I'm wondering about the origins of a particular word and, while my first thought was to ask the ELU community, I decided I should do the work myself.

Where should I start looking? I'd love to see some suggestions.

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it should be migrated to meta.
    – Mitch
    Mar 17 '19 at 15:17
  • @Mitch We cannot migrate questions this old to meta.
    – tchrist
    Mar 19 '19 at 2:44
  • The information can be copied and pasted into the resource post or something else on meta. I'm not sure why you reopened this @tchrist.
    – Laurel
    Mar 19 '19 at 2:49
  • @Laurel I suppose they could be, but I would not be comfortable making believe that other people's answers were my own.
    – tchrist
    Mar 19 '19 at 2:50
  • etymonline is a great resource for looking up specific words.

  • If you are at a university, you might have OED access, which is the most in-depth and hardcore etymology resource (if you can get to it).

  • Take Our Word For It is a fun website for browsing through and learning about etymologies in a more entertaining, less structured way.

  • 3
    All great suggestions. In my experience a lot of phrase or word etymologies will appear in one source but won't appear in another or vice versa, so my favorite method is still to just google each one and include the word etymology.
    – Dan
    Sep 7 '10 at 19:30
  • +! for OED, my absolute favorite–still pricy, good note on uni access
    – Charlie
    Sep 9 '10 at 0:57
  • 1
    +1 again for the OED. Many public libraries also have OED access, depending on where you live.
    – PLL
    Nov 8 '11 at 13:55

General purpose:


  • USA: Chronicling America (1836-1922) by the Library of Congress
  • Australia: Trove (-1954) by the National Library of Australia
  • New Zealand: Papers Past (1839-1945) by the Nation Library of New Zealand

Particularly for computing terms:

Therefore it's important to double check the date: scroll up to confirm the real date for "full view" books, and for preview/"snippet view" verify with another source (such as the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg or the HathiTrust Digital Library).


I would also like to add our etymology dictionary that draws directed etymology graphs called Etymologeek.com.

Here is an example of a directed graph: directed etymology graph for the word elephant

It works in multiple languages, providing etymology data, descendants, related words and more. It also has a pretty quick search, and the index is constantly growing in the number of words and slowly growing in accuracy too.

  • 1
    The site is up and running.
    – lyzazel
    Apr 29 '20 at 20:31
  • Yes, you're right. Thank you. the site probably down when I tested.
    – Quidam
    Apr 30 '20 at 13:31

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