Questions tagged [etymology]

Questions about tracing out and describing the elements of an individual word, as well as the historical changes in form and sense which that word has experienced over its history.

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16 views

What is the etymology of "market capitalisation"

I want to ask a question about the term 'market capitalisation'. In finance, this term is used to often refer to the total "value" of a company, expressed by multiplying the number of shares ...
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47 views

Why is "Who's From Out Of Town?" the "classic" standup bit?

I've heard numerous references to this line in various places but have not been able to pin down the origin. Presumably, the joke is that a performer will ask this question to the audience, and when ...
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23 views

British colloquial phrase [closed]

What is the origin and meaning of the expression "And Bob's your uncle?"
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63 views

Has the word individual 'outcompeted' that of person historically?

Would it be correct to say that the word individual have 'outcompeted' that of person since 17th century in everyday English, as well as in social sciences? According to etymonline.com's entry on ...
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3answers
74 views

Instance implies time, but often used as “example” or “case” - what’s a good alternative word without time connection [closed]

Since instance implies occurrence which implies time, then what are good substitutes other than case or example? Circumstance is also tied to an event which may directly relate to time too. I am ...
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44 views

Story behind "Murphy's law"?

Nothing to do with potato or potatoes, I think. Slang word for potato is like a someone is uninteresting, dull,strange or ugly in English language and one expression for potato is used for "...
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57 views

What is the origin of the British phrase "Rough as houses"?

I'm preempting the usual comments by saying: If you're not British, you probably won't have heard it before. But it is a fairly well known phrase in BrE. For instance, in this book: Unfortunately, it ...
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1answer
31 views

What is the origin of the meaning of 'counter' to express the surface on which goods or money is counted? [closed]

The OED does not appear to list the meaning of the noun 'counter' which conveys the concept of a flat surface over which goods or money is counted, except that it lists the verb 'to counter' as having ...
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2answers
67 views

Where does the phrase "That's a wrap" come from?

Where does the phrase "That's a wrap", meaning "we are finished" come from? I suspect it is from the movie making process, but I couldn't find much information on its origins.
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1answer
61 views

Usage of suffix in Arithmetic vs Arithmatic - arithmos (root)? [closed]

In creating a new English word, when does one use the suffix of -matic vs -metic? As an example: Why or how does one get arithmetic from a root word of arithmos? On the origins of the word "...
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1answer
68 views

What's the origin of "to string somebody along"?

"to string somebody along", i.e. to deceive. What's the origin of this phrase? I always picture a cow being lead by the speaker with a piece of string.
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1answer
72 views

Why 'd' in 'Aeneid'?

The Latin poem Aeneis is Aeneid in English. How did the last d come about? A few suspects by quick search: /ð/ → /d/ shift in English, but there must be a shift /s/ → /ð/. It seems romance languages ...
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59 views

Is "eipher" a proper English word or a typo of "Cipher"? [closed]

In many posts and online articles, I come across the usage of "eipher". But, I could not get the meaning or history of this word from any sources. The word "eipher" results many ...
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2answers
136 views

What makes the spelling of "psychedelic" a mongrel spelling?

According to this Wikipedia article, Richard Evans Schultes thought that psychedelic was a mongrel spelling of the word. The other option was phanerothyme. Apparently, they are both constructed from ...
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1answer
51 views

History of the expression "Moses basket"

The expression "Moses basket" is clearly an allusion to the biblical story. But what is the history of this expression? When was the expression first used to mean a portable cradle for a ...
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2answers
214 views

Why are 'at least' and 'a lot' not single words?

I constantly have trouble with spelling the word-phrases ‘at least’ and ‘a lot’ .. they both should be a single word in my mind, which isn’t correct. They both seem to just be a single unit of meaning....
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1answer
116 views

Does "pig" (fat animal) come from the Latin "pinguedo" (fat)?

Does "pig" (fat animal) come from the Latin pinguedo (fat)?
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1answer
46 views

First Use of the Word 'Skimmer' to Mean a Low-Flying Hovercraft in Science Fiction? [closed]

Does anyone know when the word 'skimmer' first got used to mean 'a low-flying, in-atmosphere hovercraft' in science fiction?
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5answers
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“Green” has been associated with envy (green-eyed monster), as well as with a novice. How did these associations arise? [closed]

The color green is associated with lack of experience (i.e. novices are called “green”), as well as with envy (“green with envy”, “green-eyed monster”). Does anyone know how, when and why these ...
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1answer
82 views

'Miscellaneous': must be followed by a plural count noun

Garner's fourth reads Miscellaneous must be followed by a plural count noun; it does not work with an abstract mass noun. Exceptions are set phrases such as miscellaneous shower/income. and An ...
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2answers
50 views

Definite article with noun referring to something not satisfying definition

Consider the following phrase: The airplane is missing its wings Given that wings are part of the definition of an airplane, why is it correct to use “the airplane” to refer to an airplane without ...
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1answer
78 views

Where did the word red-tapism come from?

What is the origin of the word red-tapism? And what does it actually mean? Lexico says it first appeared in the mid-19th century in the Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, a London paper. Searching ...
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39 views

Why all interrogative pronoun , 5W start with W? [duplicate]

The other day when I was looking at my grand daughter reading her English text book,I was suddenly asked by her why five interrogative pronouns - who, what, where, when, what begin with the letter, W. ...
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1answer
116 views

Origin of the term "level up"

The term "level up" is a current political buzz-phrase. The Tories have spoken much of how they are going to do this to deprived areas of the UK, and today it came out they're even renaming ...
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1answer
68 views

Origin of the phrase "dotting the i's and crossing the t's"

I know what that phrase means, but I would like to know how this phrase may have been originated. Here's what I think (I am no expert, far from it): People used to predominantly write in cursive style ...
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2answers
151 views

Etymology of "brave", meaning insane

I was reviewing the hilarious and terrifying British English to other translation guide and I would be fascinated to know something. How has the use of brave in "That's a very brave proposal"...
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1answer
79 views

Do 'verity' and 'verily' derive from 'very'?

