Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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43 views

How can a word for 'the act of Xing', semantically shift to mean 'the thing Xed'?

I don't grasp this Reddit comment. An example of (3) might be this (from a 15th-century will): I now the seid John Smyth, for diu[er]se causez and consyderacyonys shevyd vnto me, will ...
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Why does the word mortar have so many meanings in English? [on hold]

AFAIK mortar can either mean: the bowl portion of a mortar and pestle the binding paste used in masonry the indirect-fire/artillery piece. All these meanings seem very different from each other. ...
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1answer
39 views

How did loophole become associated with law

...and stick almost exclusively to it? According to Collins Dictionary: A loophole in the law is a small mistake which allows people to do something that would otherwise be illegal. The ...
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2answers
110 views

Origin and explanation of “Operation Yellowhammer” for a worst-case scenario

The British government called its research on a worst-case scenario in the event of a no-deal Brexit Operation Yellowhammer: Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, ...
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142 views

Origin of “in your corner”?

I just wrote an email to a new friend and colleague from Rwanda, whom I am helping to find work in translation and interpreting. And I signed my email, “In your corner,” only later realizing she might ...
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Distinction between prefixes 'super-' and 'extra-' in similar contexts

From my understanding, both the prefixes super- and extra- can mean above or beyond, though a possible distinction could be as follows (from the answer to this question): ...using super-something ...
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Daily in terms of annual [closed]

A frequency of events can be expressed using annual (once per year). Also prefixes can be applied to increase the frequency during the year: biannual (twice per year), triannual (thrice per year), etc....
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Where does the expression “triple-A” come from?

The term "AAA" or "triple-A" is a term mainly used nowadays in the video game industry, according to Wikipedia, ... for video games produced and distributed by a mid-sized or major publisher, ...
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What is the origin and meaning of 'lookit'?

A recent English Language & Usage question (Information about "lookit") noted that a number of dictionaries do not have entries for the word lookit. I checked Merriam-Webster's Third New ...
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What have “tattle” and “rag” in common?

Does "tattle" as a noun mean something like rag, cloth, torn of piece? If not, what seems to be the connection to tatters? Let me explain: I was looking at Ger "Fetzen". Fetzen From Middle ...
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Whence the English Plural -s? [duplicate]

There are many questions here unsure about the difference between user's/users'/users guide and the like, whether that's called posessive, genitive or whatever. bridesmaid for example clearly does ...
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1answer
57 views

Is there any connection between 1 bit = 1/8 dollar and 1 bit = 1/8 byte?

I always thought the 1/8 ratio of bit/dollar was the inspiration for the bit/byte naming scheme, but I can't seem to find any evidence for this in my admittedly limited research. Wikipedia claims ...
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Do “Devi” and “Devil” have related roots?

I understand that "Devi" is feminine of "Deva", meaning "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence", and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism" according to Wikipedia and is from Sanskrit. ...
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Meaning of 'train' in 19th c. women's clothing--but not the elongated part of a dress, robe, or coat

Queen Victoria instructed her secretary to write Princess Alexandra about her trousseau before she married the Prince of Wales: "Three or four trains and grand toilettes will . . . be sufficient." ...
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What is the Origin of '' 'sup? ''

Sup is a contraction or aphetic of the older term ''what's up?'', Does anyone know how it has originated?
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Where was the term “A1” first used?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that "A1" means "of the finest quality" and it says that the term was first used in the year 1801 (with no reference): https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/...
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Why are boomers called boomers? [closed]

They didn't boom anything. Their parents did. Shouldn't they instead be called "the boomed"?
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105 views

How did the Idiom “Tit for Tat ”get the current usage? [closed]

I have referred to the dictionary and found the following meanings. Tit -a small bird that searches acrobatically for insects among foliage and branches. Tat - Low quality Tit for Tat means The ...
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1answer
54 views

What's the difference between “stochastic” and “random”?

Is one just used to sound fancy? Webster defines the former as the latter: Definition of stochastic 1 : RANDOM specifically : involving a random variable a stochastic process 2 : ...
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What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

I was just watching the preview for Blue Velvet (1986) and heard Kyle McLachlan use the phrase: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out”. I assume the phrase is probably older than that movie, ...
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How did 'despite' semantically shift to signify 'without being affected by something'?

The quotes below substantiate that 'spite' in 'despite' or in 'in spite of' connotes 'scorn, contempt'. How did these meanings shift to the 'despite' meaning? I quote Etymonline on despite (n., prep....
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How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John ...
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When was the first ecocide “committed”?

Dictionary.com defines ecocide as an Americanism dating back to 1965–70: the destruction of large areas of the natural environment by such activity as nuclear warfare, overexploitation of ...
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noble - can it be split into morphemes?

Can I split noble into nob + the suffix -le? -le is found in other adjectives such as little, brittle, fickle nob is found in noble, nobleman, nobleness, nobler, noblesse, noblest, nobly. But ...
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Is bludgeon connected with blood or block?

