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Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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How do language researchers find the first written mention of a word?

There are these radio shows where people can call in and ask questions about language. The language experts (researchers I assume) then often answer "The first occurrence of that word was in 1922 by ...
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Is the word priorize acceptable?

Is the word priorize acceptable? I used it and my son laughed at me and said the word is prioritize.
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When did Monkeys start making wrenches?

Why is the pipe wrench often called a monkey wrench? From the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum website… Q: Did Jack Johnson invent the wrench? A: Jack Johnson, the first Black ...
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Origin of the figurative sense of “smear”

One meaning and usage of smear as a noun, from M-W, is: usually unsubstantiated charge or accusation against a person or organization — often used attributively. a smear campaign a smear ...
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Where did the phrase “hairy eyeball” come from?

Used by some in my place of work as a colloquialism for a disapproving or skeptical attitude toward something. Jane was giving Jack the "hairy eyeball".
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Since when did the United States become known as “the States”?

As a naturalized American, I usually say, "the United States" or "the US", but sometimes I do say "the States" as well, given that this seems to be a relatively popular choice... at least on the ...
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How macabre is a graveyard?

This one has been bugging me for a while. The first time I discovered that the word for graves in Arabic was مَقَابِر‎ (maqābir), it seemed the obvious source or indirect source of macabre, but ...
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Charabanc Caravan [on hold]

The words ‘caravan’ and ‘charabanc’ have different etymological derivations. But as they can both mean a form of transport, is it possible that ‘charabanc’ was deliberately coined to sound a bit like ‘...
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Usage of the word “utter” or “utterly” for something non-cow related— anyone know the etymology? [closed]

What is the etymology of the word "utter" or "utterly" as a descriptive term for someone or something, as opposed to it's use as a noun referring to a cow's breast?
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What are the origins of “gender confirmation” surgery?

TLDR: What was the first use of the term "gender confirmation surgery"? Was it used before, after, or contemporaneously with the term "sex reassignment surgery"? An NPR article today (2019-05-16) ...
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What made “You'd better!” a threat?

When and why did the expression "You'd better!" come to have threatening undertones? The structure seems to be helpful in its essence (e.g., "You had better throw out that banana or fruit flies will ...
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Why use use “one” rather than 1?

In Real Estate there seems to be a trend to use "one" in place 1. One Madison(NYC), One57(NYC), One WTC(NYC), One Park Drive(NYC), One One One (Brisbane) and many more. Is there any reason to do this?...
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When did placing “maybe” in a subsequent verb phrase become common?

While answering another question about maybe, I was reminded of the existence of a specific pattern of expression. Here are a few examples from the Corpus of Contemporary American English: "For ...
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Relation between Middle English 'eighe' and 'eighte' [closed]

Does the Middle English word 'eighte'(eight) have somehow relation with the other Middle English word 'eighe'(eye) giving the fact that the numeric 8 ∞ visually similar to the eyes, in my opinion?
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What does the phrase 'Throw your Cap on It' mean and where did it originate?

In watching a recent soccer match, the commentator stated that the goalkeeper should 'throw his cap on that'. This was immediately preceded by a relatively comfortable save by the goalkeeper from a ...
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Origin of “too” (“also”)

Since the South Park joke My name is Kyle, too. Nice to meet you, Kyle-two. I am wondering and trying to avoid too. Wiktionary explains it as "deriving from the original meaning of "apart, ...
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Earliest use of “rookie”? [closed]

What is the earliest use of the noun "rookie" and why has it become the most common synonym for newcomer? What were its vectors?
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What constitutes as etymology within English?

Etymology of "Djibouti" Within this question, user Drew asks if it is even an English question. Well, it is definitively an etymology question, and the etymology is regarding a proper noun ...
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Relation between crush and krushiti

Do the English verb "crush" and the Old Slavonic verb крушити (krushiti) "to break, to destroy" [where ити (iti) is a verb ending] have somehow relation with themself. Internet sources are scanty: ...
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How did 'recoup' semantically shift to mean 'recompense'?

The OED doesn't expound. Etymonline: 1620s, from French recouper "to cut back" (12c.), from Old French re- "back" (see re-) + couper "to cut," from coup "a blow" (see coup). Originally a legal term ...
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What is the origin of “cool beans”?

What is the origin of "cool beans"? I know some sites (wiktionary) claim it's from the Cheech & Chong 1978 movie Up in Smoke, but I'm talking to people who remember it being used earlier. (USA). ...
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Morphology of the word 'abstract'

The word abstract consists of two morphemes, the prefix abs (ab) meaning away or from, and what I believe to be the root of the word, tract, which means pull or drag. http://membean.com/wrotds/tract-...
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The word “Comparison”

Declare - declaration. Proclaim - proclamation. Why isn't compare - comparation? For the 3 years that i've been studying the language intensively i've been always intuitively reading "comparison" as "...
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Where does the term “physical” come from?

