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Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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What does psychogrammatic mean?

In a recent interview, that Mark Levin had with Victor Davis Hanson, Hanson uses the word psycho-grammatic in reference to how Donald Trump ran his campaign. My Oxford dictionary does not recognise ...
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Etymology of “between a rock and hard place”

I don't find any of the origin stories posted for this phrase plausible. Has anyone scoured the many concordances of the English Bible? If the answer is no, I'll embark on the task myself.
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-sen for -self in English: history and usage

In my class there is a gentleman from the north of England who uses "-sen" instead of "-self" in such words as "himself" ("himsen") and "myself" ("mysen"). As far as I can tell, he always uses "-sen" ...
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Why is a drunk person often said to be “cut” or “half-cut”?

The usage is confirmed as sense 8 of the adjectival cut per the OED - see below. However no etymology is given. slang. Drunk, intoxicated. 1673 R. Head Canting Acad. 171 He is flaw'd, ...
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Origin of “name and shame”

According to the Phrase Finder the idiomatic expression name and shame was originally used as a noun phrase, From the Pennsylvania newspaper The Warren Ledger, October 1884: "None are ...
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Back-dating “drunk driver”

I've been impressed by the quality of research done on this forum. I have "drunk driver" meaning one who drives an automobile while intoxicated from 1948. I'm pretty sure it's older than that. Can ...
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“Incumbent” as “current”. Usage and its etymology

Empirical research on neighborhood change, however, has produced no conclusive evidence that incumbent residents are in fact displaced under circumstances of gentrification. (source) This is ...
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Why did confort become comfort?

According to Wiktionary the english word comfort should derive by the french word confort. So why did english adopted the term replacing the french "n" with the "m"?
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The Etymology of “husband’s tea”

I am an English teacher. While teaching my students l am often asked about English idioms and their etymologies and meanings. As a rule, I can find the answers to their questions. But there's an idiom ...
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What is the origin of “Curses!” as an expression?

I understand it is said to express annoyance, frustration, and the like. However, I do not know about its origins. According to Etymonline: Curses as a histrionic exclamation is from 1885 Did ...
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From Black Friday to Cyber Monday!

Sources available on line say that the expression “Cyber Monday” is just a few years old, dating its coinage to 2005: The term "Cyber Monday" was dreamt up in 2005 by a marketing team at Shop.org,...
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What is the etymology of the word clout when meaning influence?

Merrian Webster defines clout 4 : PULL, INFLUENCE political clout She parlayed her box-office clout to wealth and independence — B. S. Pierre Etymonline explains that clout: Sense ...
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Meaning and etymology of “to have a flag day” [on hold]

I've come across the phrase "to have a flag day." From context it's clear that it's not talking about any kind of celebration of a literal flag, rather, it seems to refer to a synchronization point ...
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First written use of expression “smokin' hot”

I'd be grateful to know the year the expression "smokin' hot" was initially used in a written work. Thank you.
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Why do ash (trees) and ash (burnt residue) have the same name?

I've often wondered why ash (trees) and ash (burnt residue) have the same name. I've looked up the origin of both words, but I don't see anything that explains why the names are the same. From the ...
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Continuous(Progressive) module in Old English

I'm curious as to the origins of the Continuous(progressive) module. Whenever I meet texts emulating old speech, like in: video game RPGs, books like the Saxon Chronicles, Hollywood movies about the ...
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Why is “builded” an archaic variant of built, given that usually the language evolves the other way?

In one of the Nature articles related to Google n-grams site [1], as well as in the book [2], the authors describe (and quantify the rate of) the process of regularization of English irregular verbs. ...
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Why do we say “traffic jam”?

A thought occurred to me during a tedious journey yesterday, when travelling why do we use the word jam when describing being …caught in a traffic jam? It is just a queue, in this case, it ...
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Are “phonics” and “Phoenician” related?

I was watching a history lecture recently, and the professor stated that after the Greek "dark ages," during which their previously used written language was lost and forgotten, a new written language ...
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When was the phrase “smoke-filled room” first used in politics?

Smoke-filled room is used in politics to mean: a room (as in a hotel) in which a small group of politicians carry on negotiations Merriam-Webster The phrase originated in the U.S. to describe ...
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Origin of the negative connotation of “boy”

Recently I stumbled on a discussion where the word "chico" in Spanish is translated to "boy". To my knowledge, using "chico" to refer to someone younger is considered normal. But in English, calling ...
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When did “awkwarde” mean “backhanded”?

In an old tale about Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne this can be read: Robin thought on Our Lady deere, And soone leapt vp againe, And thus he came with an awkwarde stroke; Good Sir Guy hee ...
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Why is “as fit as a fiddle” about being fit and well?

This article is on the origin of the idiom as fit as a fiddle. It is said that of course the 'fiddle' here is the colloquial name for violin. 'Fit' didn't originally mean healthy and energetic, ...
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Why is a strange person called a fruitcake?

Fruitcake is an insulting word for someone who you think is strange or crazy (the Macmillan Dictionary). Why does the word have this meaning? What is the similarity between a strange person and a ...
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Why is embassy spelled with E but ambassador with A?

It seems both words are related to each other through French roots (ambassade, ambassadeur), both of which are spelled with an "A" in the front. Why and when was the initial letter of "embassy" ...
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How did “glamour” lose its negative connotations, “possibly because of the more fictional allure peddled by the Hollywood dream factory”?

