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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1answer
51 views

exult, etymological order

I checked etymology for exult in etymonline. Details are: 1560s, "to leap up;" 1590s, "to rejoice, triumph," from French exulter, from Latin exultare/exsultare "rejoice ...
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Origin of “spring cleaning”

Some people have traced the origin of spring cleaning to the Iranian New Year, which is on the first day of spring. However, it seems like I can find earlier origins of this. What is the true origin ...
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1answer
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Origin of “race to the bottom”

The idiomatic expression “race to the bottom”, generally used in economic and financial contexts, refers to: A situation in which striving to have the lowest possible prices in order to attract the ...
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3answers
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+500

Etymological origin and earliest recorded occurrence of 'saunter' in English

Someone just sent me a quotation from the explorer/naturalist John Muir, in which he makes the following etymological claim: Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away ...
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1answer
34 views

How long has the word “site” been used as a noun in English? [closed]

I am writing a book that takes place in the fictional past, so I'm trying to make sure the language used in my writing doesn't draw the reader back to the present because of it not fitting well with ...
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What is the etymology of the term 'hunch'?

Oxford states the etymology as: late 15th century: of unknown origin. The original meaning was ‘push, shove’ (noun and verb), a sense retained now in Scots as a noun, and in US dialect as a verb. [...
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3answers
2k views

“Burning the candle at both ends” to mean being unfaithful in a relationship

I'm familiar with the idiom "burning the candle at both ends" to mean "to have expended oneself, in particular by staying up very very late". With this idiom I usually think of ...
6
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1answer
207 views

Subjunctive in English. Is it used for politeness?

The usual explanation I get for expressions such as "How much did you want to spend, sir?" is that the use of the past tense produces a distance between the present reality and the question, ...
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1answer
44 views

“Minister for” and “Ministry of”

In some British Commonwealth countries, e.g. Singapore, government ministries are named "Ministry of", as in "Ministry of Defence". However, the title of the minister in charge is &...
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0answers
124 views

Anti-vax origins of “vaxxed”

The world* is talking about getting vaccinated, and saying "vaxxed" to do so. Here are the first five Google News results for "vaxxed": "Free Joints for Vaxxed People in DC ...
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0answers
93 views

A to the B to the C: some kind of slang [closed]

I've often heard, especially in songs where slang is commonly used (pop, rap, etc.), people use a weird structure: something like "A to the B to the C...", where A, B, C, etc. are usually ...
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1answer
131 views

Definition of 'depauperise'

What is the definition of 'depauperise' (or 'depauperize')? Does it mean "to make someone poor", or "to rescue someone from poverty" (de- +‎ pauperize)? Has its meaning changed ...
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1answer
119 views

Did “A F” exist as an intensifier prior to social media?

"A F" is short for "as fuck". It popped into my lexicon a few years ago, when I started hearing it in Youtube videos. (See this video as an example, although this wasn't where I ...
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Usage of 'fit' as tight

In Indian languages I have seen the usage of the word 'fit' as being used to imply something is too-tight. In a Gujarati the sentence would use the word 'fit' to describe a garment that is too tight ...
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1answer
55 views

Why is a problem with tendons called tendinopathy?

Why is a problem with tendons called "tendinopathy"? i.e. why does the o in tendon change to an i?
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1answer
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Why is it called “tossing” a salad? (in cooking)

…instead of just “mixing” it? I googled, but the results basically all point to sex, whereas I mean mixing together the vegetable ingredients in a salad. Thanks!
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2answers
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Why are gender pronouns conventionally written as subject/object? [duplicate]

When gender pronouns are explicitly stated they tend to be given in the form "subject-pronoun/object-pronoun" e.g. he/him, she/her, they/them. Where does this convention originate from? Is ...
2
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1answer
53 views

What is the actual origin of the prefix 'bi-'?