Bludgeon is a short, heavy club which is thicker or loaded at one end. Both OED and Etymonline say "origin unknown". There are possible Cornish, Celtic, Dutch, cant, Middle French, Irish and Gaelic ...
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To prise open the gap between price and prize [migrated]

The words "price" and "prize" and "prise" are easily confused. They mean different things*. It is not a difference of writing between US and British English. Part of the confusion is that "price" ...
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Meaning and etymology of “twirling waxed mustaches”

Today, the New York Times online edition reviews a documentary film. The review contains the following sentence: The filmmakers don’t villainize anyone, though a few participants come awfully close ...
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Why is it a *canary* in a coalmine? [closed]

I understand what the idiom means: as per this question, it means a person or creature unwittingly used as a test for danger, often destructively. I understand why coalmines: as depositories of ...
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Was 'help' pronounced starting with a vowel sound?

In The King James Bible, Genesis: 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. I have ...
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Why is the word “phonics” pronounced /ˈfɑnɪks/ instead of /ˈfoʊnɪks/?

Is there any etymological reason for this? Normally, an o in a stressed syllable followed by /n/ and a vowel would be pronounced /oʊ/. And phoneme is pronounced /ˈfoʊnim/. Why does the pronunciation ...
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185 views

Why does the word “school” contain an 'h'?

Considering the low prevalence of words in English written with the letter combination "sch", why is the word "school" written the way it is, rather than simply "scool"? As far as I could tell, the ...
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When pronunciation does not follow etymology [closed]

Autophagy is defined as: Biology: Consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring in starvation and certain diseases. lexico.com It also provides a pronunciation: /...
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What's the story of the generalizing “ever”

How did the use of ever develop, e.g. as seen today still in the concessive use of however, whatever, that is called "a generalizing ever" in the third paragraph of the answer to How did 'however this ...
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Are there terms for composite words that do not follow a logical etymological pattern?

For instance, we have two patterns for terms to describe sexual atteaction, one of which intersects a pattern for terms to describe a deep fondness for. Homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual follow ...
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Is “Fredo” an insult to Italian-Americans?

Recently in the news there's been some kerfuffle about a verbal exchange between CNN anchorman, Chris Cuomo, and a person who called him “Fredo”. In the cell-phone video, the man claims I thought ...
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Where does the word “scrub” come from as another word for “scroll”?

It seems like only within the last year I've noticed this usage, as a verb to view various parts of a digital resource. Dictionary.com does not have any definition for scrub that is similar to the ...
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How did 'however this may be' semantically shift to introduce contrast or contradiction?

however, adv. : Oxford English Dictionary Etymology: < how adv. + ever adv. 6. In senses 2, 3, however is the relic of an original subordinate clause (like those of sense 1), such as ‘...
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History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront? [closed]

History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront? How/ where did it come about? Who came up with it?
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…down the primrose path

What is the origin of primrose used in the idiom primrose path, as defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary? primrose path The pursuit of pleasure, especially when it is seen to bring ...
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'up' meaning each/apiece in sports?

I often hear sport scores being mentioned as '5 up' meaning the score is tied at 5 each/apiece. AHD gives: up adv. ... Each; apiece: The score was tied at 11 up. Can anyone ...
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Debygawd Cap-en! Where does this phrase come from?

I sought out this site because I need help finding the origins of a word/phrase that my family uses. We are from Southern Maryland, USA. The exclamation in question is 'debygawd.' I do not know how to ...
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when was “well” first used to begin a sentence in england

In writing the supposed memoirs of a late eighteenth century widow I'm wondering when "Well" at the beginning of a sentence was first known to have been used.
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How did “ordnance” lose the “i”?

All the dictionaries and etymology sites I've checked say that the word ordnance, meaning weapons and ammunition, was derived from ordinance, which means a regulation or law. Etymonline says that the ...
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Etymology of 'I take your question' meaning 'I don't know'

In former special council Mueller's testimony before Congress, Mueller used the response "I take your question" a few times when he could not answer. This response isn't heard often and as such news ...
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When did Asian come to mean only certain parts of Asia such as the East?

The word Asian is defined as: adjective of, belonging to, or characteristic of Asia or its inhabitants. or noun a native or inhabitant of Asia, or a person of Asian descent. ...
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How is the word “confusion” being used in: “drank/drinking confusion to”?

I'm reading a book called The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley and I came across an odd usage of the word "confusion": "She's out," said Fauntley, "and I don't know if it would matter if she ...
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Either Pronuciation is OK? or not OK? [duplicate]

Either Pronunciation is OK? or not OK? My wife is learning English and she came up with the “either problem”. What to reply? I had always used both pronunciations but in a specific way and seem to ...
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Pronotum: meaning and suffix context?

Pronotum The pronotum (Biology) is a prominent plate-like structure that covers all or part of the thorax of some insects. The pronotum covers the dorsal surface of the thorax. The word can be ...
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Origin of the suffix in hippocampus

Hippocampus, a tiny organ in the brain - named after its resemblance to a tiny sea creature, the sea-horse (the genus of which is led to the original coinage of 'hippocampus') - has been some source ...
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1answer
53 views

Origin of the saying “ChatBot”? [closed]

I didn't found anything in Wikipedia or on the Web (Maybe I don't know how to search). Chat is speaking with someone. But what is bot? Is it came from robot? Where the word robot came from?