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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Use of “fat” and “fatty”

Hoping to understand why “fat” is used as an adjective and noun rather than “fatty” (at least in everyday English). For example: “cat fat” (noun) and “fat cat” (adjective). “That is a fat cat”. Not “...
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In which dialects is "knowed" the past tense of know?

In some folk songs, such as Woody Guthrie's "Hard Traveling" and Townes Van Zandt's "Poncho and Lefty," the word "knowed" is used as the past tense of "know." ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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When was the word co-ord first used?

The word co-ord means one of two or more pieces of clothing that are made in matching colours or styles so that they can be worn together When was this word first used in this sense?
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Origin of 'go (off) on a jag'

We used to use this expression in upstate New York during the 1970s..as in jag (noun) a bout of drinking or drug taking Vocabulary.com To "be on a jag" or "go on a jag" means to ...
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3 votes
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Origin of the phrase "head shop"

As more U.S. states legalize marijuana, "head shops" (places that sell drug paraphernalia and related items) are experiencing a bit of a comeback. Where did this term come from? Few online ...
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A Hypernym for an online store with a niche not limited to clothing, jewelry cosmetics shoes and accessories virtually everything [closed]

So basically I need a name for online store,a word that not necessarily one it could have a prefix or suffix, I thought of ApprealOasis.com,Threadoasis, funliviastore I just need to shout cloths ...
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6 votes
2 answers
297 views

Is the phrase “nitty-gritty” racist?

A BBC article, dated 15 May 2002, asserts the expression nitty-gritty is banned from British politics (and also by police services) due to its supposedly disagreeable origin. The emphasis in bold is ...
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16 votes
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Why and when did "fowls" start being called "chickens"?

(Note: I've seen the question What's the difference between 'fowl' and 'poultry'? but I am not asking about the definition, rather the historical usage pattern.) In modern English ...
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What are the origins of "tech" as an abbreviation for "technology?

I'm trying to trace the origins and rise in popularity of the abbreviation "tech" from "technology." From what I can tell, the term began taking off in popular culture around the ...
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1 answer
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Why do we use the word "unborn" instead of "nonborn"?

Wouldn't "un-" imply something that occurred and then was reversed? Like undo, untie, unravel? If a child is in utero, shouldn't we call it "nonborn"? When did "unborn" ...
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Why is "deterrence” spelt with two r's?

Looking at a medium-sized word list, all words are written "erence" with the exception of "deterrence" and the name "Terrence". I can find 50 words ending in "erence&...
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Act of intentional deceit [duplicate]

I’m not looking for mislead, beguile, or con. It’s akin somewhat like red herring and it’s the practice of intentionally leading someone to a false conclusion usually for the sake of disproving them. ...
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Is “I'm working totes” new slang?

I was reading a New York Times article about a Dollar General employee who was fired from her job in Tampa, Florida, when her TikTok videos went viral. In these videos, the retail store manager ...
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Is there more to “A hell of a …” than mere interjection or expletive?

Previous examination of “A hell of a …” on this site focussed on emphasis, interjection or expletive usage. As examples we have: (What is the meaning of "a hell of a lot"?) a great deal or ...
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Etymology of fruit names (the unusual formation of berry fruit names and the indigenous fruits of England)

I am from Italy. Italy has a warmer climate than England, some fruits that naturally grow in Italy (and maybe they do not naturally grow in England) have an English name that sounds a lot like the ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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What is the origin of the word "latte" referring to a caffè latte?

Latte, as in the usage I'd like a latte (example from Cambridge English Empower, 2015) is ubiquitous among English speakers who have visited coffee bars or seen them in film or TV. It means a caffè ...
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9 votes
2 answers
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What is the origin of "deadly" as "excellent" in Irish and Australian English?

I wonder what the origin of "deadly" as "very good" and "excellent" is in Irish and Australian English. For example, a satisfied hotel guest might say, "The staff ...
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Does anyone know the expression "Aye Gannies" (or perhaps the spelling is "I gonees")

Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks we had a neighbor named Hicks who used this expression. One of Mr. Hick's frequent and unique expressions was, “I Gannies” (the “a” was short). The only other times ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Where does the "1-10" attractiveness scale come from?

When did the "1-10" attractiveness or beauty scale become part of our vocabulary? I've seen quite a few papers and books using a 1-10 attractiveness scale around the 1970s for several ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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What Greek preposition is in “exorcism”, “ek” or “ex”?

I realize this may not be typical for this forum, but I have seen the term translated to English in another post. I find exorcism explained with "ek" with the verb "horkizo” The word “...
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22 votes
2 answers
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What is the origin of "playing into someone's hands"?

Quote: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the US president said, as he urged democracies around the world to unite against the Russian president in a speech in Poland’s capital ...
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1 answer
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On the American usage of the words Congressman, Representative and Senator [closed]

From Merriam-Webster: congressman a member of a congress especially : a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Examples of congressman in a Sentence: a former congressman who is now a senator ...
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Origin of phrase "put one over on"?

Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "put one over" or "put one over on [someone]" in the sense of to trick or deceive? The meaning is listed in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary (...
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0 votes
1 answer
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Is the origin of the use of the word "how" as an intensifier the bible?

Taken literally, the phrase "how lovely!" is sort of odd, as "how" is just serving as a substitute for "so" or "very". Wondering if this came about from a ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
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Why does "know" start with k but "gnostic" start with g?

It appears that know and gnostic share the same etymology (PIE gnō, apparently through Greek gnōstikós). So how did they come to start with different letters?
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5 votes
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Why do we pronounce the numerals from 13 to 19 backwards (as in thir[3]-teen[10])?