Why Do Languages Change? (2010) by R. L. Trask. p. 6.     In the late nineteenth century, however, glamour came to be applied more and more regularly and finally only to women, ...
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Is there a name for this grammatical structure where a verb is followed by a direction?

In English there are lots of phrases where a verb is followed by a direction and it takes on a whole new meaning. Examples: get up, get off, get down, take in, take out, take off, etc. This is ...
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Pawn and peon … do they have the same origin and original meaning?

This is something I've been wondering a while and it may be owed to the fact that on occasion when you see a movie or documentary with subtitles turned on, the spoken word that I would recognize as "...
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Does prefix SUB means UNDER or MINUS? [closed]

Reading the interesting answers of subStract Vs subtract, I wonder if SUB mainly means under more than minus? Latin etymology suggest that there was no S in Sub_tract but Sub used in french and ...
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Is there a prefix to denote neutrality?

English has prefixes to denote opposition as well as absence. For example: 'gnostic' vs 'agnostic' (having knowledge vs absence of knowledge) 'social' vs 'asocial' vs 'anti social' (being social, ...
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Boo as a term of endearment

The Cambridge Dictionary defines boo as an AmE expression meaning: (us informal) someone you care about, especially a boyfriend, girlfriend, or other close friend: You will always be my boo....
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Always wondered about its etymology

What has way been doing in always all this time? etymonline: always (adv.) mid-14c., contraction of Old English phrase ealne weg "all the time; quite, perpetually," literally "all the way," ...
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Where does “sport” meaning “wear” come from?

To sport something to have or wear something in a proud way: to sport a beard, she was sporting a T-shirt with the company's logo on it. (OLD) The etymology of sport as a verb doesn’t ...
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What is the origin of the term “cone of shame”?

What is the first known use of the term "cone of shame"? This refers to the plastic cone affixed around dog's necks when they have had a procedure or medical condition. Wikipedia fails to shed any ...
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What does 'a couple of' mean?

A 'couple' is two of something, typically two people or a matching set of things. But it seems like there is ambiguity over what 'a couple of' means. Dictionaries often claim that, 'a couple of' ...
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First use of the word “sequelitis”?

I recently came across the word "sequelitis". As the word does not seem have entered into any of the standard dictionaries yet, the best definition I was able to find is from Wiktionary, which defines ...
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Noun form of “aver”?

It is common in legal writing to aver, meaning to allege, assert, or affirm a fact. (Latin root is adver.) But I can't find any evidence that the obvious noun form of the word, aversion, has ever ...
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Was Valentino the first person to be called ‘sexy’?

According Etymonline , the term sexy underwent a semantic change in the early 1920s when it was used to for the first time with the connotation of “sexually attractive” in reference to Rudolph ...
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What is the origin of the word “washel”?

My wife's family uses the word "washel"or "washle". They are from eastern Ohio, in and about Mineral Ridge, Ohio. They use it in place of crumple, as in "washel a piece of paper". Not sure of ...
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A possible Spanish origin for “lunch”

I have recently discovered the words of José María Pemán from 1941 regarding the origin of the English word lunch. My translation (sorry): Wellington's Englishmen arrive in Spain, they fall in love ...
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What's the etymology of “limerence”?

Limerence is basically a word coined in 1979 by American psychologist Dorothy Tennov. It's a very obscure term, even among psychologists. In fact Tennov's followers in 2010 remarked how few ...
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At what point did “gross” come to mean “disgusting”?

The first time I heard "gross" being used to mean "disgusting" was probably around the late 1980s, and at the time I felt it was some sort of a corruption of "grotesque"... I'm wondering if there is ...
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where did word “ballistic/ballista” originate from? [closed]

Cubic is the adjective form of the noun cube. Where did the adjective ballistic originate? Is ballistic the adjective form of ball? The word ballista means a catapult. Is this because the launched ...
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Was “lukewarm” a way of saying “warm warm”?

Someone used the expression “un-hot question” to describe a post that was in the HNQ (Hot Network Questions) despite not being “hot”. And my thoughts immediately turned to alternatives such as, ‘tepid’...
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Why does English have the word “broomstick”?

Oxford Living Dictionaries' dictionary of North American English defines broomstick as : 1 The long handle of a broom. 1.1 A brush with twigs at one end and a long handle, on which, in children'...
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Is there any etymological connection between Aries and Ares? [closed]

I am wondering if there is any etymological connection between Aries, (the zodiac sign which is said to be ruled by the planet Mars, named for the Roman god of war) and Ares (the Greek god of war)?
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Why are “gym rats” so called?

Why are gym rats so called? someone who spends a lot of time exercising in the gym, and who cares very much about the shape and condition of their body Is it an analogy between a rat living in a ...
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Corduroy etymology

The typical treatment of the etymology of "corduroy" notes that an oft-proposed explanation, French cordes du roi, "the king's ropes", is apocryphal, and that the word's origin is really unknown. ...
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What is “one” in “put one over on (someone)”?

To "put one over" is a slang expression for deceiving someone. The online Oxford Dictionary defines it as follows: put one over on Deceive (someone) into accepting something false. ‘he ...
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Etymology of proper nouns

I had an argument with a friend regarding etymology of the word "Oz" in "The wizard of Oz". I believe that it doesn't have any etymology, and that generally most proper nouns don't have any origin. He ...