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

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110
votes
19answers
23k views

Is “women men girls love meet die” a valid sentence?

Is "women men girls love meet die" a valid sentence? If so, what does it mean? The sentence shows up in academic papers about the "Sausage Machine" for natural language processing. (A google will ...
110
votes
16answers
18k views

“Jane makes over six figures” - how much money does she make?

Suppose you are told that "Jane makes over six figures". Assuming this to be true, what is the minimum amount of money that Jane can be making? I have always understood this to mean "Jane makes at ...
97
votes
1answer
340k 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 ...
92
votes
10answers
89k 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 ...
88
votes
19answers
9k views

How to say that food is hot (temperature) without the listener thinking that I mean “spicy”?

There is an excellent discussion of spicy vs. hot here: Difference between "spicy" and "hot" However, having read the previous question, I did not see any answer that tells how to ...
85
votes
5answers
86k views

“Here's looking at you, kid” meaning?

I'm sure many will know Rick's famous line from the film Casablanca: Here's looking at you, kid. While I can guess at it, I was never fully confident about the meaning of this phrase. I am not ...
75
votes
5answers
18k views

What does 'TL;DR' mean and how is it used?

I do my best, at my advanced age, to come to grips with the apparent acceptability of such widely used words/expressions/abbreviations as lol/LOL, IMHO, AFAIK, etc. However, TLDR/tl;dr defeats me. ...
73
votes
23answers
478k 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 ...
68
votes
8answers
19k 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.
65
votes
7answers
66k 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 back?
62
votes
12answers
47k 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?
62
votes
5answers
6k 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, ...
62
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
58
votes
10answers
6k views

Which is more wet: ‘moist’ or ‘damp’?

Which contains more liquid, something that is moist or something that is damp? Context of question: This question was asked to a young friend of mine in her high school freshman English class. It was ...
58
votes
4answers
82k 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?
57
votes
15answers
35k 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: ...
56
votes
11answers
8k views

You “show” someone a picture. You “---” someone a song?

In Maltese, we have a verb meaning "to show" corresponding to "to see/to look", and we have a different verb corresponding to "to hear/to listen": inti tara stampa (you look at a picture.) ---- ...
55
votes
11answers
11k 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 ...
50
votes
16answers
11k 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 ...
50
votes
5answers
32k views

Why do people say “to be honest”?

For quite some time, I've been hearing the phrase "to be honest" almost every day. I've heard friends say it, characters on TV shows, and even an NPR reporter said it in an interview. Example: "...
50
votes
4answers
152k 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 ...
50
votes
1answer
3k 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 http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/08/sports-minister-sets-up-...
50
votes
6answers
41k views

“Status” vs. “state”

Can anyone explain what the difference between status and state is when I talk about the condition or situation of an object? Here's what I got from Longman English Dictionary. status: a ...
49
votes
7answers
23k 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 ...
49
votes
7answers
68k 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 ...
49
votes
5answers
27k views

“Screwed” vs. “nailed”: why is the slang so different?

While the two names nail and screw have similar shapes and functions, why do the verbs differ so much? Someone has screwed something sounds like they have ruined something to me, while someone has ...
49
votes
2answers
160k 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 ...
48
votes
3answers
8k views

White Noise: Why White?

I'm always surprised when I hear the term white noise. White noise itself sounds a little more "evil" than anything else, I would almost expect it to be called black noise. Why is white noise ...
48
votes
9answers
104k views

“A few” vs. “few”

I have few friends. I have a few friends. I thought "few" means just one, two or even none. "A few" typically means more than two. However it seems to me some people say "few" when they really ...
48
votes
1answer
37k 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 ...
46
votes
6answers
7k views

How did phobia ever come to mean hatred?

I understand the word 'phobia' to mean an irrational fear of something, tracing its roots to the Greek word ῾φοβια᾽ associated with flight, dread, or terror. How then did this word ever come to ...
46
votes
10answers
38k 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 ...
45
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “trodie” mean?

In "The Star Fraction" by Ken MacLeod, a Scottish science fiction author, a couple walks through a street and past a "trodie". The novel is set in Britain, so it may be a British expression. The ...
45
votes
5answers
7k views

Around how old is “a woman of a certain age”?

"A woman of a certain age" is a common saying. It means more than "a woman of a given age", "a woman who could be any age" or "female, without respect to age". It's usage instead seems to suggest a ...
44
votes
9answers
112k 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 ...
43
votes
7answers
5k 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 Design, I wrote floppy disc in the ...
42
votes
6answers
48k 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 ...
42
votes
5answers
43k 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?
40
votes
18answers
14k views

What is a word that means unforgettable but with a negative connotation?

When I look up unforgettable in a thesaurus, I get words like enduring, remarkable, or exceptional. These all are positive; I just cannot forget such a wondrous thing! I, however, want a word that ...
40
votes
3answers
11k 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 ...
39
votes
11answers
6k views

What is it called when a highly respected person commits an immoral act but people don't believe that he committed the act?

I was wondering. It just came up. It has no real world relevancy. An example: A highly respected businessman commits child abuse and one day his wife finds out about it. She shares what she had ...
39
votes
3answers
26k views

Difference between “delete” and “remove” [closed]

I am writing a mobile application that will, as a part of its functionality, display a list of recorded thoughts. Now I am deciding the textual content of the menus and that left me thinking whether ...
38
votes
4answers
7k views

When did men start to lose their “virginity”?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word virgin came from 2 languages: Anglo-French and Old French virgine "virgin; Virgin Mary" From Latin virginem (nominative virgo) "maiden,...
37
votes
6answers
252k 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: ...
37
votes
3answers
166k 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?
36
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
36
votes
3answers
258k 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 class....
36
votes
1answer
92k views

Why use “need not” instead of “do not need to”?

The header of psyco.sourceforge.net states: High-level languages need not be slower than low-level ones. Why use need not instead of do not need? What does it mean? Also, why no to before be?
35
votes
15answers
8k 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 false!...
35
votes
15answers
9k 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 ...