We’re rewarding the question askers & reputations are being recalculated! Read more.

Questions tagged [etymology]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
2
votes
1answer
48 views

Did slang “hang” meaning “turn” as in “hang a left” relate at all to boxing slang?

Green's Dictionary of Slang gives this definition of "hang," referring to turning left or right in a car, with a citation from 1966. (orig. US) to turn a corner in a motorcar; as in hang a left, ...
8
votes
4answers
7k views

What is the meaning and etymology of the adjective “jammy”, of Yorkshire English?

What is the etymology of the adjective jammy? As in, Thou art a jammy bugger! I confess I've never seen the word before. When I looked it up, I found confusing etymologies: one source says it ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

What’s so floppy about floppy disks?

While reading through Etymology of the use of "Drive" to refer to a digital storage medium and its various mentions of floppy disks, it occurred to me that, while drive is in origin a ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Origin of the word “delete”

What is the history of the word "delete". It's from Latin "deletus", but I wonder how and why this word was borrowed in English. Usually, words directly borrowed in English are from religious, ...
15
votes
5answers
12k views

Why “half past” and not “half to”?

When telling time and 30 minutes has gone past an hour, we say “half past”. For instance, half past 4 or half past 5. Why can’t we also say “half to”. For instance, half to 5 or half to 6? Shouldn’t ...
0
votes
1answer
31 views

red handed war: is “red handed” specific to blood?

In my impression it is generally accepted that "red handed" referred to the blood-red evidence found on a thus discriminated criminal. Then, what does "red handed war" mean? New-York daily tribune....
5
votes
4answers
571 views

In “download”, where does the “down” direction come from?

I just realized that the directions in "UPload" and "DOWNload" seem arbitrary to me as a non-native English speaker. I took a look at a couple of dictionaries and they said that this word is a result ...
2
votes
2answers
8k views

Difference between “infinite” and “indefinite”

I have found that infinite means "very great in amount of degree" while indefinite refers to "a period of time that has no defined end." Is there a subtle, nuanced difference between these terms, or ...
16
votes
8answers
32k views

What is the etymology of “board” as found in “room and board”?

How did board come to be associated with meals? I am referring to this definition of board: regular meals or the amount paid for them in a place of lodging (noun, Wiktionary) daily meals, especially ...
6
votes
1answer
177 views

Origin of old English word “offrian”

I know that Latin and old French are implicated, but where does the old English "offrian" come from? I mean: what is the word evolution from the root? Which root exactly: why this "ian" ending? ...
1
vote
0answers
41 views

Meaning of the phrase “theatre of pain” [on hold]

This BBC article says Anfield has also been nothing but a theatre of pain for Guardiola since he arrived in England What is the origin of this phrase? It sounds quite gruesome. I'm aware of ...
0
votes
1answer
78 views

Why is documentation the “castor oil” of programming?

I found an unusual use of "castor oil" in this sentence, which seems to be a common maxim: Documentation is the castor oil of programming. What is the role of castor oil in this sentence? Is there ...
21
votes
6answers
17k views

“I'm on the brew”

A conversation between two Scots: — What do you do for a living? — I'm on the brew. Assuming that I have the phrase right, what exactly does "on the brew" mean here? Based on the context, I ...
4
votes
5answers
4k views

Bring down the hammer definition/meaning/etymology

The only definition I found for this phrase is: Bring down the hammer: To treat very harshly. This is from the Wiktionary. However there is no etymology. So I kept looking and it lead me to the ...
0
votes
0answers
25 views

Two words “swallow” [duplicate]

What is the etymology of the words "swallow" denoting a bird and "swallow" which means the action of eating something?Why do these words concide?Is there any connection between them from a point of ...
1
vote
2answers
46 views

Why does the word “incident” have a negative connotation associated with it?

I'm trying to find why we consistently use the word "incident" with a negative connotation. All definitions of the word state something to the tune of: an individual occurrence or event. By this ...
5
votes
2answers
870 views

How did “issue” come to mean “problem”?

