Questions tagged [etymology]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
4
votes
1answer
282 views

Why is the state of being resident “residence”, but the state of being president “presiden-cy”?

Resident : Residence seems like the normal pairing to me. Residency isn't exactly unknown (see here), but it's far less common. But with President the derivatives are reversed and then some. ...
4
votes
2answers
325 views

Does the phrase “locker room talk” have precedent?

A video from 2005 (transcript) was recently released wherein Donald Trump made vulgar comments about women. In his effort to downplay/apologize for his remarks, he has repeatedly labeled his comments ...
4
votes
4answers
4k views

Origin of “clip” in “clip around the ears”

"Clip" commonly refers to a device for holding things together. One dictionary says it's "of unknown origin, first occurring in the 15th century." In such phrases as "giving him a clip around the ear",...
4
votes
3answers
7k views

Were there any other synonyms to “sustainability” before the 80s?

The German word for sustainability, Nachhaltigkeit, arose (according to Wiktionary) in the 18th century. Ngrams shows this. I was wondering if the concept of sustainability did not exist before the ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Are the noun and verb forms of “badger” related etymologically?

Are the noun "badger", naming an animal, and the verb "to badger", describing the behavior of a person, related etymologically? Does the meaning of one come directly from the other? What about the ...
4
votes
3answers
8k views

Where did the name “English” come from?

How is the name for one's own language created?
4
votes
2answers
311 views

What is the difference between these two “scip”s?

In a question about ships, I added an answer with the etymologies that underpin both ship and -ship. "Ship" stems from scip: "O.E. scip "ship, boat," from P.Gmc. *skipan (cf. O.N., O.S., Goth. skip ,...
4
votes
2answers
25k views

Etymology of 'ends' or 'the ends' and other current British/London slang

I'd like to know more about how 'ends' came to mean 'hometown' in current London slang. I have heard it used to mean money, which is an extension of mainstream use - means to an end, for one's own ...
4
votes
0answers
654 views

What is the origin of “bite me”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Meaning and usage of “bite me” Here’s the dilemma: What body part does the oft-used expression, “Bite me!” refer to? All the males (man on the street) I’ve ...
4
votes
3answers
29k views

What is the origin of the phrase “wind your neck in!”?

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the origin of the phrase in title.
4
votes
3answers
3k views

Etymology and meaning of the word “snog”

Having looked to urban dictionary, witionary, online etymology, dictionary.com, Wikipedia and wordfreaks.tribe.net, I have found a wide variance in the etymology and definition of the word snog. I ...
4
votes
6answers
11k views

difference between act and deed

I've been searching the internet, but have not quite found a satisfactory explanation between an act and a deed. Both seem to have kind of a meaning of something done, though through my google and ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does -istic turn some words negative?

The definition of -istic is: Used to form adjectives from nouns, especially nouns in -ist and -ism, with the meaning "of or pertaining to" said nouns. I don't see anything in there that could make ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

From Soup to Nuts

I know that the phrase means "from one end to the other". Though I know many dinners that start with a soup, I know none that end with nuts. Hence the question - where does this phrase originate?
3
votes
1answer
617 views

What is the etymology of “look out”?

What does English idiom "look out" (or "watch out") come from? When you want to warn somebody. Usually, in case of a danger, it is better to hide rather than move your head out to see. (I know it is ...
3
votes
2answers
178 views

Is playoff a Shakespearean term?

The OED and other sources suggest that playoff is a construction from the late 19th century, while the following source suggests that it was originally used by Shakespeare in Henry IV. What does ...
3
votes
2answers
596 views

What is the origin of the word “dead-tree”? [closed]

What is the origin of the word dead-tree? I know that it basically refers to the print edition of a book that is also available in electronic format but would like to understand of the etymology the ...
3
votes
1answer
774 views

Origins of “schoolboy error”

In the UK, at least, we use the term "a schoolboy error" to mean a simple or foolish mistake. Oxford has it as: British informal A very basic or foolish mistake. It is used very frequently in ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Origin, history and precise meaning of “banger” in the US music industry

I recently heard the word banger used by a young man in Chicago to describe a catchy, up-beat song. Checking Green's Dictionary of Slang, I found a definition attested in 2016 that to my mind seems a ...
3
votes
2answers
257 views

Why can't the parts of “able to” and “capable of” be switched?

Why are "able to [verb]" and "capable of [gerund]" both perfectly valid English, but "capable to [verb]" sounds slightly off and "able of [gerund]" sounds entirely wrong? What's the etymological ...
3
votes
5answers
14k views

Origin of using “clocked” to mean “noticed”

The word "clocked" can be used to mean "noticed", as in: Bob: I'm gonna park here a minute. Did you see any traffic wardens about. Geoff: Actually, I clocked one down the road on my way up. ...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

“Walk”, “talk”: forms not in any other language

I've heard that the words "walk" and "talk" do not have cognates in any other known language. That is, neither of these very common words in English have similar forms in other languages, Germanic, ...
3
votes
3answers
37k views

what are the origins of hi, hey, hello?

What are the origins of hi, hey and hello? Are they related?
3
votes
3answers
2k views

Origin of “name happened” form: from “s*** happens” via “magic happens”?

