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Questions tagged [etymology]

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

114 questions with no upvoted or accepted answers
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4
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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Where does the outdated “thing-O-thing” come from?

In many an outdated medium one may come across words such as gram-O-phone or shear-O-matic.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'...
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113 views

Earlier sources or identity of person who coined the term “neutrois”?

A lot of work I've been doing recently has been around the emergence of various gender identities. "Neutrois" recently came to my attention, with more information about it here: https://nonbinary....
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369 views

How did the meaning of “eventually” diverge from the French/German meanings

According to the online etymology sources, the terms "eventual" and "eventually" were in use in the early 1600s and held its current meaning by the mid 1800s. The etymologies point to French éventuel, ...
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58 views

Postillion as the ‘cut card’?

A postillion is the 'cut card' that protects the bottom card in the pack in games such as poker. The standard definition of that word is: a person who rides the leading nearside (left-hand side) ...
3
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1answer
74 views

Diffidence, a false friend

I’ve recently erroneously used the term diffidence with the meaning of distrust. Diffidence is one of the terms called false friend and, as a matter of fact, the same term in French defiance and ...
3
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1answer
341 views

Origins of the word “understand”?

I'm curious about the word understand and based on brief research its origins seem not very clear, https://www.etymonline.com/word/understand Breaking up the word in two, under-stand, I could make a ...
3
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1answer
182 views

Burning the candle at the other end

I came across this while reading "Along came a spider" by James Patterson. Chapter 48 begins with the sentence: The rest of that day, I burned the candle at the other end. Followed by: It ...
3
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1answer
749 views

How did epilogue and epigraph come to take on meanings opposite spatially when used in books?

I was thinking today about the apparent similarities in spelling at the start of the two words: Epigraph Epilogue And the fact they have seemingly opposed semantics. The first appearing at the start ...
2
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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 ...
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2answers
87 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.
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53 views

“Gentle confines”

Where does this phrase come from? It's something I use (usually ironically) and something that's "just there" in my lexicon like "fit as a fiddle". However when I Google it, no origin pops up. It ...
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61 views

Where does the word “scrub” come from as another word for “scroll”?

It seems like only within the last year I've noticed this usage, as a verb to view various parts of a digital resource. Dictionary.com does not have any definition for scrub that is similar to the ...
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49 views

'up' meaning each/apiece in sports?

I often hear sport scores being mentioned as '5 up' meaning the score is tied at 5 each/apiece. AHD gives: up adv. ... Each; apiece: The score was tied at 11 up. Can anyone ...
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64 views

English comparative words (than, so, as, and maybe like): why are they so weird?

I promise this is an actual, answerable question. But I want to explain myself when I call these specific words "weird"; English is so often "exceptional" that referring to any particular part of it ...
2
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53 views

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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76 views

What is the origin of the phrase “(play) out of [their] skin”?

The phrase "play out of their skin" is frequently used in sports commentary, and to a lesser extent in describing exceptional performance in other areas, especially where physical exertion and/or some ...
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53 views

How did quit come to mean quite

I've often been confused how 'quite' can mean so many things and upon leaning that it comes from 'quit' I only have more questions. How did quit semantically drift to come to mean quite?
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51 views

Where does compulsory do support come from?

We are familiar with the concept of "do support", where the verb do is used as a modal verb. It can be found frequently in Shakespeare and before and it is claimed to derive from the Celtic languages ...
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54 views

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday!

Sources available on line say that the expression “Cyber Monday” is just a few years old, dating its coinage to 2005: The term "Cyber Monday" was dreamt up in 2005 by a marketing team at Shop.org,...
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71 views

What is the origin of the drafting term “screened back”?

In engineering/architectural drafting, many people consider grey lines - usually used to indicate existing work or reference work belonging to other disciplines - as "screened back". When older ...
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1answer
906 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 ...
2
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81 views

How did 'even' shift from signifying 'exactly' to 'so much as, scarcely'?

Etymonline purports that the adverb 'even' originates from Old English efne [1.] "exactly, just, likewise." Modern adverbial sense (introducing an extreme case of something more generally implied) ...
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311 views

equivocal vs. unequivocal vs. unambiguous vs. ambiguous

The word "equivocal" sounds like "talking with the same (one) voice". But in the English language it seems to mean explicitly "ambiguous" (= "talking with two voices/tongues/meanings"). How can ...
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1answer
1k views

Why are Centennials called that?

People of Generation Y have the nickname millennials, because many of them graduated around the year 2000, the millenium. People of Generation Z are sometimes called centennials. "Centennial" means "...
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257 views

Etymology and distinction between pottage and potage

At dictionary.com, there is a bit of an inconsistency in the origins and meaning of two historical variants of the same (probably French) word: Potage noun, French Cookery. 1. soup, especially ...
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224 views

wrought/wring for cloth vs iron

Wrought iron is characterised by how it has been squashed/beaten into shape. Also, one could wring water from a cloth by strong physical manipulations. I assume these words have a common origin, but ...
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127 views

Is “over” meaning “again” related to “over”'s other meanings?

