clubs known as Wanderers?

Why are Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers etc so known? The OED seems to be silent on the matter, so I searched elsewhere on line. The following answer came up. Does it ...
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Why do we 'return' a member to parliament?

OED sense 12b, of the verb to return deals with the matter of returning a member, at one time by the sheriff, nowadays by a returning officer. It is is part of the wider paragraph 12 meaning headed ...
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Why is “all . . . not” apparently more common than “not all ”?

For example, All that glitters is not gold is sort of a fixed term, and people often use the same “all . . . not” form when talking about things. See also the question “Is it wrong to use ‘not’ in ...
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Is a syllable defined phonetically or etymologically?

Reading recent postings about syllables I've been struck and baffled by talk of the possibility that words may have a different number of syllables when they are written than when they are spoken. Is ...
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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.
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How did the adjective “just” come to take on so many adverbial meanings?

Just is a pretty useful adverb. It can carry several different meanings: very recently: I just finished the novel. exactly: That’s just what he meant. by a narrow margin: He just missed me ...
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Why was the word “alluring” much more used in the 1920 than in the 1870 or the 1980?

As per title. This is the Ngram Graph for the word alluring: For comparison, this is the same graph for the word remarkable:
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How did “to derogate” evolve into 3 different definitions?

What are intuitive derivations behind the 3 (disparate) definitions? 1. derogate from = [no object] Detract from 2. derogate from = [no object] Deviate from 3. [with object] Disparage (someone ...
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How to analyse/parse 'come what may'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, which I instead want to burrow into: come what may = No matter what happens Is this a case of anastrophe? Then come what may <= what ...
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When/where/why did “Look who it ain't/isn't” appear?

It seems to me that... "Well! Look who it ain't!" ...is/was normally used quite dismissively, referring to a newly-arrived person of low social status, who the speaker would often then proceed ...
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What is the origin of “over index”?

I often encounter (and use) this phrase in a context meaning to weight more heavily during decision making than is sensible, or to focus more heavily during a discussion than is warranted. For ...
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How did 'resent' evolve to connote negativity?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to resent = Feel bitterness or indignation at (a circumstance, action, or person): Etymonline: ...
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65 views

How did 'circumscribe' evolve to mean 'Restrict (something) within limits'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning: 1. circumscribe = Restrict (something) within limits: Etymonline: late 14c., from Latin ...
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The antonym of Schadenfreude is “fribbly” - the joy in other people's joy. What is the origin of this new meaning?

For many years the word fribbly has been used, in various communities as the antonym of Schadenfreude. Rather than harm-joy or "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others". Fribbly is "Joy-Joy" ...
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Contrator, contractee… and disease?

On my security card at work is written "Contractor" in big, bold, capital letters. A thought just crossed my mind (as I work for a medical company): If I am the contractor, am I the one passing the ...
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'en-' in 'entreat' : Did it divorce 'entreat' from 'treat'?

entreat (v.) c. 1400, "to enter into negotiations," especially "discuss or arrange peace terms;" also "to treat (someone) in a certain way," from Anglo-French entretier, Old French entraiter ...
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Etymology of 'needs must'

Foreword: I read this, this short post which cites this longer explanation. All page numbers refer to A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (2005), by Huddleston & Pullum. ...
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Why can you 'ask somebody', but must 'enquire/query OF somebody'?

[ODO:] [1.] ask something of somebody [2.] ask somebody something [ODO:] [3.] enquire something of somebody = (formal) to ask somebody something Why does 'ask' NOT require a ...
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How did 'licence' come to have two opposite meanings?

[OED] 1. a. Liberty (to do something), leave, permission. Now somewhat rare. †Also occas. exemption from (something). a. Liberty of action conceded or acknowledged; an instance of ...