Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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Why did the Old English word “līċ” get displaced by “corpse”?

While checking the etymology of the English word corpse, wikitionary says it had been līċ in Old English. Wikitionary also gives /liːt͡ʃ/ as its pronunciation, which apparently is completely different ...
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What is a word which means “un-deliberately uncooperative”? (originating back to at least the 17th-century)

I am looking for a word for the quality of being un-deliberately uncooperative? So not the likes of "stubborn" which has a connotation of deliberate uncooperativeness to reason or what-have-...
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Does anyone have/know the etymology of “dunsel”?

The definitions listed are cargo, or part of ship, or person which is useless, unnecessary, superfluous, non-functional. Also, in reference to the captain, lacking authority, or incompetent. I ran ...
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What is the origin of „niggardly?“ [closed]

What is the etymology of „niggardly?“
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When and where did 'bulldozer' originate, what did it originally apply to, and how did it come to refer to earth-moving machinery?

In “How to Steal an Election,” an editorial in this Sunday’s New York Times, historian Jon Grinspan writes, In the [U.S.] South at the end of Reconstruction, white Democratic rifle clubs “policed” ...
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Where did the term “tower shield” come from?

So-called tower shields appear occasionally in role-playing games (such as Dungeons&Dragons), including computer games (for example in The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, Chivalry, Dark Souls). ...
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Origin of “around the bend”, meaning insane

Recently, American presidential candidate Joe Biden pointed out …… …that Trump had said at one of his rallies that the country had "turned the corner" on the pandemic. He riposted… “As ...
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Origin of “ish kabibble” as an interjection i.e. 'What, me worry?'

In New York in the mid-70s, my ethnic German bride-to-be introduced me to an expression : “ish kabibble” At the moment, I thought it kind of catchy, and have used it ever since in milder WTF ...
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Where does the English system of kinship terms for cousins (“Nth cousin K times removed”) come from?

A recent question on our sister site made me wonder about something: where does the standard system of distinguishing different types of cousins in English via degrees and removals (as in "Nth ...
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Abetrours :: meaning & etymology

We've found this word Abetrours here and here, but cannot seem to find a definition of it. Can anyone refer us to one, and ideally its etymology as well? Feel free to suggest another StackExchange ...
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Origin of the expression “to be gagging to do something”

There's an informal British meaning to the word gag, which is [to] be very eager to have or do (something). It's generally used (i.e., I've only ever heard it this way) in the present continuous ...
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Confusion surrounding etymology of 'Burdock'

Arctium lappa; Common Name: Burdock. Is it simply a coincidence that 'Arctium,' meaning 'Bear,' the animal, sounds like 'Bur' in 'Burdock?' (viz., NOT bear-dock, but bur-dock). The etymology does not ...
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History of the phrase “play Mickey the Dunce”

Growing up, my mother would use the expression "play Mickey the Dunce", meaning roughly "play the fool" or "play dumb", generally in order to gain some advantage by ...
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Is a “camelopard” part-camel, part-leopard or part-camel, part-pard?

I'm honestly not sure if this belongs more on Mythology.SE, but I think it's (just) more of an etymology question. The English word 'giraffe' derives from the Arabic word zarāfah (زرافة) which ...
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Extremism: what’s the cultural history of this word?

“Extremism” sounds like an ideology, by analogy with Marxism for example. Or it could be akin to a behavioural state like mutism or autism. With respect to these different directions, I’m wondering ...
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Where did “humongous” first appear?

William Hartson called the word “surely one of the ugliest words ever to slither its way into our dictionaries”, but regardless of what he would like to say about the word, I actually have always ...
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Who coined “the eye of heaven”?

For the longest time I had always thought that Our great Bard had, with his poetic wonder, come up with "the eye of heaven" for his immortal, sonnet 18: Rough windes do ſhake the darling ...
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Was the Shark frightening to 16th / 17th-century English speakers?

Undoubtedly, in our Modern-mind-set, for many the mere utterance of the word "Shark" (more so when in the ocean, swimming) brings a sort of dread or at the least, undesirability to the ...
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Did Shakespeare really coin “Alligator”?

I have read many essays on the heavily debated subject of just how many words Our immortal Bard coined. I think it is safe to say, some of the words (and phrases) which are credited to him are ...
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What is the difference between “appreciation” and “gratitude”? [closed]

Should I be appreciative of, or be grateful to, what my parents do for me, when they both mean "thankful"? Is there a difference in between? How is the difference identified? Any efforts ...
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Etymology for “positive handoff” or “positive hand-off”

What's the etymology/origin of the phrase "positive handoff" (or "hand-off", meaning an explicit transfer of something (objects or currency or information or responsibility) ...
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Why isn't “giraves” the plural of “giraffe” like “wolves” is for “wolf”? [duplicate]

The plural of giraffe, according to Merriam Webster and some other dictionaries I checked, is "giraffes". Normally when the final sound of an English word is F, its plural ends in V sound. ...
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What factors over time have affected the most common word used to mean “woman who flies a plane”?

I was looking at this thread: Has the suffix "-trix" acquired a pejorative meaning in recent years? And I became curious about the popularity of the words aviatrix, aviatrice, aviatress and ...
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What is the origin of -oid in ‘factoid’? [closed]

I was thinking about the words ‘factoid’ (a statement based on assumption) and ‘fact’. Are these words unrelated or is -oid a bound morpheme in this case? If it is a morpheme, what exactly does -oid ...
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Might “worm” in Psalms 22.3 refer to “wyrm”/“wurm”? [closed]

I was re-reading my favorite piece of scripture, Psalms 22, from a copy of the Geneva translation, and found myself interpreting the English translation of 22.6 with some distinct difference after ...
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What is the origin of x-mark used as a signature of illiterate

I'm not sure that it is the proper site to ask this question, maybe it's an off-topic. However, I've heard it is also a kind of lingual expression used in English/American culture. I've heard that X-...
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Were clothes called “loud” because they actually made a noise?

