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Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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The pronunciation of the word 'junta'

I am just wondering if there is a historical explanation for the two different ways of pronouncing junta, a word of Spanish origin, with /h/ as in American English and with /dƷ/ in British English.
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What's up with this archaic usage of “leads”?

This is my first Stack Exchange post, so please let me know if there'd be a better place to ask this question! I'm reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens right now, and I came upon this bit, ...
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What is the etymology of the phrase “make it rain”?

I had always thought that this phrase had originated with American rap culture (in fact, this site credits Young Jeezy with coining the term), and certainly In the context of money, that’s probably ...
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What is the etymology behind the euphemism “The Troubles”? [on hold]

What is the etymology or history behind the euphemism "The Troubles" for the unrest/civil war in Northern Ireland?
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Is “I did not breakfast today” correct? [migrated]

Is the following sentence correct? I did not breakfast today Due to breakfast coming from ‘to break your fast’.
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1answer
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When was “Chronic” first used as its own antonym?

The word "Chronic" means "long lasting", or "occurring over an extended period of time". A chronic illness one that you will have for a long time (if not for your entire life), or take a long time to ...
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“Indian” comes from Italian/Spanish “gente in dios” (God-like people)? False etymology?

A while ago in January The Black Hebrew Israelites were speaking/shouting/proselytizing to surrounding people at Lincoln Memorial. The speaker claimed that the word "Indian" means "savage". A member ...
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Origin of the word “spudger”

It appears to derive from the word "spuddle" which goes back to the middle ages, but the earliest I could find for "spudger" was 1877. Any additional information would be appreciated!
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Origin of the word “yeet”

Dear fellow linguists, I have been researching the origins of the spurious word "yeet" Various studies have returned the root word "yeetus," however this does not provide any further clarification ...
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What is the fourth of a series if the third is a trilogy? [closed]

What Word is The reference point referring to a movie which has four parts being the series. If trilogy is three movies this blood is for maintenance?
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How can “telecommuting” mean “to not commute or travel”?

Wikipedia describes that telecommuting … is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel (e.g. by bus or car) … If you do not commute, how can you call it "...
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Etymology of words “throw” and “catch” when talking about “programming exceptions” [duplicate]

I must first apologize if this is the wrong place to ask this. According to the guidelines on cs.stackexchange and stackoverflow, this question was clearly considered "off topic" for both of those ...
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Does technology mean the technique, the terminology, or both? [on hold]

Does technology mean technique, terminology, or both? I am asking because it would seem that language itself is a technology, a tool, for distinguishing reality, but would in common usage would think ...
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Origin of “beat” as a census division?

In one sense, the word beat means an area regularly traversed by someone, such as a police officer. I'm wondering about the origin of this term as applied to an obsolete type of census division in ...
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Why is the English word of Chinese origin “Shih Tzu” used to refer to a dog breed not known in Chinese as “Shih Tzu”?

It is well known that it comes from a Wade-Giles transcription of the Mandarin Chinese word for "lion dog" (獅子狗 shih1-tzu0-kou3, from 獅子 "lion" + 狗 "dog"). This is part is indubitable. There's no ...
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European country names as US last names

An etymology / genealogy question: Americans sometimes have European country names as last names, presumably due to origin. But I only see SOME European countries as surnames, not others. I hear ...
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Etymology of “drawback”

What's the etymology of "drawback"? Most sources I've found give a date all the way back to the 1720s 1, but with only vague explanation apart from the date. Etymology Online says: "hindrance, ...
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1answer
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Origin of “[noun]-shaped object” as a negative phrase?

I've seen this type of phrase used in many different contexts to mean "something with the form of an object but lacking substance or quality". Examples: Wal-Mart bikes are sometimes called "bike-...
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How did quit come to mean quite

I've often been confused how 'quite' can mean so many things and upon leaning that it comes from 'quit' I only have more questions. How did quit semantically drift to come to mean quite?
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Was “Congress” used to refer to an entity before the Constitution?

According to Merriam-Webster, a definition of Congress is "1a: the act or action of coming together and meeting". The first known use of the word is "1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1a" and the ...
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1answer
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There is any relation between the English verb “ask” and the French expression “est-ce que”?

I was thinking about the pronunciation of the English verb "ask" and how it's similar to the French expression "est-ce que", used to start questions in some cases. I searched for the origin of "ask" ...
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committee and commitment

Why is one spelt with one t as in commitment where other stems of this word use two t's, such as committee and similar? Is there an etymological explanation for this difference?
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1answer
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Letter U in American English vs British English [duplicate]

Why was the letter 'U' dropped from many words such as colour, odour etc? And also why is the letter 'l' spelt as a singular, when in British English it's used as a double 'll' in most words, ...
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Etymology: “bricked” (to render an electronic device inoperable)

Bricked (informal): cause (a smartphone or other electronic device) to become completely unable to function, typically on a permanent basis. The absolute earliest google hit I was able to find on ...
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1answer
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Origin of “my dog ate my homework”?

Is there a specifc incident or origin story for the common joke/comedic phrase "my dog ate my homework"? I always wondered whether there was a student who became notorious for not turning in their ...
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Monthly from Month or from moon

Is the word "monthly"(menstruation) comes from "moon" because of moon forces (by analogy with low and high tides) or from "month" because of it's period?
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Where does compulsory do support come from?

