80
votes
3answers
11k views

Why does “quadratic” describe second power while “quad” usually describes “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as ...
2
votes
1answer
163 views

Etymology/word formation of “program” (as in computer program)

The word is obviously derived from the noun 'programme' however I can't work out which way it's most likely to have been created. I'm thinking its either descended from the British spelling of the ...
8
votes
2answers
219 views

Is 'worse' the only comparative that has neither -er nor more?

There was a question recently about comparatives and it got me thinking about how comparatives are formed. There are those that take -er and those that use more to indicate comparison, but is worse ...
5
votes
1answer
318 views

Why “USSR” but not “UCSR”?

USSR stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The adjective "Soviet" is formed from the noun "Soviet" which in Russian means "Council". (That was roughly the idea behind the revolution and USSR ...
18
votes
4answers
3k views

A murder of crows?

I love the subset of collective nouns known as the terms of venery. These are collective nouns specific to a particular group of animals. Some of the more inventive examples are: a murder of crows, a ...
33
votes
3answers
2k views

Origin of “-ing”

What is the origin of the suffix -ing used to form gerunds and present participles? Why is the suffix the same in both cases?