The Oxford English Dictionary (subscription required or a library card number in the UK) has the following entry for 'very' used as an adjective or an adverb : Forms: α. Middle English (1500s ...
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1answer
258 views

In the field of bookbinding, where does the term "Davey Board" come from?

There is a generic material called "Binder's Board". Which is the board that the covers of hardcover books are made from. In the industry, it is also called "Davey Board". I ...
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1answer
48 views

About the words "Speed" and "Velocity"

Physics guys closed these questions so I am here From our daily experiences we know that whenever a body is moving with certain speed, it is always associated with a certain direction. How can you ...
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2answers
269 views

What is the original superlative form of well?

I know that “well” (as in the adverb “to do well”) has a superlative form, “best,” but this is suppletive, and I’ve always wanted to know what the original, as in, the last, not suppletive, ...
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3answers
606 views

How did "muggins" come into use?

In an episode of "Yes Minister", the Rt. Hon. James Hacker is appointed to be "Transportation Supremo" - in charge of devising an integrated transport policy. His permanent ...
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1answer
408 views

How did "realize" change from "make real" to 2 new senses: 'understand', 'come to understand'?

Millar concedes that "It is not at all obvious how this change could have occurred", and he's a historical linguistics professor! Alas he doesn't expatiate it. Can someone please expound ...
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Etymology: When did the words "idea" and "concept" become interchangeable?

The word "idea" used to be connected with Plato and refer to a thing's "ideal" (thus, they share the same root). Does anyone know how this word come to be conflated with the word &...
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1answer
204 views

When did the change occur in meaning of Afghan from an ethnic group to "person from Afghanistan?"

A related question can be found here, dealing with the usage of "Afghan" to mean "inhabitant of Afghanistan." Which term is correct — "Afghan" or "Afghani"? I'm ...
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3answers
4k views

What is the origin of "don't punch a gift horse in the mouth"?

I had always thought that the phrase was "don't look...", but my friend insists that it is "don't punch..." and there are a non-zero number of web search results showing usage of ...
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1answer
43 views

When and why did English change Affrick and Asie to Africa and Asia? [closed]

English names for continents all end in Latin suffix -a / -ia, except Europe. Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia Since English language used to take much of its vocabulary from French during ...
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2answers
70 views

What does roland mean in mediaeval landscaping context?

In the following passage the word “roland” is used to indicate some central fixture of a town that is related to trees (or so I take it). I can’t find the definition of this usage anywhere, though (...
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2answers
114 views

What is the history of the phrase "figure it out"?

Just trying to establish the time when the term came into popular use in the US or elsewhere. Google didn't tell me.
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1answer
45 views

Etymology of 'Space' as applied to inter-planetary or inter-galactic separation

The word 'space' literally means 'emptiness' or 'expanse'. When did the term begin to be used to the emptiness between planets/stars/galaxies?
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1answer
59 views

The etymology of "done for"

I was wondering how "done for" came to existence. The google search ' "done for" etymology ' didn't give any meaningful results, or maybe I need to dig deeper. How did "for&...
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3answers
1k views

Do "elision" and "ratatouille" have unmarked plural forms?

According to Microsoft® Encarta® 2009, the word elision has an unmarked plural elision (no -s suffix) as an alternative to elisions. Can "elision" be used as a plural form? If so, is it due ...
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51 views

Why does the word 'pitch' have so many meanings? [closed]

I was thinking a bit about the concept of a sales pitch, and I looked the word up on the free dictionary. I can see from here that the word pitch has a couple of similar meanings do with tar all ...
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1answer
94 views

How did the name pronunciation of the letter Z as 'zee' become the consensus in American English?

According to Wikipedia as well as my own experiences interacting with people of different nationalities, the pronunciation of 'Z' seems to have maintained some variation of the hard t- sound from the ...
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6answers
658 views

Is 'call screening' really 'filtering'?

When someone talks about 'call screening', that means they are looking at who is calling on the phone and only allowing certain calls through. They are 'filtering out' the unwanted calls, but I've ...
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54 views

How conservative was Old English about the verbal paradigm(s) of 'to be'?

Premise: English has no cognate to the Germanic verb sein "to be" which is known by comparison with other Germanic languages. Question: Does the relative chronology of the word "sin&...
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79 views

How did "combo" arise as an abbreviation for "combination"? [duplicate]

I am interested in the shortening of "combination" to "combo." I understand the etymology of "combination," and it's clear to me how "comb-" would be used taken ...
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1answer
52 views

attaboys from petty cash

Anyone know what "take a couple of attaboys from petty cash" means, or where it comes from? From the context it seems to be similar to "pat yourself on the back" I googled it and ...
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40 views

Why do so many prefixes end with -o? (Visio, linguo) [closed]

At first I was wondering about “Deleuzoguattarian” but then I saw the Wiktionary list: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_prefixes which is quite striking. The answers in Origin of ...
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1answer
399 views

He had his ears bored

I’m reading The Underground Railroad by Coleson Whitehead. Early in the first chapter he writes: “Her last husband had his ears bored for stealing honey. The wounds gave up pus until he wasted away.” ...
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1answer
82 views

What is the etymology of the term “creamy layer” in Indian English?

According to Wikipedia, “creamy layer is a term used in Indian politics to refer to members of a backward class who are highly advanced socially as well as economically and educationally, and not ...

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