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. Please use the 'phrase-origin' tag for phrase/expression origins.

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What is the etymology of the phrase "see what one had for breakfast"?

This phrase is usually referred to women who (accidentally?) reveals more than intended because of such as wearing a short skirt or falling over and having their clothes flip over and thus reveal ...
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2 answers
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”Under the auspices of” etymology

I don’t understand how the expression under the auspices of (roughly meaning with the support of) developed from auspices (meaning observation of the flight and feeding of birds to discover omens). ...
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Is the phrase "seize the court" etymologically related to the term assizes? [closed]

From Wikipedia: assise < Old French assise ("session, legal action" – past participle of asseoir, "to seat") < Vulgar Latin *assedēre < Latin assidēre ("to sit ...
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Where did the term "How's tricks" come from?

Where does it come from and what it really use to mean?
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What is the definition of "software"? Does a 3D computer model like a .blend or .fbx file count? What about an audio.wav file? [closed]

Title says it all, what really constitutes "software"? Is there a more general and all encompassing term, to also account for audio, 3d models, images, etc? I am actually looking for a ...
1 vote
0 answers
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What alternatives to Google are there for searching for examples of phrases in old texts? [migrated]

I have used Google for many years, to search for phrases such as "party to the scene", but I have never used any other computerized databases.
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Teutonic for the thing, Romance for the reflection

In the first chapter of Capital on page 126 (1990 Penguin Edition), a footnote is attached to the sentence, "The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value." In English writers of the ...
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Is the word "also" related to the phrase "although it may be so"?

Note that the word "also" is a sub-sequence of the phrase "although that may be so"? ALTHOUGH THAT MAY BE SO AL SO A L T H O U G H chr(32) I T chr(32) M A Y chr(...
7 votes
1 answer
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The origin of slang GOAT (in a field) for the "greatest of all time"

Lately, I have seen GOAT being used for people. Like: Lionel Messi is called the GOAT. Muhammad Ali boxed his way into our hearts and will forever be known as GOAT. John may end up being the GOAT. ...
2 votes
1 answer
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Is 'gonna' anachronistic in Sweeney Todd?

In one song the boy sings "nothing's gonna harm you". This struck me as odd because I was under the impression that "gonna" was a primarily American slang that was adopted by the ...
5 votes
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rascal etymology

I use the word rascal (as in troublemaker) to describe my 7-month old daughter. My father in law (from Costa Rica) recently used the Spanish word "rascar" (rascarse) meaning to scratch, ...
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When and why did the word "pasta" become commonly used?

I remember sometime around 1980 that people started calling pasta... "pasta". I was in a used book store this past weekend and stumbled across two copies of the Better Homes and Gardens New ...
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1 answer
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"Dementia" today vs 100 years ago -- did it mean the same thing?

I know that words for mental illnesses have changed quite a bit in the past century or so. Informally, I think most people see a difference between "crazy" and "unintelligent" ...
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Is there a possible link between the word cuff and scuff?

The word scuff is of Scottish and perhaps Scandinavian skufa , skyfa “to shove, push aside.” That seems similar to the verb cuff - to strike with an open hand. Both were from an unknown origin cuff ...
17 votes
2 answers
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Who "died peacefully" first and when?

The question came to my mind when I read the recent news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, first appeared in the official Twitter account of The Royal Family as: The Queen died peacefully at ...
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1 answer
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Where does “work your ring off” come from?

I’ve heard the expression “work your ring off” my whole life in Australia. It means (as I understand it), to work until exhaustion. But trying to find the origin of the expression has come up empty; ...
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1 answer
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What is the origin of "hug"?

Hugging is a universal form of endearment and the verb hug is a very common word in English, yet the origin of the word is unknown. OED boldy says that "Appears late in 16th cent.: origin unknown....
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1 answer
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Did "paprika" ever refer primarily to the fruit, and not the spice, in English?