We are familiar with the concept of "do support", where the verb do is used as a modal verb. It can be found frequently in Shakespeare and before and it is claimed to derive from the Celtic languages ...
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How recent is the use of “so” as in “I'm so full”, and did it originate in US or UK English?

On another site somebody has claimed that "so" in constructions like "I'm so full" is "modern California-style young people's colloquial English". But is it? I'm over 50, I'm a native English speaker,...
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“Fling in the Hay”

I have trouble finding anything about this. Google offers several quotes at the top of the results: Rowena Cory Daniells, "The King's Bastard", 2016 'You fancy her!' Lence nodded, 'And ...
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1answer
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“Brief moment” is what type of (incorrect) expression?

"Bow down", "momentary pause"small little" and "brief moment" are what types of expression? As an editor, I constantly have to correct this in people's writing.
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What's happening in this sentence using “far away”?

"David and Emma live far away in the mountains." What grammatical role do the words "far" and "away" have in that sentence? I realize that "far away" must be an adverbial, that can be both a ...
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1answer
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Tumblesauce for somersault: Has anyone else heard of this term outside of Jewish communities?

I grew up calling "somersaults" tumblesauces. A Google search turns up a Jewish women's forum deliberating on whether this is a Jewish thing (I am Jewish too by the way.) So, has anyone else here ...
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Where did “Bob” come from? [duplicate]

Examples: Yes Siree Bob Bob's your uncle Who is bob and where did he/she come from?
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When did “committee” become a collective noun, and why?

According to dictionary.com, "committee" comes from late Middle English, with the suffix -ee added to the word "commit". Typical use of the -ee suffix would imply the meaning of "one who commits" or "...
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1answer
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White Noises, Person or People

What is the earliest printed use in English, including relevant context, of 'white person' or 'white people'? As nearly as I have been able to discover, the term is first found in print in these ...
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1answer
150 views

White Noises, Woman or Women

What is the earliest printed use in English, including relevant context, of 'white woman' or 'white women'? As nearly as I have been able to discover, the term is first found in print in these ...
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147 views

White Noises, Man or Men

What is the earliest printed use in English, including relevant context, of 'white man' or 'white men'? As nearly as I have been able to discover, the term is first found in print in these contexts: ...
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How does 'order' in 'in order for/that/to' relate to the common meanings of 'order'?

Etymonline avouches that: in order to (1650s) preserves etymological notion of "sequence." The word reflects a medieval notion: "a system of parts subject to certain uniform, established ranks or ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “penetrate at a bound”

I was reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation recently when a phrase stuck out to me: “penetrate at a bound [to].” In context, with boldface added: “The best men on the planets of the kingdoms are sent ...
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Are there other interjections to substitute for “jeez”, “good grief”, “oh my god”, "and other interjections containing religion? [duplicate]

I would like to know if there are interjections expressing exasperation, annoyance, anger, frustration without connection to religion. Preferably doesn't originate from it either. No euphemism too. ...
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3answers
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When and how did the word hashtag come about? [duplicate]

What caused the change from calling "#" a pound sign to calling it a hashtag? Why? I know that Twitter had much to do with the coinage, but how and why did it come about?
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What term predated “even” when referring to numbers?

Had this posted on the Linguistics stackexchange, and was pointed here as a more appropriate spot to ask. In doing some poking around in etymologies, I noticed that while "odd" in the sense of "odd ...
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What's the history behind the phrase “I hear Violins”..?

At work I often listen to Pandora with headphones on. Today it played a beautiful chillout track I hadn't heard in years: Conjure One - Center Of The Sun. The song lyrics use the phrase "I hear volins"...
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279 views

What is the first date of documented usage and attribution of the term “white race” and/or “white races”?

From my own independent research into the origin of the terms, "white" and "race", and specifically the terms "white race" or "white races" as applied to natural persons, the earliest primary source ...
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“Cheaper by the dozen” phrase origin?

Over on Politics.Meta.SE a comment by user Guest271314 asserts a repugnant etymology: ...You cannot expect readers to parse when you are engaging in direct communication or "colloquially" speaking. ...
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Why, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, does “square” mean “quarrel”?

When referring to dictionaries, there seems to be no such meaning as "quarrel" under the word "square", only "in agreement". But in II 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, "square" in the following text ...
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What is the etymology of the word blueprint? Why is it blue? [closed]

What is the etymology of the word blueprint? Is this a fairly recent word? I'm wondering why the word "blue" is there.
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1answer
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Why has the word “discombobulate” stuck around? [closed]

I was thinking of there being very silly sounding words. The first one that popped to mind was "discombobulated"... and then that was it. Is it just me, or are silly words not really around anymore? ...
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4answers
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Why is a cold shower called a “Scottish Shower”?

A hot shower capped off with a cold rinse is often called a Scottish Shower. The expression appears to be closely related to Ian Fleming who used it in his novels, but it is not clear whether he ...
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Did the way quotation marks are used, change at some point, in the past 100 years?

I hope this question is allowed - I'm considering it question from an etymological standpoint :) I have noticed that on vintage signs / memorabilia / magazines, phrases or words are quoted, seemingly ...