Physical in the bodily sense appears to have developed independently from its root original term physic. So, for instance, you can say you do physical exercise to keep your body, not your physic, in ...
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Relations between 'rod' and 'reed' [closed]

Do the English words 'rod' and 'reed' have a connection, given the fact that they have a semantic similarity?
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Were contractions used in 1800

Were contractions used in conversational English in 1800 to 1820? For example: it's, don't, aren't,...
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Meaning of the word ' itular' [closed]

While looking up synonyms of the word 'so-called', I stumbled upon 'itular', of which I've never heard, and for which I can't seem to find additional (digital) sources. The dictionary itself gives a ...
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Other than when used as a name, is there any evidence of the word “puck” before Hockey

Was trying to search history on the word puck, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. It seems that before 1870 there are only instances of “puck” when used as a name. Some sources, like Etymonline,...
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What is the use of the double L in Llama and double A in Aardvark? [duplicate]

Always wanted a clear explanation as to why these animals had double letters at the beginning of the spelling. What’s up with that?
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Are the English word knee and the word generation cognate?

Are the English word knee and the English word generation cognate because of the Latin word genu "knee" in the Genetive case has the form genus and this is the case birth (the generation of the new ...
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Are the adjective “wise” and the suffix “-wise” etymologically related?

Are they linked, or have they arisen seperatedly and/or without connection?
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Where does the term “old salt” originate

I know an old salt is an old sailor in maritime jargon, but where does the term originate. Does it have to do with the fact that sea water is salty? Why does the old salt have to be old, can’t s/he be ...
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Why is “Colonel” spelled the way it is but pronounced similar to it’s homonym “Kernal” [duplicate]

Not sure what else I can say here. I never understood the logic behind this pronunciation and wonder what the origin May be and if that has something to do with how it’s pronounced.
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Is this historically right? [duplicate]

Is "who" historically derived from "wo" + "he"? From wo/quo/къ(де) The English: who is he (near), the (far) The German: wer ist er (near), der (far) The Latin: quis est is (near), illi (...
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How did 'damages' semantically shift to mean 'money awards which respond to wrongs'?

Etymonline and OED don't expatiate what semantic notions underlie the ordinary meaning of 'damage' to this legal one. I quoted p. 800 Contract Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (2018 8 ed) in this ...
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Are the English words “who/what” derived from the Germanic q. word wo “where” + pns. “he/it” by analogy with the Old Slavonic koi/chto “who/what”?

Are the English words "who" / "what" derived from the Germanic question word wo "where" + pronouns "he" / "it": by analogy with the Old Slavonic [which could inherited this thing (feature) from the ...
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How did 'receiver' semantically shift to mean an appointee to manage a company's assets?

What semantic notions underlie 1. with c in the OED? According to c, receivers manages or administers assets. So what exactly do they "receive"? Paul Davies. JC Smith's The Law of Contract (2018 2 ...
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Connection between the words Apollo, Apollyon, and Apologise

I've tried researching this topic before, in re Apollo, the Greek god son of Leto and Zeus and twin brother of Artemis, and its possible connection with the "angel of the bottomless pit" as referenced ...
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When was the term “reality” first used referring to a TV show?

According to Etymonline the expression is from the early ‘90, but they add no details: Reality television from 1991. Reality television as a genre appears to date back at least to the ‘40s as ...
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Are the English surname “Douglas” and the Old Slavonic word глас (glas) “voice” cognates?

Are the English surname "Douglas" and the Old Slavonic word глас (glas) "voice" cognates? , taking into consideration, that glais means “stream” and that "voice" is also a speech stream.
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“Last days of Rome” phrase, meaning with examples

I would be interested to know the origin and evolution of meaning, along with example usage, for the phrase "last days of Rome".
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How does 'bear off' explain the etymology of 'berth'?

Which meaning of 'bear' befits 'bear off' below? Please see the titled question. I screenshot the OED page for 'berth'. Etymonline lacks details.
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Why is the origin of “threshold” uncertain?

The Barn, Church Hall Farm, Broxted, Essex (England) See the YouTube video (13.40) George Clarke: The architecture of threshing barns is absolutely driven by their function. With two opposing ...
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Origin of 'tump' (verb) and 'tumpline' (noun)

OED says the origin of both 'tump' (transitive verb, US, to "drag or carry by means of a tump-line", OED) and 'tump-line' (noun, "local U.S.", op. cit.) is "obscure". 'Tump-line' means a line or ...
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Does “ook” as onomatopoeia for the sound a monkey makes originate with Terry Pratchett?

I just recently ran into someone making the claim that the use of "ook" to represent the sound a monkey makes is a reference to the librarian from the Unseen University of Terry Pratchett's Discworld ...
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'It addicted me, with one taste.' Can 'addict' be used transitively?

I am not clear regarding the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary for the verb 'addict'. Various transitive, but reflexive, meanings are stated and some of these appear to be obsolete. The King ...
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In search of the origins of term censor, I hit a dead end stuck with the greek term, to censor, λογοκρίνω

I have been looking in OED for a history that makes sense, yet, I just find crumbs, and I can not piece the history of this term. I am hitting a dead end researching the greek term to censor, named ...
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Is there a reason for the dual-meaning of the word “stature”? [closed]

The word "stature" is doubly defined by Merriam-Webster like so: 1 : natural height (as of a person) in an upright position 2 : quality or status gained by growth, development, or achievement ...
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Is Motel really a “blend of motor and hotel” developed in the 1920s? [closed]

From Merriam Webster History and Etymology for motel blend of motor and hotel Is this supported by its earliest known uses?