Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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1answer
54 views

What is the origin of “stir” meaning “prison”?

In these days of self-isolation the composite "stir-crazy" has come to the fore. Several instances of people saying they or others are "going stir-crazy" have been heard. According to the OED it is ...
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Lockdown vs lockout. does lockdown means lockout? when to use lockdown or lockout? It's really confusing, they actuallly mean the same

Lockdown An emergency impacting a school campus that prevents the safe evacuation of a school building and requires steps to shelter students and staff from danger. Lockdown procedures may also be ...
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Down-to-earth origin/ Etymology

I wonder why we say "down to earth" when referring to someone who is not deceitful. What's the logic behind it? I searched its origin but I didn't get much information. The origin only gives this: ...
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What's the difference between the prefix “re-” and the adverb “again”

For example, "I will reread this article" and "I will read this article again". Are they equivalent? When should I use a hyphen after the prefix "re"?
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Meaning of “to read out” in the clinical trial context - where did this usage originate, and am I right about its meaning?

I was reading an article about some candidate drugs for the COVID-19 infection, and came across a curious usage of read out: Studies for another drug, remdesivir from Gilead Sciences, are expected ...
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Why didn't eliminating 'þon þy' eliminate the meaning of 'for' as 'because'?

Etymonline doesn't expound how: for þon þy shortened to only 'for'. 'for' persisted in meaning because. 'For' is a function word that means many meanings, and 'for' alone doesn't intutively mean '...
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How does 'going forth with others' semantically shift to mean 'going at the same as they do'?

Can someone please expound 'the process of transition' (from this explanation) that I pinpointed with a red arrow below? The website doesn't detail how " this sense of time eventually took over". Can ...
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Pronouncing Diacritics Aloud [closed]

When pronouncing diacritics aloud, how would you say words with a tilde or macron? For example, how would you spell jalapeño and/or Māori? Would you say “n-tilde” and “a-macron”? I assume that’s ...
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What is ”A regular sound change” in old English?

I found this term in Herisson’s answer to the question: How did “Pappa” become “Pope”? I am wondering what a “regular sound change” is and why would it mean people stopped saying Pappa and began ...
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Spelling diacritics in Spelling Bee? [closed]

When you’re spelling words with diacritics like a circumflex (î), cedilla (ç), and diaresis (ï), (and others), for a Spelling Bee, how do you pronounce them out loud? I FINALLY understand accents (a-...
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Smart working, does this word even exist?

Lately I've been hearing and reading the term "smart working" a lot, every day, especially in the news, and now it seems everybody is using this word, including professionals and politicians. It's ...
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What is the history of “may” being used to mean “must”?

According to (online) Merriam-Webster, "may" has the following two distinct definitions, among others 1 b: have permission to 4: SHALL, MUST —used in law where the sense, purpose, or policy ...
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How did zugzwang become an English word?

The word zugzwang means a move in chess which forces your opponent to make a detrimental move; a move causing all of your opponent's options to be moves which will worsen their situation. Although it ...
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Origin of the word “whee”

What is the origin of the word whee, used as an interjection to express enjoyment or delight? The only information I can find is that it is "natural exclamation" first recorded in the 1920's. ...
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What is the meaning of Maribeth?

English names often have meaning. For example, Elijah means "my God is Yahweh". David means "beloved". Alexander means "defender of men". What does Maribeth mean? It seems to have Hebrew roots but it'...
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What is the origin of using 'x' to mean 'with', and how has it spread?

I first came across this in horticulture, for example Viburnum × burkwoodii, to symbolise a cross between species of plants. When you see a genus name followed by the letter "x," followed, in ...
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Check truncation-meaning,origin and appropriate use of the words [closed]

Many customers used to come to our Bank office to search where their checks were.  I used to tell them, go to the room where checks are truncating. Wikipedia defines cheque truncation: Cheque ...
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Why is the J in “hallelujah” not pronounced as /dʒ/, but as /j/?

Here are some similar words in that they are spelled with <י> in the Hebrew they come from, and which are pronounced as /j/ in Hebrew, and which are pronounced as /dʒ/ in English: Jehovah Jah ...
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2answers
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Why is there a ‘y’ rather than an ‘i’ in the common surname “Taylor?”

The surname “Taylor” is common in the English-speaking world. Wikipedia mentions the following about its history: Taylor is a surname used in the British Isles of French and Latin origin which ...
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Pronunciation of have and behave

Have -> /hæv/ Behave -> /bɪˈheɪv/ Why 'have' is pronounced as /hæv/ and 'behave' as /bɪˈheɪv/? Origin of 'behave': late Middle English: from be- ‘thoroughly’ + have in the sense ‘have or bear (...
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Hispanicisms in English

I recently found out that "mustang" is a hispanicism: it is adapted from "mostrengo" or "mestreño", which roughly mean "without rooting"; Merriam-Webster compiles "mesteño" (where 'ñ' sounds as the '...
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What is the origin and meaning of a -yr ending?

Some words in the English language end with a "-yr", such as, satyr, martyr, or zephyr. What is the origin of the -yr ending? What is the meaning of the -yr ending? I have searched the etymology, ...
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Why does “prayer” end with -er?

Why is the noun form of pray "prayer"? Typically, -er is tacked onto the end of verbs to denote a person or thing that does the verb. Hence, print(er), compute(r), write(r), watch(er), do(er), etc. ...
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Origin of the phrase “full swing” [closed]

When one is expressing the idea of maximum effort being exerted sometimes we hear the phrase “the work is going on full swing.” What is the etymology of this expression?
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What's the etymology of 'blank verse'?

