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Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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Did the CIA really introduce 'conspiracy theory' into popular usage after JFK?

I heard that after the JFK assassination the CIA, through assets in mass media, introduced the term 'conspiracy theory', with it connotations of something clearly ridiculous, and only believed by ...
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Where did the expression “achievement unlocked” come from?

Why achievement is unlocked? Achievement is not a lock, door or safe. You don't get anything after unlocking. I have an assumption that it came from gaming history, word "unlocked" just transferred ...
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OxFORD and CamBRIDGE [closed]

All of a sudden the scales fell from my eyes: OxFORD and CamBRIDGE. Is there a serious reference for this - not so surprising, but linguistically amusing - fact that these two prominent university ...
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How did the term “Judaism” or “Jews” came into usage, who coined this term first? [closed]

How did the terms Judaism and Jews came into usage, who coined those terms? Also how and when did the term Judaism begin being used for denoting a religion?
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“Enter the Fairies” after a sudden clatter or crash?

In my family, who originate from Scotalnd, people cry "enter the fairies!" if something has caused a sudden crash, smash or clatter. I am guessing it comes from a stage direction, such as from ...
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What is the etymology of “[computer] terminal”?

I suspect it's something to do with the fact that back in the Olden Days of computing, a terminal was connected to a mainframe computer system, and thus a user would be sat at the terminal end of the ...
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Where did the notion of 'dumbing down' first arise from?

Can anyone tell me the origin of the expression 'dumbing down'? It seems increasingly difficult to trace the etymology of neologisms, but I'm curious whether anyone has any information on this phrase. ...
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Is there a term for co-opting one word into a secondary, derogatory meaning?

Is there a term for when a word is co-opted and converted into a derogatory variant of the original term? For instance, "OCD" is defined as: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety ...
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Use of the word 'together' as in the Norfolk dialect

In the Norfolk dialect, which I learned at my mother's and grandmother's knee, the word 'together'(pronounced 'tergatha') is used in an additional sense. If there are two people outside I might say '...
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contrite, detritus, diatribe

The words contrite, detritus, diatribe share the same root "trit" which means rub. Why does contrite mean remorse, detritus mean debris, and diatribe mean criticism? From etymonline, I found that ...
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Do desultory, result, consult share the same root?

In desultory, result, consult, do sult all mean jump and leap? I searched etymonline, which gives different interpretation, especially in consult, sult seems to mean gather together. But I hope the ...
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Pronunciation and meaning: “wind” and “wound”

I find it curious that there exist two words spelt wind ("a breeze" vs. "to turn") and two words spelt wound ("an injury" vs. the past participle of wind), and that the words in each pair are ...
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Eyeglasses, spectacles, goggles and glasses. But in which order?

You would think that finding out if the word eyeglasses preceded the word glasses would be a simple matter. Not so. Did eyeglasses and spectacles as I suspect, precede the word glasses? Goggles I ...
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Alignment or alinement?

I was reading Wonders of World Aviation the other day, published in the late thirties, and have found a couple of articles where alinement is preferred to alignment. While this seems to make sense, it ...
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Meaning and etymology of “Crabbit” [closed]

What does this phrase mean? Being a crabbit is not gonna make it any easier for you.
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Off-beat in the British Army

While trying to locate the etymology of the Tamil slang, OB, I ran across the following claim: This entirely Tamilian term, strangely enough, has its origins in the term "off-beat" used in the ...
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What does “enough” mean in expressions like “Fair enough” or “Funny enough”?

As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it ...
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Words with prefix apo-

From etymonline, the two following words seem to have the same etymology: apocalypse: apo- "from" (see apo-) + kalyptein "to cover, conceal" (see Calypso). apocryphal: apo- "away" (see apo-)...
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How does animus have the meaning of ill will?

animus has the etymology of "breath, life", just like animate. How does animus have the meaning of ill will?
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“advert” and “adverse”: same etymoloty but unrelated meanings?

From Wiktionary and other similar sources like etymonline, the meanings of "advert" and "adverse" are: advert: turn attention adverse: Unfavorable; antagonistic in purpose or effect; hostile;...
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Etymology of addict [closed]

From Wiktionary addict means: A person who is addicted, especially to a harmful drug An adherent or fan (of something) Its etymology is: ad- (“to, towards, at”) + dīcō (“say; declare”) How ...
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Is there a word for the phrase “I don't know what I don't know”?

In my current job, I'm constantly trying to figure out when the next thing I don't know that I don't know is going to bite me in the butt and cause me to have to rework my code. I've been working on ...
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Where does the phrase “in good nick” come from?