A loud shirt According to Etymology.com, the adjective loud with its meaning of flamboyant, bright colours can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. loud (adj.) Application to colors, ...
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When did people start using “rod” for “ wrought”? [closed]

I’ve seen many online postings for people claiming to sell “ rod” iron rather than “wrought “ iron items.
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Origin of "It is the long history of humankind that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed”? [closed]

I am looking for the source of the quote It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed A search ...
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Etymology of term “Vig”, or “Vigorish”? [closed]

So I always presumed the term "vig" or "vigorish" (meaning, at least how I perceive the meaning, a bookie or loan shark's "take", or reward, for facilitating a deal of ...
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“Axel Jump” in jazz and figure skating - question about etymology

I'm sorry, I didn't find a "dance" stackexchange, but it's a question about etymology for me. We know that the "axel jump" in figure skating was named that because it was invented ...
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First use of "jack-o'-Lantern” in reference to the Carved-Pumpkin?

According to OED the etymology of "Jack'o'-Lantern" (as a name for the carved pumpkin) dates to 1834: Jack-o'-lantern: also jack-o-lantern, jack-a-lantern, jackolantern, 1660s, "night-...
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Why “Giraffe” as a name for the animal?

My question is based on my interest in the evolution of the Giraffe's name. Etymology Online Dictionary puts the following: Giraffe: long-necked ruminant animal of Africa, 1590s, giraffa(...)The ...
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Why do guys call each other “man”? [closed]

Just curious. Why do a lot of guys call each other “man”? What’s the origin of that term? EXAMPLE: “Hey, man. What’s up?”
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Origins/meaning of “is dis/this a system?”

Does anyone know the origins of the phrase “Is dis/this a system?”? After seeing it in 1920s and 30s era American comic strips, and later scattered in multiple pop-cultural contexts, I was wondering ...
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What's going on with the phrase: “none the wiser”?

Wiktionary gives the example sentence of They were none the wiser from their experience. This grammatical construction/combination of adverb, article and comparative adjective doesn't prop up too ...
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What's the origin of this expression recorded in Louisiana, 1867?

From Freedmen's Bureau records as excerpted in Sterling's brilliant We Are Your Sisters: Emmeline Ellaby jumped out of the cotton and called them damned bitches and said that everyone of them damned ...
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“Tactical Language” (from the Police) is from “Tactical Warfare” (from the Military) etymologically?

Tactical Language has specific meaning for the police, and Tactical Warfare has another possibly/suspiciously related meaning for the military [separately or equally?], with known use/abuse in laws, ...
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Countries ending with -Y vs. -IA: What is the pattern?

I wonder why some country names in English are suffixed with -y (Lombardy, Italy, Hungary, Saxony, Sicily) and some with -ia (Bulgaria, Austria, Bavaria, Sardinia). I understand the etymology: "-...
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Why are words ending in -icious evil

Words ending in -icious seem to be almost entirely negative. vicious malicious pernicious avaricious suspicious I can think of "delicious" which doesn't follow the negative connotation ...
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What's the origin of metaphor “to give someone ammo”? [closed]

In last decade I often encounter this phrase used as "giving the opponent a legit argument against yourself" while discussing an unfolding drama or conflict. While I understand the meaning, ...
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How did 'seasoning' semantically shift to mean "heating fat or oil on a cooking vessel's surface to coat it resistantly to corrosion and stick'?

The OED doesn't comprise this definition. The closest appears to be: [1] c. The maturing of wood by drying, etc.; †also, tempering, hardening (of metals). i. The application of a solution of blood ...
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What’s the origin/meaning of “from belt buckle to shoe sole”?

A news article reported that Presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was “labor from belt buckle to shoe sole.” I’ve never heard this phrase before. Does anyone know the origin? It seems to imply “...
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How did 'whale' semantically shift to mean manipulator of stock market prices?

I couldn't find this finance meaning on OED or Merriam-Webster, probably for it's too newfangled? Recently SoftBank has been blazoned as the NASDAQ Whale. I'm not convinced by the explanation in the ...
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Where was the idiom “long face” first used?

I am scattering around to find the first use of the idiom "long face" or "long-face" as in "why the long face?", meaning to show in one's facial expression a low, ...
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Is ‘progressively worse’ the equivalent of ‘regressively better’?

It’s seems like (by distribution) these two statements should be equivalent. Are there any etymological or grammatical reasons why this should not be the case? In this SE user’s experience, ...
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What is the first mention/use of the word “America” in print in an English written/translated source

I am aware of the fundamental history of the etymology of the word "America" in regards to the land it represents: how Leif Eriksson first-named the Brave New World Vinland, and afterward ...
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Deciphering two words from their Archaic spellings

I am translating the 1509, first English Translation of Sebastian Brant's The Shyp of foyls (The Ship of Fools), and came across two words which, for the life of me, I could not construe or make ...
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Use of 'went' as a noun

I have come across its use as a proper noun in an 1895 deed: "...all that one piece of pasture lying at Whatling Went." So I wondered if there is any evidence for the the use of 'went' as ...
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Why can “yea' and ”nay" be used interchangeably here?

The definitions of Yea and Nay, provided by Lexico, are: Yea; Used to emphasize a more appropriate word than one just used. ‘he was full, yea, crammed with anxieties’ and Nay Or rather (used to ...

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