Shakespeare uses a lot of blank verse. I get it that there's no proper rhyme scheme, but there is meter. Why is it called "blank"?
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Why is the “-wise” suffix popular in computing only in the expression “bitwise”?

In computing, one particular use of the -wise suffix is very common: bitwise. It seems that, as a suffix, -wise it is not currently used very often (I recall only clockwise and likewise in common ...
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1answer
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Etymology of “bilbo”

Here's what "bilbo" means - Bilbo noun (1) : a long bar of iron with sliding shackles used to confine the feet of prisoners especially on shipboard. noun (2) : ...
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Why is a pea related to peacock? [closed]

Why is a pea related to peacock? Is it because of feathers? (which are marked with eyespots)?
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Meaning of Druidic dusk

I'm struggling with a phrase and need help with that, it's from the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Random House, 2018) Eric had been fascinated with the Tarahumara since an athlete he’d ...
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2answers
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Why the “-” in “ex-pat” sometimes?

While "expat" and "expatriate" are commonly used, I also often see "ex-pat" in news articles: So You Think You Can Be An Ex-Pat? Forbes Australian ex-pat writer and TV critic Clive James dead at 80 ...
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1answer
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How did liquidate come to mean murder? [closed]

To liquidate stocks means converting them into cash. The origin for this expression seems clear enough, because the metaphor of cash as some sort of liquid is quite common and readily understood. But ...
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What is the origin Of the expression “there is no denying him”? [closed]

When speaking about biological offspring, what is the origin of the phrase “there is no denying him?”
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ON a powerful preposition

I’m interested in understanding what is the unique identity of the preposition ‘on’ (if there is one) behind all its different uses. So, I would be grateful if someone can explain me this or provide ...
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1answer
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Just, a noun. (?) [closed]

I can't seem to find an answer to whether the adjective "just" has ever been used as a noun in the history of the English language.
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Has the verb “to import me” ever been commonly used in English the way “to concern me” is in the phrase “It does not concern me”?

In various Euro­pean lan­guages, most es­pe­cially in the Ro­mance ones, their own re­spec­tive cog­nates for our Latin-de­rived word im­port can be used as a verb in much the way as the verb con­cern ...
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what is the story behind the word 'Sky' meaning 'the most amazing girl you can ever meet'? [closed]

I researched this question on this site. I saw the word sky used in a way I never heard if. I searched on google and saw these definitions on The Urban dictioney (https://www.urbandictionary.com/...
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4answers
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Etymology of “doodah”

Here's what "doodah" means - Doodah : used to refer to something that the speaker cannot name precisely. "From the poshest potpourri to the humblest dangly doodah." Basic research ...
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Where does the concept of “big brother sees you” come from? [closed]

I don't mean the metaphor "big brother" or "Big Brother" as in the government or other powerful entity. I mean the original meaning of "big brother sees you". I am a big brother. Or was. I never ...
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1answer
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When did sentence acquire a negative connotation?

Sentence in legal jargon refers, both as a noun an as a verb, to a punishment given by a judge in court to a person or organization after they have been found guilty. Actually the original sense of ...
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What is the origin of the word “geroff”?

I am not a native speaker so never had a chance to meet the term in the wild, and only seen it in Harry Potter series mostly used by Ron Weasley. My somewhat corrupted mind assumed it being a ...
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1answer
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Why is “phony” spelled with a ph?

Who decided to spell “phony” or “phoney” that way and why? Usually, a “ph” can be traced back to a Greek φ (phi), but not so here. Wiktionary says it may come from “fawney”, with no Greek in sight. ...
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Etymology of “banjax”

Here's what "banjax" means - Banjax : ruin, incapacitate, or break. "He banjaxed his knee in the sixth game of the season." Basic research showed that it comes from the 1930s - ...
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What is the true pronunciation of “participle”? [closed]

I cannot seem to find anything on this. I see (in dictionaries, although not all of them) that the first syllable is stressed (I've been corrected countless number of times on this, too). That means ...
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1answer
695 views

Etymology of “cock-a-hoop”

Here's what "cock-a-hoop" means - Cock-a-hoop : triumphantly pleased or boastful : happily exulting // Are agents and builders cock-a-hoop that more money is coming into the ...
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1answer
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Etymology of “Welsh rarebit”

Etymonline doesn't expound the etymology and states no more than: rarebit (n.) 1785, perversion of (Welsh) rabbit, as if from rare (adj.) + bit (n.). Does anyone have more insight into the ...
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Is an ingenious engine engineer a genius? [closed]

How are these words related from an etymology point of view? engineer engine ingenious (here the 'i' and 'e' positions are swapped) genius
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Where does the term “shiv” (a makeshift dagger) actually come from?

Practically everyone has read (or seen in a film or on TV) about a situation in which someone "stuck a shiv" into someone else. The image is of some kind of dagger, and the most common use I have ...
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3answers
443 views

“Put a pin in it” idiom origin?

Does anyone have a definitive origin for the phrase/idiom "Put/stick a pin in it/that" used to mean let's delay, come back to something later? I searched the archive but didn't see this asked or ...
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Origins of zzzzz (indicating sleep) [duplicate]

It is common to use zzzzz (or some other number of z letters) to indicate that the "speaker" is asleep. What is the origin of such a usage?
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Is “shopify” a verb, an adverb or a noun? [duplicate]

I would think that the creation "shopify" classifies as a verb - like in "I want to shopify my website" -> to make it work as a shop. Obviously as a company name it is a noun, but from a mere grammer ...

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