Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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2
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3answers
148 views

source for “buff”?

what's the derivation of the term buff for a physically well built, attractive male? Is it simply it simply shorthand, since buff means polished and therefore a man's torso that resembles a marble ...
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Erf as term for plot of land in a town or city. Is this word only used in southern Africa?

The Free Dictionary website states and so does Wikipedia: erf [ɜːf] n pl erven [ˈɜːvən] (Engineering / Civil Engineering) South African a plot of land, usually urban, marked off for building ...
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2answers
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Is an automobile only a “car”?

If we go by the word, an "automobile" should be anything that can move (mobile) on its own.  The etymology section under Wikipedia suggests so.  But dictionaries, Wikipedia, etc., say that its meaning ...
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“Bald Faced Lie” vs. “Bold Faced Lie”

Which of these is correct? What is the origin of this expression? I've searched here on the exchange and haven't found an answer.
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Why are so many important verbs irregular?

In many languages, including English, the most important verbs are irregular. Examples include: to be to do to get to go to have to make The same applies (roughly) to many other languages I ...
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Etymology of “Sort”

Did the English word sort originate from the French word sort? e.g., sortie. Whereas, in French its meaning derives to out, exit, going out. How did it end up in English to mean category, class/...
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Origin of the greeting “Sweet dreams”.

Does anybody know the etymology of the phrase "sweet dreams"? I tried googling but did not find anything satisfying. Is this a relatively new phrase of the modern world or has this been in use for ...
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2answers
938 views

How to find words which are related morphologically?

I'm looking for a book, or any other source, which lists words that are morphologically related, like this: imagine verb imagination noun imaginative adjective Or this: medic ...
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“He eyeballed me pensively”; using bodyparts as verbs

What are these words called, and why are they used in place of traditional verbs? For example: She handed me a pencil. [handed instead of gave] He eyeballed me pensively. [eyeballed instead of ...
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Why is “pineapple” in English but “ananas” in all other languages?

Why is "pineapple" in English but "ananas" in all other languages?
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Meaning and origin of phrase “wear heart on sleeve” [closed]

What does the phrase "wear (one's) heart on (one's) sleeve" mean? I would appreciate if you could also tell me the origin of the same.
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Etymology of “Email Thread”

What is the history of the word thread in the context of "email thread"? You can also say "thread of a conversation". How old is that usage? Some of my colleagues say "email string" and it drives me ...
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Where and when did “Bucket List” come to mean what it does today?

I'm not sure I had even heard the term "bucket list" until the movie came out. I get the feeling though that the term long predates the movie. Can anyone identify how "bucket list" came to mean what ...
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2answers
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How did 'arching' come into use as a verb meaning 'to thwart'?

I have seen the word 'arch' used as a verb in the context of a villain causing trouble for a hero, or a hero thwarting a villain. It is also used when a villain is actively trying to become a hero's ...
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1answer
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Is “Obtuse” related to “Dull”?

I'm imagining a knife. Not very sharp = dull, right? Is that the origin of the use of "obtuse" to mean "not very bright"?
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Prefixes milli- and cent- used for years

The prefix "milli-" means "thousandth" (e.g. 1000 millimeters in 1 meter) and the prefix "kilo-" means "thousand" (e.g. 1 kilogram is 1000 grams). Why is the period of 1000 years called a "millennium"...
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Osteopath vs Psychopath

Greek "Pathos" means "disease" or "suffering". In that sense "Psychopath" means "a person with an antisocial personality disorder". Originating from the same root "Osteopath" means "A therapist who ...
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1answer
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Why do lots of people use “seperate” instead of “separate”? [closed]

Catalan: "separar" English: "separate" French: "séparer" Galician: "separar" Italian: "separare" Latin: "separo" Portuguese: "separar" Romanian: "separa" Spanish: "separar" Sweedish: "separera" Then, ...
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Origin of Doobie (joint, marijuana cigarette)

OED says: doobie: a marijuana cigarette Origin unknown. A relationship with dobby has been suggested. dobby/dobbie: A silly old man, a dotard, a booby. Dialectal. First citations: ...
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Origin of “old school”

I always thought the phrase "old school" was a rather modern, hipster invention. It turns out the term itself is rather old-school, with Webster reporting the first recorded use in 1803. But I'm ...
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1answer
420 views

The hole and the whole

Why is holism named after some kind of nothing (a hole) and not after the whole, i.e. wholism? That's the catchy way to ask the question. The serious way is: Does the "hole" have to do with the "...
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1answer
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Etymology of “vestige”

The origin of vestige is said to be "from French, from Latin vestigium 'footprint'". vest- means clothes, so does this prefix apply to vestige ?
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Etymology of the phrase “Twenty-three Skidoo” as used in “Hey Arnold!”

The phrase “Twenty-Three Skidoo” has a very interesting and mysterious history described very thoroughly by the wikipedia article on the phrase. However, this article seems to indicate it’s usually ...
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Etymology of the phrase “peachy keen”

Where does the phrase "peachy keen" come from? From m-w.com, I see that it originated in the 1950, but the phrase doesn't even make sense to me. Why is my peach keen?
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Where did the phrase “Give it some wellie” originate?

I've heard this a few times, and I would presume that it comes from Wellingtons, with the meaning of put some boot to it. Is there an origin for this phrase?
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What is the etymology of “yonks”?

How did we come to say "yonks" meaning a long period of time? "I haven't been to the cinema in yonks." Etymonline has nothing and Oxford dictionaries has: noun: British informal: a very ...
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What are the origins of gully and googly in cricket?