The term "in good nick" meaning "in a good condition" came up in conversation and I realised I had no idea where it came from. Searching online seems surprisingly fruitless- there are several roots ...
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Prefix “a-” in abash, abeyance and agape

From Wiktionary, "abash" means "To make ashamed; to embarrass; to destroy the self-possession of, as by exciting suddenly a consciousness of guilt, mistake, or inferiority; to disconcert; to ...
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Antonym of all: none, not all, both?

If you ask someone what the opposite of "all" was, most times the answer will be "none", such as the example of "no one" is the opposite of "everyone". There are three antonyms for "all" on Thesaurus....
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Origin of the saying 'eyes like pissholes in the snow'

What is the origin of the phrase eyes like pissholes in the snow?
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Meaning and etymology of “kemosabe”

I've heard it recently in a movie called " Lone Ranger". Tonto called the lone ranger kemosabe. What does it mean and what is the origin?
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Where does the food industry term “86” come from? [duplicate]

Such as in "that item is 86, we need to buy more"
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1000 Day “Anniversary”

"Anniversary" comes from Latin: "anni" [genitive of annus = year] + "vers(us)" [past participle of vertere = to turn]. I am interested in constructing a similar word which means "reoccurring every ...
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Etymology of “rabona”

In association football, rabona is used to describe a specific technique: a method of kicking the football whereby the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg—effectively with ...
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Why “beat around the bush?” [duplicate]

I personally find the term "beat around the bush weird", where did it originate from?
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Is the usage of idiom, “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” situation specific?

I came across the idiom, “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” in the following sentence of the scene where Barry Calvert, an FBI agent tells his colleague, Mark Andrews about the statement of an ...
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Does the word “exgest” exist?

A colleague of mine found reference to the word "Exgest" in a contract. In context, this appeared to mean the opposite of the word "Ingest" which was used earlier in the contract. These words were ...
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Why do the British refer to things as 'posh'

Why do the British refer to something very smart, or people who are very well-off as being 'posh'?
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Why did jazz musicians start referring to an engagement as a “gig”?

Why did jazz musicians start referring to an engagement as a "gig"? If any, could anyone provide a couple of quotations from eminent authors to show where a word was first used in this sense? gig ...
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Why is it “as happy as a clam”? [closed]

Many go about saying I'm as happy as a clam, or Tom is as happy as a clam, but what are the origins to this phrase and what makes a clam happy?
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Is 'disinstruct' or 'de-instruct' legitimate usage?

When you engage a lawyer or an estate agent, for example, you instruct them. What is the most appropriate word to use when you decide you've had enough and want to get rid of them? There are several ...
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What is the definition of “iat” in Commissariat/Secretariat

What is the definition of "iat" in Commissariat/Secretariat, also what are some other "iat" words. (Links, if you have any, please.)
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Any connection between -dom (kingdom) and dharma?

Appreciated the article on the derivation of -dom as in kingdom; any relationship between that and dharma? I see that -dom goes back to Old English for doom, judgment, law statute, and dharma goes ...
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What is the origin and scope of usage of the phrase “Voodoo That You Do So Well”?

I heard it in the couple movies and podcasts, and was able to trace it to the Cole Porter song "You Do Something to Me" from 1929. I think it's where it came from, but I just want to be sure. Also, ...
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What is the origin of the idiom “tight fit” meaning a good joke?

I've recently been studying etymology and I received a book titled Flappers 2 Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang written by Dr. Thomas Dalzell. Dr. Dalzell's research goes as far back as the ...
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Incorrectly transliterated foreign words that have been improved [closed]

Seeking a list of several foreign words (usually names, but any noun) that have been borrowed from other languages, but originally transliterated/pronounced incorrectly and are now being improved into ...
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Corporates - is there any such word? [closed]

The use of "corporates" as a word to mean companies, organizations, etc., has been gaining popularity of late, at least here in India. Although I believe it is standard to speak of "corporate" life, I'...
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where does the idiom 'driving me mad' come from?

any ideas? It's for use in an English Language class I teach.
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Why don't writers make more use of the word “abracadabra”? [closed]

If you want to import a sense of the miraculous into your text, why not use abracadabra which has been available in English since the late 17th century, and originated in Gnostic writings in the 2nd ...
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Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
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When was the word “phobia” coined? [closed]

When was the word phobia coined? And how did the concept of naming different phobias come into existence?
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General history of the English language – book / website recommendation? [closed]

Having just come across this site, I am finally asking a question that's been on my mind for a while … I am looking for a book, website or infographic that gives a (relatively) concise, high-...
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Local color / color commentary

What are the origin and history of the phrases "local color" and "color commentary"? There is a tiny bit in the dictionaries about this use of color to mean 'additional detail and anecdotes' but not ...
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Calque pairs like 'praeternatural/metaphysical'

There are words (not paired normally) which are, say, close relatives with (sometimes) totally different lives. For example, praeternatural = (Lat. praeter [beyond] + natura [nature]) and metaphysical ...