The etymology of the word "issue" seems to be : Middle English (in the sense ‘outflowing’): from Old French, based on Latin exitus, past participle of exire ‘go out’. The many usages of "issue" ...
2
votes
2answers
88 views

Origin of the phrase “close to the bone”

I need to find out the earliest use of the phrase, “close to the bone”. Etymonline and other online dictionaries don’t give details about its earliest usage.
2
votes
1answer
909 views

The expression,“You lie like a dog in straw”

My father was originally a country boy, born in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century. He had a number of typically Australian expressions (e.g., "stone the crows"), but the one I remember ...
30
votes
6answers
48k views

Why is the term “depressed” often used to describe a button which is pressed?

In several books that mention GUI, keyboard, or mouse buttons (e.g. the book Programming Windows by Charles Petzold), the authors refer to the state of a pressed button as depressed. Why is this term ...
2
votes
2answers
103 views

What is origin of the phrase “Don't say boo” or “Didn't hear boo”?

I've very infrequently heard the expressions: "Don't say 'boo' [to them]" (meaning don't say anything, no matter how small or insignificant) or "I didn't hear 'boo'" (meaning I didn't get any ...
6
votes
3answers
4k views

How did the term “X's finest” come to mean the police force of a city X?

I have often come across terms like London's finest, New York's finest, etc., intended to mean the police forces of the respective cities. I think in the case of Scotland Yard, the term even has some ...
0
votes
1answer
55 views

Where does the expression “money talks” come from?

According to the The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms the saying “money talks” meaning: Wealth has great influence, may derive from: The idea behind this idiom was stated by ...
14
votes
1answer
288 views

Derivation of a slang greeting in Yorkshire: “Aye up serry”

When I was young, in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1942 to 1960 you would greet an acquaintance thus: "Aye up serry". I believe older residents of the village of Kiveton Park still use the phrase, or ...
2
votes
0answers
69 views

Term for/etymology of the opposite of a nosism (using 'we' to mean 'you')

A nosism is the term for using 'we' to refer to oneself. I am looking for a term for/etymology of using 'we' to mean 'you'. EDIT: Another way of putting it is that I'm looking for the proper term ...
0
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is window “tinting” not window “toning” or “shading”?

In color theory, tinting means to add white while toning adds grey and shading adds black. What is the origin of the use of tinting then in terms of windows? Are they unrelated?
0
votes
4answers
3k views

Sure-fire: where does it come from?

According to the Oxford dictionary: Sure-fire: (adjective, informal) certain to succeed. Example: bad behaviour is a sure-fire way of getting attention Where does this word combination come from ...
2
votes
1answer
52 views

What would be the first use of the noun 'longboarding' for skateboarding, surfing or skiing?

The skateboard longboard goes back to Hawaii in the 50s, surfing back much earlier, and skiing back into the nineteenth century yet I can't find incidences in print earlier than the 70s. Many ...
0
votes
1answer
52 views

Meaning of the word remarkedly?

Was just wondering whether 'remarkedly' is a word or not. When I typed it in Office Word it doesn't come up as a spelling error but I can't seem to find anything about it online or a concrete ...
2
votes
2answers
591 views

Why is there an apostrophe in “h'm”?

By that I refer to the sound people make when they're thinking. Most people write "hm" nowadays, so they may not know of this, but traditionally, people wrote it as "h'm". The apostrophe can't ...
3
votes
1answer
210 views

Origin of the phrase “What's crackin'?”

My web search turns up accounts of it being Southern, Black American or/and Aussie slang. Would like some clarification on this.
16
votes
4answers
18k views

Origin of “the nature of the beast”

The nature of the beast is a well-known phrase or saying which means something like an essential property of the thing, particularly when the property is a vexatious one. For example: I don't like ...
9
votes
3answers
17k views

What is the etymology of the word “spell” when used to mean a short period of time?