The OED supplies no clue to the origin of either gully or googly. It does not in fact mention etymology of the cricket sense of gully, which has led me to infer that it is from the ordinary meaning of ...
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What is the origin of 'cash'?

What is the etymology of 'cash'? According to the OED when it is used in 'cash-box' it descends from the French 'casse', and presumably Italian 'cassa'. However the word meaning 'loose change' is from ...
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How did Persian words arrive in English?

Some Indian words which have entered modern English, such as 'bazaar' and 'cummerbund', are of Persian origin. So it seems they have completed a journey from Persia to Western India to present-day ...
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What Indian words appear in cricket's vocabulary?

One of the things I find surprising is that India seems to have had little influence on the vocabulary of cricket. Notwithstanding India being arguably the world's greatest cricketing nation, I can't ...
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1answer
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“Second,” “Minute,” and “Hour” [closed]

Would anyone happen to know where the terms for the units of time came from, and why? I know "minute," which also means something extremely small, comes from the latin meaning "small," but then why is ...
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What is the origin of Bishy Barney Bee?

The attached picture is of a delightful little creature which throughout the UK is known as a Ladybird (not sure what you call them in America) EXCEPT in Norfolk, where it is known as a 'Bishy Barney ...
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Why do we “shed” blood, sweat or tears but not other things?

I found the following definition of shed (the verb): chiefly dialect : to set apart : segregate to cause to be dispersed without penetrating a. to cause (blood) to flow by cutting or ...
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Does anybody know where the phrase “lost to the ages” originates?

I think there's something fairly poetic about the origins of the phrase "lost to the ages" actually being lost to the ages, still I'd like to know where it hails from if anyone knows. Thanks
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1answer
455 views

Understanding etymology of 'misgiving'

From etymonline: misgiving (n.) c.1600, "feeling of mistrust or sudden apprehension," from misgive "cause to feel doubt" (1510s), usually said of one's heart or mind, from mis- (1) + give in ...
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Etymology and pronunciation of arch-, archi-

The prefix arch-, archi- “chief, principal; extreme, ultra; early, primitive,” derives from Latinized Greek arkh-, arkhi-, the combining form of arkhos “chief.” Usually, arch- is pronounced like “arch”...
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What type of word is “abnomaly”?

I've got a coworker that frequently uses the word, "abnomaly", not "abnormal" and not "anomaly", but "abnomaly". While the types of these words differ (i.e. adjective versus noun), the meanings are ...
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1answer
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What's the original/most used variant of “If I had a [dollar/dime/quarter/penny] for every time ____ ”?

I hear this a lot, even in songs, e.g. If I had a bill for all the philosophies I shared If I had a penny for all the possibilities I presented If I had a dime for every hand thrown up ...
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Why aren’t Tom, Jake, and Jen­ny look­ing for­ward to Thanks­giv­ing?

And “Hen” (their moth­er) isn’t much look­ing for­ward to it ei­ther. Why? I can an­swer that ques­tion my­self: it’s be­cause they are all tur­keys. Tom is an adult male tur­key (al­so of­ten re­...
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Why is “biblical” the only proper adjective to not use upper case?

Generally, when an adjective is derived from a proper noun, the adjective also has a capital initial, hence Googleable, Mancunian, British, and Shavian. (In contrast, verbs are not given capitals, ...
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1answer
986 views

Etymology/word formation of “program” (as in computer program)

The word is obviously derived from the noun 'programme' however I can't work out which way it's most likely to have been created. I'm thinking its either descended from the British spelling of the '...
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Is “sore” the origin for “so”?

Most of us are acquainted with this line: "The shepherds were sore afraid." Recently, in reading mysteries by C.J. Sansom, set in the time of Henry the Eighth, I see his characters using phrases like "...
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Why is “sorry” used for both apology and sympathy?

Why is the word "sorry" used for this dual purpose? It seems to me they really have nothing to do with each other at all. Is it purely coincidence, like the dual meaning of "bore"? I find this ...
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Where does the word smidgen come from?

As in, a word signifying 'a little' - used in common vernacular in England, and possibly elsewhere.
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1answer
116 views

What does this sentence about 'ὑπό' mean?

Wiktionary has the description of meaning for the ancient Greek word 'ὑπό': under, that is, (with the genitive) of place (beneath), or with verbs (the agency or means, through); (with the ...
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How did “pumpkin” come to be a term of endearment?

The logic of some terms of endearment is fairly clear. Sweetie, honey, cupcake all refer to food treats. However, the use of the term pumpkin as a tenderness seems somewhat counterintuitive. While ...
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Where did “duck, duck, gray duck” come from?

Duck, Duck, Goose is a common children's game but a typical Minnesotan calls the game a slightly different name: Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. I have never talked to anyone outside of Minnesota that knows of ...
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Origin of “Comparing apples and oranges”

What is the origin of the idiom "comparing apples and oranges," as in, You can't compare those things! That's like comparing apples and oranges. EDIT: I can find a book from 1889 making the ...
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Why is “bombshell” used to describe attractive women?

Bombshell is a term used to describe very attractive women, similar to the term "sex symbol". The phrase was notably used as the title of a 1930's film, which incidentally led to its lead actress ...
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1answer
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When a person in public life inadvertently coins an expression, what is it called?

It often happens that a political or other figure makes a remark on to which the media fasten. That remark then goes on to become part of the language. Examples were Poindexter's 'plausible ...