This tag is for questions related to definitions and nuances of meaning of a word or phrase.

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53
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the purpose of using the word “automagically” when we already have “automatically”?

Is there a difference between the two? I see it used regularly in the tech community to mean automatically. Has the word been adopted into any recognised dictionary? For example: That was the ...
51
votes
11answers
11k views

What is the difference between “it's up to you” and “it's down to you”?

I see both "It's up to you" and "It's down to you" in conversations. So what's the difference?
51
votes
8answers
8k views

History of “X is dead. Long live X”

What is the history of "X is dead. Long live X"? For example, Location is dead. Long live Location. JavaScript is dead. Long live JavaScript. I feel like I'm missing out on a joke.
49
votes
5answers
3k views

Why is it “geometric” but “theoretical”?

I just came across a course name: Geometric and Theoretical Optics. The mismatched endings bug me. Why do we have both -ical and -ic endings? Is there any difference in meaning between, say, ...
47
votes
7answers
8k views

What does “you will want to” mean?

I often find people (mostly American people) telling to me "you will want to do this" or "you will not want to do this". Does it mean they are telling me that I should do something (in the sense of ...
46
votes
11answers
6k views

What is the difference between “gender” and “sex”?

What is the difference between gender and sex? Wiktionary says that gender is The mental analog of sex but that's too high English for me. Basically, I'm developing a web-application that stores ...
45
votes
10answers
37k views

“Unregister” vs “Deregister”

The concept of "undoing a registration" is widely used in my line of work. While most dictionaries define unregister as the proper verb for it, several widely used and highly considered sources also ...
44
votes
15answers
5k views

Is there a word for a change so small that it doesn’t seem to be a change at all?

Today, I was reading an article on pharmaceutical companies making minute changes to a drug in order to extend the patent. In one instance, the company profiled did not actually change the content of ...
44
votes
13answers
7k views

When to use “nude” and when “naked”

The question is quite clear. Is there any difference (semantically or connotationally, if that's a word) between nude and naked? Nude seems more formal to me, but I'm not quite sure. Interesting: ...
44
votes
1answer
142k views

What does a single letter “J” mean in emailing?

Today is Halloween. After a successful party, many conversations have been going on in my company's email box. The end of one email said "Till next time J". I had no idea what "J" meant in this ...
43
votes
1answer
2k views

What does “c'tee” mean?

I have been seeing the word c'tee frequently. Here are some examples: Sports minister sets up c’tee to find solution to football crisis ...
42
votes
7answers
26k views

What did “google” mean in the 1900s?

I know that Google got its name from the word googol (10100), and that Google/google referring the search engine/using the search engine are recent additions to the dictionary. Their definitions are ...
42
votes
4answers
40k views

'Made of' vs. 'Made from'

What is the basic difference between "made of" and "made from." Both expressions are used in English. For instance, "This chair is made of wood," and "Cream is made from milk." Though the question is ...
41
votes
4answers
26k views

What does “something 101” mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
41
votes
1answer
14k views

Why “meth-”, “eth-”, “prop-”, when there is “uni-”,“di-”,“tri-”?

In chemistry, the homologous series for hydrocarbons uses the following prefixes: Meth- Eth- Prop- But- Pent- Hex- Hept- Oct- Why are these prefixes used, instead of just ...
40
votes
6answers
21k views

Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to?

At what point does next Tuesday mean the next Tuesday that will come to pass and no longer the Tuesday after the Tuesday that will come to pass`? And, when does the meaning switch ...
39
votes
6answers
22k views

What is meant by “don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining”?

I have heard a couple of times recently the phrase "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining", usually in the context of a heated argument so I've hesitated to ask speaker what exactly he meant ...
39
votes
7answers
3k views

Is there a difference between “disc” and “disk” for naming digital storage media?

I thought that a disc was a disc, and it is sometimes spelled disk. I now have got an indication that those two are not the same thing. In this answer on Graphic DesignBeta, I wrote floppy disc in ...
38
votes
22answers
119k views

“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” — times and meanings?

I've seen cases where a noon-time meal is referred to as dinner, and the evening meal is called supper. There's also lunch around noon followed by dinner in the evening. Is there a particular ...
37
votes
8answers
9k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
36
votes
4answers
11k views

What is the difference between “illicit” and “illegal”?

What is the difference between "illicit" and "illegal"? Are they just synonymous? Used in different contexts?
34
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the meaning of the phrase 'Here be dragons'?

What does here be dragons mean in the example below? WARNING Here be dragons. Relative source binding can not only encourage bad application practices, such as binding to things defined in ...
32
votes
5answers
4k views

What does this mean: 'Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink'? Why is it funny?

Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water and make it drink. I read this on http://chucknorrisfacts.com. What I think this sentence means, is: Chuck Norris can take his horse to where the water is ...
32
votes
1answer
38k views

Which is correct: “rack my brain” or “wrack my brain”?

Which is the correct usage: "rack my brain" or "wrack my brain"? Google turned up pages with conflicting recommendations. One argument is that to "rack a brain" comes from the torture device known ...
31
votes
15answers
5k views

Words with opposite meanings in different regions

I can't recall it, but there is a word in American English which now means the opposite of itself in British English. What words are there that have opposite (not just different) meanings in different ...
31
votes
3answers
2k views

What kind of noun is a picture?

I'm not sure of the right place to ask this, but I got confused trying to understand how the computer will interpret the sentence: This is my picture. In actual sense, the real owner of the ...
31
votes
9answers
29k views

What is the correct usage of “myriad”?