Every now and then - usually when talking with an older individual or someone from the United States Midwest or South - I hear the word "spell" used to mean a short period of time, such as: "Come sit ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Etymology of “amoral”

Many internet sites (like this one) say that the word amoral was coined by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) as a differentiation from immoral. These sites also say that amoral comes from the Greek ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Where did “a racist bone in [one's] body” and “a mean bone in [one's] body” come from?

A recent tweet by the U.S. president includes this assurance: I don't have a Racist bone in my body! A blog post by David Graham, "The One Color the White House Sees Clearly" at The Atlantic ...
0
votes
0answers
27 views

What are the roots of the different meanings of the prefix mis-?

The prefix "mis-" seems to have both multiple meanings and origins in English. The Online Etymology Dictionary talks about its Germanic and Latin origins, but Webster's mentions a Greek version of "...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

Hallowe'en and shell out

Growing up in Canada, in addition to "trick-or-treating" as a description of kids' activities on Hallowe'en evening, I often heard the verb "shell out", conjugated as "shelling out" or "shellouting". ...
15
votes
7answers
12k views

Origin and usage of “safe and sound”

I've often wondered about the phrase "safe and sound." It seems like a common phrase that most English speakers understand, but it also seems quite old-fashioned to me. I read about it, and I ...
0
votes
1answer
58 views

Rendezvous with Ray [closed]

Rendezvous is one of the English words whose pronunciation is nothing to do with its spelling .I have come across the word in the lesson Rendezvous with Ray I have understood ...
6
votes
2answers
7k views

Why does “sophomore” refer to a second-year student?

I came across Etymonline's explanation for the word sophomore. I do not understand why this has come to be applied to second-years. Why is a second-year guy a wise one and a fool? "Student in the ...
1
vote
6answers
6k views

“Salty” in place of expensive?

Someone I know was talking about 600gb hard drives and his description of the cost was "salty". When I asked him to clarify, he told me it meant that they were expensive. I have searched and can't ...
7
votes
2answers
942 views

Etymology of 'black'

I saw a news article on ABC news that made the claim that "if you go back far enough in time", the word 'black' used to mean 'white' and has the same origins as the French blanc and English bleach. ...
4
votes
1answer
126 views

Where does the outdated “thing-O-thing” come from?

In many an outdated medium one may come across words such as gram-O-phone or shear-O-matic. Where does this 'tradition' of having the O seperated come from? Does this stylistic choice have name? I'...
9
votes
6answers
5k views

So which should it be - 'lock and load' or 'load and lock'?

Employed in the Security Industry for over twenty years I have occasionally been encouraged to 'lock and load' - an exhortation to be ready for what is coming. But I would have expected to 'load' ...
1
vote
0answers
27 views

What is the mummers play Galatian? [on hold]

I was looking into the etymology of the word: Galoshans. The Scots Language Centre mentions: In the Dictionary of the Scots Language www.dsl.ac.uk Galoshans is defined under its original name of ...
3
votes
2answers
83 views

First use of American football fields as measurement

In some books and documentaries, American football fields are used as units of measurement for length (100 yards) and sometimes area. For example, a book might say The iceberg was the size of six ...
5
votes
3answers
5k views

Etymology and meaning of “to throw a bean ball at someone”

I was reading an online article when I came across this phrase (condensed to highlight the point in question) : Context: Jack and Jill are having a heated argument... Jill threw a hard bean ball ...
27
votes
5answers
3k views

Are there resources or tools for “reverse etymology”?

EtymOnline is an excellent resource for online etymology searches. If, however, I am looking for lists of words sharing a given Latin, Greek or other root (which I call "reverse etymology"), I do not ...
1
vote
0answers
49 views

Is there a word for when a usage change orphans a definition?

Is there a simple way to describe the phenomenon when usage of a word or expression changes in such a way that it leaves the original concept without a word to describe it? As usage evolves, ...
0
votes
0answers
30 views

Which regions say “on the button” vs. “on the nose” vs. “on the dot”?

Anecdotally, I've noticed that Brits/Aussies favor "on the nose" (though sometimes in a sarcastic way), while mid-west/west-coast Americans say "on the button", and east-coasters say "on the dot." Is ...