In addition to the physical position meaning, "over" has a number of nonphysical and temporal meanings including "again". My own examples: I couldn't read your note. Write it over. Take one ...
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231 views

How does one determine when a comedian is also a humorist?

Wikipedia's list of humorists are categorised as people who write or perform humorous material, but the article also states: A humorist is usually distinct from a stand-up comedian. Woody Allen ...
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210 views

On the right track -> to distract

It sounds that distracting and being on the right track are related not only by meaning but also by common roots. Is the track that we see in distracting related etymologically to the track in the ...
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95 views

Is staubert a slang term for stylish? And what is its origin?

A listener to Words to the Wise [audio at wtcmradio.com] shared that his family used the word staubert to describe something stylish, such as a new suit. I speculate that it is derived from the ...
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94 views

For 'also', how is ' the demonstrative sense of “similarly” weakened to “in addition to” '?

also (adv.) Old English eallswa "just as, even as, as if, so as, likewise," compound of all + so. The demonstrative sense of "similarly" weakened to "in addition to" in 12c., replacing eke. [...]...
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658 views

How did 'intimate' semantically shift to mean 'suggest indirectly'?

intimate (v.) [...] "suggest indirectly," 1530s, back-formation from intimation, or else from Late Latin intimatus, past participle of intimare. [...] intimate (adj.) [...] 1630s, "...
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92 views

After verbs, how does 'from' compare with 'of'?

(TL;DR) 1. I've been plagued by the postverbal use of the preposition 'of'. After verbs, when describing attributes like origin or source, what are the differences between 'from' and 'of'? The verbs ...
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98 views

Origin of “sitting there like Lord Fermoy”

What is the origin of sitting there like Lord Fermoy? This had been a stock phrase in our family.
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582 views

How did 'legacy' evolve from 'contract, law'?

I was researching legacy {noun} which rechannels to legate {noun}: legacy (n.)   late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval ...
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1k views

How did 'purchase' evolve to mean 'firm contact or grip'?

[1] purchase = 2. [mass noun] Firm contact or grip I've been trying to understand how the noun purchase evolved to mean definition 2 above. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. I tried OED but it's too ...
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213 views

'mawkish' : What semantic notions underlie 'maggots' with 'sentimental in an exaggerated or false way'?

mawkish {adjective} = expressing or sharing emotion in a way that is exaggerated or embarrassing SYNONYM[:] sentimental mawkish (adj.) on Etymonline: 1660s, "sickly, nauseated" (a sense now ...
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55 views

How did 'to purport' evolve to connote negativity?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. Please beware that I replicate the noun(al) etymology from Etymonline, and not ...
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0answers
434 views

How did pro + curare semantically shift to mean 'cause, effect'?

Lexico's definition of 'procure' Etymonline on 'procure (v.)': c.1300, "bring about, cause, effect," from Old French procurer "care for, be occupied with; bring about, cause; acquire, ...
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105 views

Why is “all . . . not” apparently more common than “not all ”?

For example, All that glitters is not gold is sort of a fixed term, and people often use the same “all . . . not” form when talking about things. See also the question “Is it wrong to use ‘not’ in ...
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7k views

What is the origin of “over index”?

I often encounter (and use) this phrase in a context meaning to weight more heavily during decision making than is sensible, or to focus more heavily during a discussion than is warranted. For ...
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187 views

How did 'circumscribe' evolve to mean 'Restrict (something) within limits'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning: 1. circumscribe = Restrict (something) within limits: Etymonline: late 14c., from Latin ...
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1answer
625 views

What is the etymology of the idiom “To stink/smell to high heaven?”

What is the earliest known source that uses the idiom, "Stink/Smell to high heaven"? From a preliminary search, I came across the Shakespeare Said It Firstwebsite, which states: It smells to ...
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1answer
950 views

Term for a word with opposite meaning to its root?

I remember coming across a term for a word which has an opposite (or at least very different) meaning from its etymological root word's meaning. Does anyone know what this term is?
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38 views

Meaning of the phrase “theatre of pain”

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 ...
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48 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, ...
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27 views

Seque and Sequel - is there a term for pairs like these?

Seque and Sequel - is there a term for pairs like these? ... verb and noun just a letter (or two?) apart? (Versus other verb noun pairs which are spelled the same such as 'laugh', 'escape', 'light'. '...
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59 views

Word request (historical) - net worn by ancient soldiers

I am looking for a word for a net worn by soldiers in ancient times hanging down from their helmets, sometimes too long as resting on shoulders. (Please, refer to the picture annotated by red arrow ...
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92 views

What is the difference in nuance of amiable and affable?

Both come from Latin. The noun amicus(friend) from amo(I love) The verb affor(to address) from ad + for(to speak to) I am pretty sure etymologically amiable should be much more warm, pleasant and ...
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30 views

How can James Joyce's 'word' “egourge” be seen, via Greek, as “worker for the self” or “self-employed”?

In Finnegans Wake, James Joyce uses the 'word' egourge (p.g. 49-50), which syntactically yields ego-urge, which makes sense semantically. Finnwake.com claims that egourge also derives from "egoourgos ...