Background: In many languages other than English, paprika is the word for Capsicum peppers (bell peppers, chili peppers). In English, comparatively, paprika seems to refer primarily (only?) to the ...
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2 answers
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When did "other" become a verb?

Other, one of the most common adjectives and pronouns, as verb means: : to treat or consider (a person or a group of people) as alien to oneself or one's group (as because of different racial, ...
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4 answers
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Numerals 13-19 are based on 10. Why do 11 and 12 follow a different pattern? [duplicate]

11 and 12 mean “one left” and “two left” respectively, referring to number 10. In other words, etymologically, they are NOT remnants of a base 12 number system. They are decimal, just like the -teen ...
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1 answer
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When did "Delta" start being used for "effectiveness" or "complexity" measure in a sentence?

I came across this article looking to resolve the dilemma of pronunciation of "Arkansas", and found a strange use of word "Delta" that is rare. If in that article you see this ...
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1 answer
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Why does vowel length of Middle English trust not match its probable Old Norse etymon traust?

It's natural to expect retention of vowel length when a word is borrowed from ON to ME, and that's indeed what happened with e. g. ME adj. lọ̄s 'free; loose' from ON lauss. However, ME n. trust is ...
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Is the word "sightseeing" tautological?

Is this word sometimes perceived as "silly" by a native speaker? By "silly" I mean something in itself a bit absurd, because repetitive, naively constructed, given that this word ...
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"Software rot" or is there a better term to convey the idea of a slow deterioration of software quality over time?

I just found this term https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_rot: Software rot, also known as bit rot, code rot, software erosion, software decay, or software entropy is either a slow deterioration ...
14 votes
3 answers
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Why does 'luck out' have the completely opposite meaning to 'out of luck'?

How did this arise? Seems paradoxical.
5 votes
1 answer
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What does "rule" mean in "the rule of law"?

What does rule mean in the rule of law? I understand the concept of it, but not the grammar. Does "rule" mean "control"/"domination"? Or does it mean "rule" as ...
1 vote
2 answers
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What is the animal adjective relating to tegu lizards (salvatorine, tupinambine etc.)?

If I were to go on a "corvine extermination expedition," we would understand an intent to exterminate crows, of genus corvus. The invasive tegu lizards in Florida are subject to such ...
1 vote
0 answers
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What's the etymology for the term "resilvering" as used in computer file systems like hardware RAID, btrfs, ZFS, etc?

Hardware systems like traditional RAID, or modern software systems like ZFS, btrfs, etc. Are used for redundancy (and performance) of the storage of data. E.g. if you have 6 drives with ZFS, you can ...
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What is the path of the expression "fall out" to mean have a quarrel?

I wonder what would be the logical or historical path that led the phrasal verb "fall out" to mean to have a quarrel? I mean phrasal verbs are not baptized to an action out of the blue, ...
3 votes
1 answer
393 views

What is the origin of the phrase "(strength) on the part of"?

It suddenly popped into my mind when I wanted to acknowledge my colleague's strength and determination in face of adversity and sickness. I am curious about where the phrase "(strength) on the ...
13 votes
3 answers
4k views

Where does “beats me” come from?

The colloquial AmE expression “beats me” appears to be quite old: Greens Dictionary of Slang earliest usage dates from mid 19th c. But unluckily it doesn’t provide any suggestion about its origin. ...
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1 answer
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Can "attack-on" be considered a new English word? [closed]

I was curious about making new words in English and comparing this process to my native language. I wanted an adjective that describes a person who is actively involved in attacking different places. ...
-1 votes
2 answers
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Why are "just" and "justice" written with a "j", while "language" is written with a "g", when they all come from Latin?

The word "language" comes from Latin and is written with a "g". The adjective "just" and its noun form "justice" also come from Latin. These are the only words ...
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1 answer
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In the word "plain", what is the metaphor underlying the sense "explicit, clear, evident"?

According to etymonline.com, the word plain (as used in e.g. explain or plain English) first appeared in the sense of "flat, smooth, even". Later, the sense of "explicit, clear, evident&...
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2 votes
1 answer
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A drug on the market is not what it seems?