There’s a form in current English Then <X> happened or <X> happened, where you transition the name of a thing (a person, a fictitious character, or object), to mean the dramatic ...
3
votes
4answers
10k views

Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
3
votes
4answers
5k views

Which Language does the word Galore come from? [closed]

I would think that it comes from "glorious". So galore is suggesting that one is surrounded by gloriousness, or is experiencing lots of gloriousness. Is this correct? I ask because I suggested it ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the origin of the word “copped”?

In the language used by footy (Australian football) commentators the word "copped" is frequent. For instance, if a player gets knocked on the head, say, then the sentence might be "player X copped one"...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

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"...
3
votes
2answers
409 views

In what book was “the oldest joke in the book”?

I'd like to understand the derivation of the phrase "oldest X in the book." Was this referring to a particular book, or was it an idiom that developed without a particular object in mind? If it is ...
3
votes
1answer
341 views

Why have some plural pronouns replaced singular pronouns?

While today we use for example the word "you" for second person singular and plural in objective and subjective manner, there were actually words to differentiate this usages like "thou" and "thee", ...
3
votes
3answers
9k views

Why do the words ducky and jake mean fine or satisfactory?

Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary acknowledges both ducky and jake as acceptable terms meaning fine or satisfactory and it dates the word ducky back to 1897 and jake to 1914. Does anyone know how ...
3
votes
5answers
8k views

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 ...
3
votes
2answers
14k views

Etymology of the phrase “cannot see the forest for the trees”

How did this phrase originate grammatically? I’m especially interested in the fragment “for the trees”. See http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/see_the_forest_for_the_trees for its definition.
3
votes
3answers
5k views

Origin of the phrase “go west” (to die)

I was curious, what is the origin of the phrase "to go west" or "to pass into the west" (as in the sense of to die)?
3
votes
2answers
15k views

What's the origin of the idiom “don't give it the time of day”?

Twice in the past few hours, I've seen the idiom "don't give it the time of day". Now, I immediately knew and understood what the people using the phrase meant, but then I realized that I didn't know ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Base/root of increment and decrement

I'm tasked with a morphological analysis of incrementing. I would say that crement is the base of increment and the root of the word. But I'm curious, because all my life I've been thinking about ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

English word forms not having cognates in any other language

I've heard that the word "dog" does not have cognates in any other known language (checked with etymonline ). That is, this very common words has similar forms in other languages, Germanic, Romance, ...
3
votes
2answers
5k views

Usage of “burn” as a form of mockery - How did it start?

I have come across numerous posts/memes on social media where, considering A,B and C are different people: A posts something seemingly innocuous. B comments on A's post, something either very funny ...
3
votes
3answers
5k views

Different ways to pronounce “augh”

In the word laugh, it is pronounced "aff". In the word naught, it is pronounced "aw". Are there any other ways to pronounce "augh"? Bonus points for etymology explaining from where these ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the etymology of spam when talking about bulk unsolicited messages?

What does spam stand for, when talking about unsolicited (mostly advertisement) messages? The nearest possibility I found was "Stupid Pointless Annoying Messages" but it seems like too colorful to be ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

“On Tap” in the Sense of “Coming Up”

Starting with the Fifth Edition (1936), seven generations of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary have included (under the entry for tap) three definitions of "on tap," currently worded as ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the origin of the phrase - “For the life of me”?

The ODO definition is: (informal) However hard I try; even if my life depended on it I have come across this phrase quite a lot of times in EL&U: For the life of me, I can't remember that ...
3
votes
6answers
4k views

Decadence of the word decadence

Everyone who is not from the US that I know gives the same quizzical look when some food commercial claims that a TV dinner is decadent. When did it start being used to mean luxurious? And why? (Our ...
3
votes
3answers
511 views

How did 'consideration' semantically shift to mean 'something given in payment'?

What semantic notion connects the bolded meaning beneath with all the others that aren't related to recompense? To me, nouns like remittance or solatium (if we prefer an uncommon term) fit the bolded ...
3
votes
2answers
551 views

What is the name of combination, in error, of similar or related words? (E.g.: segueway)

Is there a technical term for combination, in error, of similar or related words? This question is prompted by the following malapropism or solecism, from an article by Elizabeth Montalbano in ...
3
votes
1answer
625 views

Origin of “oodles”

Oodles is a common word that means a large quantity of something The word is of US origin, but what is it's origin?
3
votes
2answers
280 views

Origins of the phrase “How killing!”

My mother says this phrase all of the time, to mean "That is hilarious". Supposedly "killing" is short for "killingly-funny"(!) but I must admit I have never ever heard anyone else say it. Is it a ...
3
votes
1answer
40k views

Origin of “waited on hand and foot”

I've just used the expression "expects to be waited on hand and foot", meaning someone who "expects others to do all the work of looking after his personal needs". A typical example (not necessarily ...
3
votes
1answer
216 views

Austen could care less?

I came across this exchange between Fanny Price and Miss Crawford in "Mansfield Park" near the end of Chapter 29. The phrase does seem to be a saying. Has anyone conjectured that it could be a source ...
3
votes
4answers
8k views

Etymology of “on the blink”

I was wondering where the phrase "on the blink" comes from. According to the OED the first recorded usage is from 1901 ‘H. McHugh’ John Henry 83 A stranglehold line of business that will put ...