The vast majority of the time when I see the word "myriad" it is in a sentence like "He had a myriad of things." However I don't like the extraneous words so I normally use it like "He had myriad ...
31
votes
2answers
9k views

What does the phrase “Begging the question” mean?

What does the phrase "begging the question" really mean? And does it even matter if I use it correctly? Almost everyone just uses it as a synonym for "posing the question" these days.
30
votes
15answers
4k views

“True” is to “false” as “truth” is to… what?

If I were to reverse the sentence, "I care about the truth" I would want to say: I care about the false. Is that correct? It seems awkward at best: He speaks the truth! / He speaks the ...
29
votes
10answers
4k views

What is the word to describe “the gaining of full control over an ability or power you already have”?

For example, a Jedi is born with powers, but must learn how to control them in order to use them. What's the one best word for this? I have _ _ _ my power. The word is in the back of my head ...
28
votes
6answers
47k views

What is the correct way to use “neither” and “nor” in a sentence together?

Given these facts: The tool cannot be found in the kitchen. The tool cannot be found in the bathroom. Which is the correct sentence to represent the situation above? I can find the tool ...
28
votes
6answers
87k views

In sex talk, how many bases are there and what do they all mean?

I always hear people say "I hit the third base" or "I hit the second base" (sex related). I am not 100% sure what they all mean. Additionally, in one of the House MD episodes, there was a dialogue: ...
28
votes
8answers
13k views

If someone is electrocuted, do they have to die or can they just be injured?

Is it correct to say I electrocuted my friend if he was only injured by electricity?
28
votes
2answers
7k views

What is the difference between “maybe” and “may be”?

What is the difference in meaning and usage between maybe and may be? Are they synonymous?
28
votes
3answers
77k views

What's the difference between “eldest” and “oldest”?

When should I use "eldest" and when should I use "oldest"? Are the differences semantic or regional? (Or both?) (What got me wondering is the removeEldestEntry() method in Java's LinkedHashMap ...
27
votes
7answers
5k views

What does “information porn” mean?

On several occasions while browsing Meta Stack Overflow, I have encountered the phrase information porn, typically used by Jeff Atwood. What does it mean?
27
votes
12answers
5k views

“Nothing to tell” versus “nothing to say”

There's nothing to tell. There's nothing to say. Can anyone explain the difference between those two statements and give some examples on how they should be used? I think I do have a basic ...
27
votes
3answers
10k views

Why do people say “over-” and “underwhelmed” but never just “whelmed”?

We've all been overwhelmed with work, or seen an underwhelming movie... but it occurred to me that I've never heard anyone use the root word, whelm. whelm (verb) 1. to submerge; engulf. 2. to ...
26
votes
18answers
7k views

Single-word synonym for a “pedantic rule-follower”?

What do you call a person who always follows the rules, at the expense of everything else? I’m thinking there’s one word that can describe this, but I can’t place it.
26
votes
8answers
35k views

Distinction: “What can I do you for?” vs. “What can I do for you?”

Usually, when being served the phrase "What can I do for you?" is used but sometimes I also hear "What can I do you for?" in quite the same context. So is there a difference or is it just a slip of ...
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Term for a bullet hitting a bystander in a gunfight

What is the term for a bullet hitting a bystander in a gunfight? When it misses the intended target and hits a bystander.
25
votes
3answers
9k views

What does the phrase “Does the Pope sh** in the woods?” mean?

I heard this phrase in the GTA San Andreas game. Sounds pretty offensive, nonetheless I don't really get what he meant to say. The context was something like: "Hey do you wanna make some money?" ...
25
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is there a “mean” in “Greenwich Mean Time” (GMT)?

What's the meaning of the word "mean" in "Greenwich Mean Time"? Shouldn't we simply say something like "Greenwich Time"? I don't understand what the word "mean" is doing there.
23
votes
5answers
2k views

Which definition of “atheism” is the proper usage?

This seems to be a creeping problem in that two competing definitions are being used for the term "atheism" that aren't necessarily compatible with one another. One the one hand we have what appears ...
23
votes
1answer
737 views

What does “his A and C” mean?

From Steinbeck's Cannery Row, The nice bouncer at the Bear Flag threw out a drunk, but threw him too hard and too far and broke his back. Alfred had to go over to Salinas three times before it was ...
22
votes
27answers
7k views

What is a word that could define someone who likes to cause conflict?

What would you call someone who does things knowing specifically that his/her actions will cause pain and/or conflict or completes an action just to get someone in trouble or hurt them? For example, ...
22
votes
8answers
34k views

What's the difference in meaning between “emigrate” and “immigrate”?

What's the difference between emigrate and immigrate? They seem to have the same definitions in the dictionary but they are antonyms...  
22
votes
4answers
582 views

Meaning of “medicine bringeth double care when the malady is past cure”

This is an excerpt from John Lyly 'Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit, does anybody know what does it mean? Search the wound while it is green; too late cometh the salve when the sore festereth, and ...
22
votes
3answers
70k views

What is the purpose of using the word “why” in “why, thank you”?

I sometimes have heard somebody replying with Why, thank you. instead of Thank you. What is the meaning of the first phrase? What is the difference between the two phrases?
22
votes
4answers
2k views

Why will I see you in Hell?

If you say, "I'll see you at the party", you mean, "You and I are going to the party and I will see and speak to you there." If you say, "I'll see you hang!", you mean "You will be sentenced to hang ...