A “drug on the market” is something in such great supply relative to demand that its price is very low, or it is unsaleable. See for example: Free Dictionary drug on the market A commodity whose ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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What is the meaning and etymology of the phrase "T4"?

I have often heard Orthodox Jewish kids use a phrase "t4". It usually means "just throwing this out there for attenton" but I am not exactly sure. I have finally seen this in-print ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Why are mirage and visage pronounced differently? [closed]

Why do we say mirage with an ah sound but visage with a j sound? I thought it was because of the origin of the word but they both came from French.
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1 answer
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Origin of Aussie Slang "Stack" and "Stacked it"

Bit of a weird one but I'm wondering where the slang "stack it" in terms of falling over comes from. Stack: (Australia, slang) A fall or crash, a prang. 2016 June 19, Tom Williams, “Watch ...
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Does "rickety" come from "rickets" or vice versa?

If you have rickets your skeleton could be said to be rickety, perhaps. I wonder whether "rickets" comes from "rickety" or vice versa. The Merriam Webster entry for rickety says ...
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1 answer
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What do "mug " and "wump" mean in mugwump?

Professional politicians are masters of equivocation—they are, on most vital issues, mugwumps; they sit on a fence with their mugs on one side and their wumps on the other. — Word Power Made Easy ...
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1 answer
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Why is 'u' in "study" short if the 'u' in "student" is long?

Why is 'u' in "study" short if the 'u' in "student" is long? Both come from Latin "studere", right? In Latin, the 'u' in "studere" is short.
2 votes
2 answers
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How did the meaning 'produce', used as a noun, emerge from the meaning of 'produce', used as a verb?

Produce, used as a noun, stands for fresh, unprocessed fruit and vegetables. In a produce aisle of a supermarket, we thus expect to find tomatoes, cucumbers, and apples, but not ketchup, tinned beans, ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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Why "monatomic" and not "monoatomic"?

"Mono" means singular, and "atomic" stands for the atom. So combining them will give a single atom - "monatomic". But why is this so? Why can't it be "monoatomic&...
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1 answer
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Does the usage of "ho" or "hoe" for "whore" predate the 20th century?

In Medieval Pleasures: What Was Sex Really Like In The Middle Ages?, Leeds Trinity professor Dr. Kate Lister shows how the records of medieval British street names reveal secrets regarding illicit ...
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3 answers
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Why is the word "oven" used to refer to a cremator in a concentration camp?

If I read "the bodies were incinerated in ovens" I can be fairly sure that a concentration camp (run by Nazi Germany) is being referred to, because normally, when a death camp is not being ...
3 votes
1 answer
170 views

Where does the "dysfunctional or broken" meaning of the word "demic" come from?

As a rail enthusiast I often hear the word "demic", which Wiktionary tells me has a dialectical meaning of "dysfunctional or broken". However it does not list any reason why it ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Origin of “Peace Through Superior Firepower”

(I’m not sure if this is a valid question here†, as the phrase is arguably not common enough to be classed as a fixed expression.) Is there an ascertainable origin of Peace Through Superior Firepower? ...
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2 answers
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Why is "hammock" spelled the way it is?

The word hammock comes from Spanish hamaca. type of hanging bed, 1650s, alteration of hamack, hamaca (1550s), from Spanish hamaca, from Arawakan (Haiti) word apparently meaning "fish nets" (...
1 vote
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Etymology of phrase, "to get the better/best of" [closed]

What is the origin of the term, "to get the better/best" of? While I've looked at some sources, they say the meaning without giving the etymology of the phrase. Since the meaning has to do ...
4 votes
2 answers
176 views

What is the origin of the idiom "get/be shot of"?

Definition Get/be shot of someone/something slang To get rid of. — Collins Examples He didn't want to be seen near me and couldn't wait to get shot of me. City experts still reckon the company ...

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