In counting, languages typically go one direction or the other. e.g., 1,234 is said "one thousand two hundred thirty four," not "four thirty two hundred one thousand." However, in ...
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Can the word "abstract" mean "to apply payment"?

I use a proprietary piece of software at work for entering AR payments and the user interface calls this process of applying payments to invoices "abstracting." This term is commonly used in ...
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1 vote
0 answers
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Does "reclaiming" only apply to group-identity derogatory words (turned into terms of empowerment)?

I have a follow up to this question, Is there a term or word for the process of a group of people taking (or attempting to) an insulting word/phrase and making it their own? which received the ...
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1 answer
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Aren't English' "shoe" and French' "chaussure" related?

I was absolutely certain that shoe (en) and chaussure (fr) were cognates due to the obvious similarity between their first syllable, especially the pronunciation - that was until I looked them up on ...
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1 vote
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What is the origin of the idiom of “to stick it to someone”? [duplicate]

My cursory review so far has only been able to uncover the fact that dictionaries can’t even have a consensus on the exact meaning of it, and they differ substantially in how they define it. Collins — ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Are the words “proverb” and “pronoun” etymologically related?

I’m not aware of any verb equivalents of a pronoun. We have to say “he did what?” We don’t just have a single word like we do for nouns that replaces the verb. But do proverbs function on this way at ...
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19 votes
1 answer
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What sport is being referenced in the phrase "take one for the team"?

"Take one for the team" is a ubiquitous expression that can quickly be understood as putting yourself in an unfavorable position for the benefit of the larger group. But the expression ...
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3 votes
3 answers
154 views

Why do some people say “negative growth” instead of using a single word indicating a decrease?

I am not a native English speaker, nor am I an economist. I have heard the term "negative growth" used in the context of Gross National Product (GNP), and it seems that it is also used in ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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What is the etymology of ID (or I.D.), as in something used for identification?

Pretty much what the title says: I am interested in more information on the origins of the word (abbreviation?) ID, sometimes spelled I.D., as referring to something related to identification or ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the etymology of "tiger team"?

A friend is part of a "tiger team"; I read over Wikipedia to learn some examples of its usage. The (albeit incomplete) Google Books snippet of the oldest wiki reference "Program ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What does sartorial connote?

What does “sartorial” connote? Looking it up, sartorial means relating to tailored clothing, possibly “high fashion”. Just how old fashioned is it? Is it used more often for men than women? Was it ...
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5 votes
2 answers
125 views

Was it common to use the noun mem-sahib outside India?

I have recently seen the noun mem-sahib, used to refer a white foreign woman living in India, in two different books. The books are Indian Passion and Nowhere in Africa. I have not found any ...
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2 votes
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What is the etymology or history of "Your" for addressing a noble?

There are several ways of noble addressing, such as: Third person - female (Her) Third person - male (His) Second person (Your) e.g : Your Highness But, what are the meanings behind that? Why it ...
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3 votes
4 answers
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English verbs derived from ἄρχω (árkhō)?

I'm a historian, so this isn't my speciality. I'm looking into the etymology of "to lead" and related verbs. Since there are numerous verbs with some similarity but vastly different ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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"Syncretic" vs "Syncretistic" with negative connotation

I need to translate a sentence from Greek which literally sounds something like this: At that time a syncretic/syncretistic spirit prevailed and the X (name of nation) were influenced by the beliefs ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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why not differenciate? [closed]

From difference (noun) and different (adj), the verb differentiate is derived. However, why the verb form is not differenciate? Is it because it happened to be derived from the adj, not the noun? Or ...
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16 votes
3 answers
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Where does the word stoothing come from? Is it used in any other contexts apart from "stoothing wall"?

My father uses the expression "stoothing wall" to refer to a stud or internal wall. What is the origin of the word "stoothing" ? Is it ever used in any contexts other than "...
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1 vote
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What is the etymology of the name of the River Cherwell in England? [closed]

The River Cherwell is the second largest tributary of the Thames after the River Kennet. What is the etymology of its name? I could not find any etymology after checking several websites.
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6 votes
4 answers
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What is the origin of the joke 'a freckle past a hair' when one is asked the time of day?

Growing up in Canada, I heard this dialogue a hundred times:\ Dude: "What time is it?" Guy pantomimes watch-checking, but his wrist is bare Guy: "It's a freckle past a hair." ...
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0 votes
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's ending in English simple present tense

I was wondering whether someone would be able to explain the origin of the -s form as used to bind a predicate with a third person subject (he,she,it) to express a "simple " present ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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When and where did the phrase "Blue alert" originate?

I've been trying to figure out where and when the phrase "blue alert" was first used. I know it has multiple meanings and I also found a reference to its origin, but I need to dig deeper. I ...
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4 votes
2 answers
68 views

Where does the term "bucket" in cloud storage come from?

In Amazon S3, Google Cloud storage, etc., they refer to containers that hold data as buckets. I was curious where this originated from. The closest I could find was maybe bit bucket maybe referring to ...
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6 votes
5 answers
3k views

Transformation Of The Meaning Of the Word "Idiot" [closed]

The historical core meaning of the word "idiot" was a person with a low IQ to a developmentally disabled degree. This sense of the word is now used infrequently as it is considered rude. ...
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11 votes
3 answers
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Which "bra" came first?

Most people associate the word "bra" is an abbreviation of "brassiere". But in science "bra" is a type of vector which is part of bra-ket notation. I think it sounds a ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the etymology of the phrase "Scraping the bottom of the barrel"?

I've known this phrase to mean roughly "Using ideas which are bad". The Collin's definition seems to be "to be forced to use one's last and weakest resource". I've seen claims that ...
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