How can anybody be sure the prefix 'bi-' (and its presumed source in Latin 'bis'= twice) did not originally come from Basque, in which the word for '2' is actually 'bi'?
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2answers
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The word 'grocer' comes from 'gross'. But which sense(s) of 'gross'? Only a nonspecific large amount, or also, to any degree, exactly 144?

From erik-engheim.medium.com: 'People who do any kind of packaging have learned early that basing units on 12 makes sense. It is easier to pack that way, which is why things historically have been ...
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1answer
66 views

What does 'go through the mill' mean?

I am curious why "go through the mill" means "have had a lot of problems or difficulties".
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2answers
59 views

Does the suffix -ify have any inherent characteristics of making letters pronounced which would otherwise be silent?

It is quite clear that the word "signify" is derived from sign and the suffix -ify: sign + -ify = signify The letter "g" in the word sign is silent but when the suffix is added, ...
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3answers
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Why is it called a Four-Poster Bed, and not a Four-Post Bed

It seems that every reference I can find refers to the columns of a four-poster bed as 'posts', so why is it called a four-poster bed? I've found some references that indicate that it was called a ...
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4answers
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Why is “archaic” pronounced uniquely? Is the sequence -ɪɪ- only found in this word?

Before looking this word up, I have always rhymed it with cake i.e. /ɑːˈkeɪk/. But when I looked it up, it was actually /ɑː(r)ˈkeɪɪk/ with the sequence of a similar vowel repeated consecutively: -ɪɪ- ...
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1answer
35 views

When was the first time the word “extinction” was used in the environmental sense? [closed]

The word ‘extinction’ has a general meaning (= vanishing, death) and a particular one related to biology and environmental crises (the extinction of species). According to Merriam-Webster, the first ...
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1answer
40 views

Where did the usage of bury in “bury a jumper” come from?

I heard the phrase "bury a jumper" in an NBA game. I googled it, and found: According to this site: bury a jumper: To make an especially pretty jump shot. According to Merriam-Webster ...
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1answer
66 views

Why the increase in usage of the word “quarantine” between around 1880 and 1930?

I was thinking today that the word "quarantine", since 2020, has probably seen an increase in usage unprecedented since the advent of the printing press. Hastening to Google Ngrams to verify ...
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32 views

Resolute - also “morally lax”?

Is the Online Etymology Dictionary saying resolute also (historically) means morally lax, as some kind of autoantonym? resolute (adj.) early 15c., "dissolved, of loose structure," also &...
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1answer
47 views

Uniqueness of tense suffix *ood in Stood [closed]

Searching https://visca.com/regexdict/ for verbs like ".*and$" (ending in a n d), revealed some, but only those with the root "stand" have a past tense ending in o o d. Looking for ...
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2answers
59 views

How did “bail” shift to signify “money deposited as a guarantee when released”?

I fail to understand this etymology for bail (n.1) after "captivity, custody" (late 14c.). "bond money, security given to obtain the release of a prisoner," late 15c., a sense ...
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2answers
87 views

Origin of phrase 'come on'

Is the origin/first usage of the phrase 'come on' known? I know there is a similar 'kom op' in Dutch (same meaning, as well as a literal translation of the words), but I don't know which took it from ...
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2answers
451 views

What's the origin of the phrase “show true colours?”

I wonder if someone knows the actual origin and oldest printed record of the idiom "show true colours?" Other than this popular theory (seems not real to me): This phrase dates back to the ...
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1answer
48 views

Origin of Sausage [closed]

Sausage is given in most dictionaries as coming from "Salted". Surely the word comes from Medieval Latin salsicia from Sal + Sicce, salted and dried. This fits with all of the romance ...
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3answers
149 views

Where does Cloth-Head come from?

I've just come across the pejorative term Cloth Head, and beyond pure speculation here on WordReference.com Language Forums that it's related to the term clot head. The more familiar term is cloth-...
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1answer
126 views

How can I keep away from latinate? [closed]

Are there resources to help me keep away from latinate when I write? Preferably, they would let me trade latinate words for older, better words. A thesaurus might help (or better, a good dictionary ...
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2answers
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What is the true etymology of “algebra”?

