Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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2answers
4k views

Whatever happened to “what ever” and whenever did it happen?

I am curious to know when whatever, whenever, wherever and whoever first started being used as interrogative words. Merriam-Webster, etymonline and dictionary.com offer no hints. Wikipedia doesn't ...
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3answers
5k views

What is the story behind the word “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia”?

Was someone just trying to be funny by being ironic?
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4answers
2k views

If I invent a word, what language is it?

I invented a word using medical terminology, Latin and maybe a bit of Greek. (I'm not honestly sure of the etymology of all the morphemes.) Considering that this word is primarily not of English ...
3
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2answers
1k views

“Pardon me French”

Even though the phrase pardon my French is used much more often, I do constantly run across pardon me French as well. What's the deal with that? Wikipedia does have an entry on Pardon my French, but ...
7
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5answers
18k views

What is the origin of the colloquial term “bum” meaning a homeless person?

Just out of curiosity, I was wondering about the history of the term "bum" meaning a homeless person, not the UK version referring to someone's posterior. Bonus: If you know the background on "Hobo" ...
20
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3answers
21k views

What does “packing heat” mean?

I believe it means “to carry a weapon”, but I would also like the phrase origins, if possible. So the full question is: What is the meaning of the phrase “packing heat” and what are its origins?
7
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5answers
35k views

Where do the words for daughter, son, aunt, uncle, mother, father, cousin, nephew, niece come from?

Please see Title. I'm not specifically referring to which language they came from... but if they come from something else. In other words, do they come from words with other meanings. For example, do ...
5
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2answers
903 views

Why is New York City also called “the Big Apple”?

I have heard many times people say the Big Apple to mean New York City. What is the origin of this nickname?
5
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1answer
12k views

What is the origin of “xox”?

What is the origin of xox used to mean kisses and hugs?
36
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3answers
10k views

Why are not “infamous” and “inflammable” the opposite of “famous” and “flammable”?

Why are not infamous and inflammable the opposite of famous and flammable, like incomplete, inactivity, inappropriate and so on?
19
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5answers
32k views

What is the origin of “holy smoke”?

What is the origin of holy smoke? To what is holy smoke referring?
0
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1answer
2k views

Did eBay take the name from a Pig Latin word? [closed]

Did eBay take the name from the Pig Latin word for be?
11
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1answer
334 views

Bourbon whiskey, Bourbon monarchy: is there a connection?

Is there any connection between bourbon, the name of the American whiskey, and Bourbon, the French monarchy, or is it just a coincidence?
37
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5answers
154k views

What is the origin of the word “goodbye”?

I've heard that goodbye comes from God be with you. Is that true? If so how did it become good? Did goodbye always have the same meaning it has now?
13
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3answers
845 views

What is the first recorded appearance of the mistranslation “Red Square”?

Does anybody know when the mistranslation "Red Square" made its first recorded appearance? Have there been any noteworthy attempts at establishing the correct translation "Beautiful Square" at some ...
12
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7answers
4k views

What does “akin to” mean in etymologies in dictionary entries?

Many etymologies in dictionaries say that some word is “akin to” a word in some other language. For example, here is part of the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary entry for salt: Main Entry: 1salt ...
11
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3answers
5k views

Origin of “idiocracy”

Did the word "idiocracy" exist prior to the release of the movie of the same title, or is it a neologism coined by its screenwriters?
1
vote
3answers
861 views

What is the origin of “bouillon cubes”?

What is the etymology of bouillon cubes? What other word can I use?
16
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5answers
722 views

“The whole nine yards”

What is the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards"? Is it a reference to some game of sports I am not familiar with (as a continental European)?
8
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3answers
6k views

What is the etymology of the expression “so far, so good”?

What is the etymology of the expression "so far, so good"? Why is the meaning of "so far" in that phrase different from the meaning it has in "it's so far"?
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3answers
28k views

Origin of the name Manhattan [closed]

What is the origin of the name Manhattan?
12
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6answers
3k views

When did presidents start using their middle initial (e.g., John F Kennedy)? Was that common of the general population?

For example John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson (and hence JFK, FDR, LBJ). There was an uninterrupted stretch: Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson but the trend ...
13
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2answers
12k views

Where did the word 'Greece' come from?

The Greeks I've met say something that to my ears sounds like 'Elatha'.
33
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5answers
4k views

Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...
11
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7answers
25k views

What do the American nicknames 'Dutch' and 'T-Bone' mean?

Does the nickname Dutch have any significance? I know it was Reagan's, and I'm sure I've come across it in other books/films. Also T-Bone, as in T-Bone Walker, T-Bone Burnett: what does that mean? (I ...
13
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2answers
3k views

What is the origin of British/Irish cinema names?

British and Irish cinema names from a certain period seem to come from a pool that includes The Odeon, The Curzon, The Savoy, The Adelphi (maybe you can think of more). Where did these names come from?...
33
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2answers
4k views

Why are clothes “hung” but men “hanged”?

It is said that clothes can be hung but men are hanged. Is this correct, and if so, why?
34
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4answers
109k views

Why are there two pronunciations for “either”?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an individual who told me that pronouncing the word "either" is wrong when pronounced like \ˈī-thər\ instead of \ˈē-thər\ , but I didn't argue the point ...
14
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10answers
3k views

Why do words like “expectorate” sound more posh than words like “spit”?

I think English is unique in having a set of "bad words" each which has its "more refined" equivalent, e.g.: spit -> expectorate piss -> urinate shit -> defecate f*ck -> fornicate/...
55
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6answers
41k views

Where does the phrase “dry run” come from?

I've heard the phrase "dry run" being used with the meaning of rehearsal, experiment or test exercise in various contexts. For example: They did a dry run of the demonstration before showing it to ...
10
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3answers
3k views

Why “mind” means “pay attention to”

Why the word "mind" can be used as a verb, synonym of "pay attention to"? It has the same etymology of the "mind" (centre of thought, feelings, brain) noun? When it is better to use "mind" in place of ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the etymology of “replenish”?

Where does the word "replenish" come from, and what does it mean? I know it is used as a form of "refill", but is that how it was originally?
18
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4answers
23k views

Origin/reason for the expression “on the bus” instead of “in the bus”

This is sort of a follow up to my question here. I was told a while ago that the reason why we use "on the bus" instead of "in the bus" is because back in the day buses were open, that is, they didn'...
54
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7answers
22k views

Where did the term “OK/Okay” come from?

I've heard lots of varying histories of the term "OK". Is there any evidence of the true origin of the term?
28
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9answers
5k views

When did “while” and “whilst” become interchangeable?

I think most folk happily use either "while" or "whilst". I've a vague recollection that at one time "while" indicated the passing of time and "whilst" was essentially the same as "whereas" or "...
58
votes
7answers
34k views

Where does the “quint” in “quintessential” come from?

Doesn't "quint" mean "five"? What does that have to do with the meaning of "quintessential"?