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

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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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375 views

“Sport” vs “Sports” Origin

I was recently reading this article on the use of "math" vs. "maths" as a collective noun (Americans use the former, Brits the latter). However, the trend seen in "math/maths" is reversed in ...
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How does 'to deport' mean 'to conduct oneself' ?

2. deport {verb} {archaic} = Conduct oneself in a specified manner: deport (v.1): late 15c., "to behave," from Old French deporter "behave, deport (oneself)" (12c.), also with a wide range of ...
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53 views

How did 'anticipate' evolve to mean 'forestall'?

OALD: 4. anticipate somebody (doing something) (formal) = to do something before it can be done by somebody else Etymonline: anticipate (v.) = 1530s, "to cause to happen sooner," a ...
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181 views

What is the origin of “rat”?

A simple little word for a common little fella. Yet, the origin is unknown (or not?). Both OED and Etymonline are bold enough to say "of uncertain origin"; but, of course, they try to explain the ...
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70 views

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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66 views

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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94 views

Where does the term “key-thong” (for flip-flops) come from?

In the east Bay Area of California, in the early '60's, we called flip flops key-thongs. (The spelling is likely wrong as I couldn't read at the time.) We moved to New Mexico in the late 60's, where ...
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156 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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38 views

How does 'contingent' mean 'subject to chance'?

contingent = {adjective} 1. Subject to chance Etymonline: late 14c., from Old French contingent or directly from Latin contingentem (nominative contingens) "happening, touching," present ...
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How does 'on' + 'against, toward' mean 'again'?

[Etymonline:] again (adv.) late Old English agan, from earlier ongean "toward, opposite, against, in exchange for," from on "on" (see on) + -gegn "against, toward," compounded for a sense of ...
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Historical meaning of “program” as a verb

Frozen since 1837, some guy just thawed up and confronted me with the verb 'to program' in the context of CS. If by programming an automatic computer, we mean “to put instructions in main memory for ...
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73 views

Position of stress in English words derived from New Latin

In another thread on this site a question was asked about the pronunciation of the word Caribbean; that discussion focused on the position of the accent. Cognate forms of the word Caribbean have ...
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32 views

Where did the idea of using X to mean 'Extra' first start?

It makes sense, but I'm curious as to how long ago it started and where.
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to bar vs to debar

1. These words seem to mean the same, so what does the de- prefix mean? Did I overlook any nuances? 2. What's this phenomenon called, when a prefix or suffix affects nothing? Etymonline: 15c., ...
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97 views

When do Americans began to use practice instead of practise?

I am writing an historical novel, and I try to make my characters speaking and writing as everybody did at the time. But I don't know when we began to use "practice" as a verb instead of "practise". ...
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284 views

Where did the phrase You “have a really punchable face” originate?

MS Paint Adventures references this phrase on this page in homestuck: http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002224 I also distinctly remember hearing the same phrase in one of the three first ...
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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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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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39 views

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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54 views

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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Adjective form of the verb despise?

Saw the title of the movie where minions come out - "Despicable Me" - I was curious, as despicable has the suffix -able, what would be its verb form? Then, I thought, is it de-spice? Which made me ...
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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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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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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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87 views

“Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)”

"Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)" (idiom, used to agree to a suggestion that you think is good) It seems to be of relatively recent origin, if there's really a sound origin, that is. Main Q: What ...
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35 views

Origin of the saying 'all wet'

All wet is slang expression (mainly AmE) meaning: entirely mistaken. (TFD) All wet: The Phrase Finder, referring to OED, suggests that its first usage was: "c. all wet: mistaken, ...
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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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24 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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60 views

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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53 views

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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96 views

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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660 views

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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51 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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Etymology of 'genus'

Etymonline: (plural genera), 1550s as a term of logic, [3.] "kind or class of things" (biological sense dates from c.1600), [2.] from Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; ...
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What does it mean for a prefix to express transitivity?

[ODO:] bequeath {verb} : ORIGIN : Old English becwethan, from be- 'about' (expressing transitivity) + cwethan 'say' (see quoth). 1. I understand (and so don't display here) both definitions ...
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'albeit that' vs 'albeit [it were the case] that'

The first textual para on p 5 of 16 of this PDF written by Dr Peter Williams introduced me to albeit that, which I then researched. Then Google revealed p 116, Complete manual of analysis and ...