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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Are there any truly multisyllabic, unbound morphemes in English?

I thought of water, but my editor told me that this can be divided into wat (wet) and -er, an old form of a plural marker. I'm not sure if this is true or not, as the proto-germanic word is *wadr, ...
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What type of verb is EAT:FEED, KNOW:INFORM

We have verbs like : EAT > FEED KNOW > INFORM My question is what kind of verbs are they? What are they called in grammar (e.g. causative, factitive etc)? I knew the name a long ago but forgot ...
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How did "ought" lose its original usage as the past tense of "owe"?

Ought is originally the past tense of owe (v.). It appears that this usage is retained in Scottish and in some dialects of English. The current use of ought in standard English is a modal auxiliary (...
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Alternate meaning of “sleep with” – sharing the same barracks/bunkhouse?

I am watching the 1943 western The Ox-Bow Incident which is set in Nevada territory in 1885. Early in the film, the bartender is discussing some touchy issue and he says, They don't like to talk ...
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Is "can be able to" idiomatic among native speakers at all? If not, what's its origin?

I've heard the expression can be able to consistently from a couple of folks from India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Here are a couple of paraphrased examples: By signing up to our service,...
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2 answers
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Is 'dead' a form of the word 'die' or 'dies'?

Can you help settle a debate for me and my friends? Last night we were playing a rather silly word game where you have a card with a word or phrase on it, and you have to try to get your teammates to ...
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2 answers
163 views

How to pronounce "de Morgan" in "de Morgan's Law" or "Augustus de Morgan" in British English?

How to pronounce "de Morgan" in "de Morgan's Law" or "Augustus de Morgan" in British English? As you may know, "de Morgan" occurs frequently in mathematics and ...
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'Divers' and 'diverse'

While the accepted answer to the question What does the term 'divers places' mean? states that: Divers is an archaic spelling of diverse I disagree. The words are not interchangeable. I have ...
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Why does 'draw' mean 'stalemate' [closed]

Do stalemates have some obvious connection with pulling or art or something? I can't quite figure it out.
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2 answers
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Usage and etymology of "a pair of ..."

There are several good answers to a question entitled What is the etymology of a pair of trousers but more generally why are many items of clothing worn below the waist also described as "a pair&...
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1 answer
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The detailed etymology of 'outfit' meaning people working as a team

There is a familiar sense of the word outfit, a noun meaning 'a designated team or a group working as a team': outfit [noun] ... e. A group of people undertaking a particular activity together, ...
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Has the word "believer" always had the meaning of someone who believes in God or has it picked up that meaning somewhere along the line?

Has the word believer always had the meaning of believing in God or has it picked up that meaning somewhere along the line ? When I say "I am a believer", without further context, does it ...
2 votes
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Why do we hit the books?

I have to hit the books tonight, that is I have to study for school. According to the sources I could find online the saying “hit the books” has no clear origin. The more common assumptions refer to ...
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What does the term "antisemitic" mean and how did it arrive at it's modern definition? [closed]

I ask this question for two reasons. One, it's being used a lot currently in western media and online spaces such as twitter, so maybe if I could fully grasp it's definition I could understand why it'...
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What is the reason for quasi-modals existing and why do they imply different meaning than the modals themselves?

What I mean is - Why do we have collocations such as "be supposed to", "have to", "be able to"? I understand that modals are defective, but maybe more fundamentally, why ...
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The eerie origin of "eerie"

Eerie is a rather common word but its origin is somewhat strange. In fact, OED doesn't provide the origin of the word eerie, but provides the etymology where it is given as a variant of an obsolete ...
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Mac Surname vs Macsurname vs MacSurname in Scottish- what is the difference?

In Scottish names, is there ANY significance to Mac [space] SurnameCapitalized or MacSurnameCapitalized or Macsurnamenocap? They clearly evolved from the same relationship at some time. Are they ...
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Why are the words “geography” and “geomancy” stressed differently?

Geography is stressed on the 3rd last syllable while Geomancy on the 1st and 3rd. Why is this the case? Is my guess true that a word having entered the English language for a long time would tend to ...
8 votes
1 answer
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Original meaning of "I now pronounce you man and wife"

I know that in Old English "wer" mean "man" (male), "man" was more like "person", and "wif" meant "woman." This has lead me to wonder about ...
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5 answers
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What is the difference between the root "hemi", the root "semi", and the root "demi"?

What is the difference between the root "hemi", the root "semi", and the root "demi"? For instance, one would say "hemisphere" or "semicircle" but one ...
2 votes
1 answer
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What is the origin of “long” in finance?

This is basically a follow-up question of: What is the origin of "long" and "short" in finance? In finance, you can be long or short a position. While the usage of the word “short” ...
3 votes
1 answer
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How to know if the beginning of a word is a true prefix

In English, I think it is fairly obvious when some words have a prefix. For example, recall, return, remove, superconductor, etc. You can actually separate the prefix from the root word and have a ...
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Origin of the phrase "pit of despair"

I can't find much online about the etymology/origin of the phrase besides mention of a psychologist naming a torture chamber for experiments he did on monkeys: The pit of despair was a name used by ...
1 vote
1 answer
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Etymology of the idiom "what with"

I'm curious about the etymology of the idiom what with. How did it come to mean Taking into consideration; because of? You say what with in order to introduce the reasons for a particular situation, ...
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Origin of the surname "Hooker"?

Wiktionary claims that the surname Hooker is occupational: an occupation for a maker of hooks This seems unlikely to me for several reasons. Were it true, one would expect there to be a ...
4 votes
3 answers
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What is the origin of the phrase "hit rock bottom"?

Etymoline hyphenates rock-bottom and provides a rather vague origin as a synonym of bedrock: "lowest possible," 1884, from the noun phrase meaning "bedrock" (1815), also ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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When did prince/princess come to mean "royal heir"?

The words prince and princess come to English from Old French and ultimately from Latin's "princeps". However, in both Latin and Old French, as well as historical Italian, "prince"...
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What is the etymology and exact meaning of "crockpot"?

I've been looking for a translation for Czech word Remoska (which means portable electric oven with a baking feature), and the best translation I could find was crockpot. Is it correct, if not, what ...
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1 answer
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Sobriquet: Tap under the chin, origin unknown?

We see here https://www.etymonline.com/word/sobriquet and it says "origin unknown." Is this to say, the connection between the literal meaning and the current meaning is unknown? I would ...
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What words were used before "exist"?

The word "exist" was first used in English around 1568. The English must have had their own word for this before that. Which word did they use?
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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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”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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2 answers
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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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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(...
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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
2 answers
675 views

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, ...
21 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
3 votes
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 ...
18 votes
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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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3 votes
1 answer
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Pronunciation of Edinburgh

Why is the Scottish capital Edinburgh pronounced as Edinbruh? It is not clear to me why the letter "u" is silent, so that the "b" is followed directly by the "r". Then a ...
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2 votes
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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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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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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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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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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