This is more of a question for Arabic stack exchange if there was such a thing, but anyways: The OED suggests as the etymology of the term "algebra" Etymology: < post-classical Latin ...
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How did “negotiable” mean “a good or security whose ownership is easily transferable”?

I knew merely the first most popular meaning of negotiate. I never knew this second legal meaning A document of an amount of money, or a title, which is readily transferable to another. Difference ...
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1answer
43 views

How might've “then” become “than”?

I don't understand the possibility emboldened now. What's the relationship between sentences 1 and 2? How do sentences 1 and 2 explain how the adverb shifted to a conjunction denoting comparison? ...
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0answers
151 views

Expound and simplify the “semantic progression” behind “must” (the modal)

I don't understand the "semantic progression" suggested below by Ayto. The steps in the "semantic progression" feel farfetched and unconnected to me. Can someone please fill in, ...
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2answers
95 views

What's the etymology of 'Deck' with a pack of cards?

The word deck has several meanings, most of which seem to have some logic behind them. I am stuggling to find any sensible reference to deck being the word to mean a set of cards. An earlier question/...
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2answers
62 views

How did “poll” (“top” or “head”) semantically extend to “cut someone's hair”?

I don't understand this semantic extension (cf. Etymonline) because it hasn't happened to "head" or "horn"! Unquestionably, "head" isn't the same thing as "cut ...
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1answer
49 views

How's "neither' more than just 'either' with a negative prefix?

Ayto doesn't expound why "neither is not just either with a negative prefix tacked on". How do their etymologies differ? either [OE] Either is the modern descendant of an ancient Germanic ...
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0answers
47 views

How does the original meaning of “but” (“outside”) relate to its current 2021 meanings?

How do the principal 2021 meanings of "but" relate, if any, to its original meaning of "outside"? E.g. how does "no more than; only" appertain to "outside"? ...
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4answers
4k views

Where does the use of “deck” to mean “set of slides” come from?

Nowadays, the word deck can be used to refer to a set of slides (e.g., PowerPoint slides). Where does that sense come from? Online Etymology Dictionary didn't yield any insight on it.
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1answer
41 views

How did the meaning of “once more, anew” arise in “again”?

Ayto doesn't expound where the late 14c. meaning of ‘once more, anew’ sprang from? Is "once more, anew" related to "in a direct line with, facing" or "in the opposite ...
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1answer
58 views

What did “on by out, over, up” mean?

What did "on by out", "on by up", "on by over" mean? Why did Old English tack and jam these different prepositions together? E.g. didn't ufan alone mean "above&...
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3answers
193 views

What is the origin of idiom wrap someone in cotton wool?

I am curious to know the exact origin of the idiom "wrap someone in cotton wool." I couldn't find much, except Origin: The expression originated in the mid-1800s. [The Idioms] and Google ...
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2answers
49 views

Semantic connection behind the etymology of “category?”

Ancient Greek had agora, from which they got the verb agorevo, meaning to speak in public assembly. From this in turn they derived kategoreo, meaning to speak against someone, to accuse someone of ...
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50 views

how come “take off” means impersonating or imitating?

I looked up Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, it says that one of meanings of "take off" is imitating or impersonating? I cant figure out how does it come, I mean, take what off when ...
2
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1answer
33 views

Does “for the record” come from legislatures' us(ag)e of the term? [closed]

So, what you'll hear sometimes is people saying, "for the record" before they say what they're going to say. Now, I know that in Congress and other similar institutions around the world (...
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0answers
95 views

Etymology of the phrase “fine art”?

I'm reading in a book: A work of fine art is “fine” not because it is “refined” or “finished,” but because it is an end (finis, Latin, means end) in itself. Can anyone corroborate that? Multiple ...

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