Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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81 views

Do sparse and Spartan have the same root?

So, I had a random realization that sparse and Spartan can mean fairly similar things. E.g a sparse apartment could equally be described as a Spartan apartment. I tried looking into this, but my ...
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1answer
197 views

What's the -nym for describing a time of day or a period of time?

We have these... Morning, afternoon, evening, night, day, and it's like night and day Midnight and noon, and high noon Yesterday, today, and tomorrow Earlier, later, and now Four O'Clock 2300 hours ...
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85 views

What is the origin of the verb “to nurdle”?

I was surprised to find that the OED had an entry for nurdle, and had never associated it with either tiddlywinks or cricket (see below). However I feel certain that it originates from a Goon Show ...
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104 views

Etymology of “to trade”?

Concerning "to trade", I saw on Etymonline: https://www.etymonline.com/word/trade late 14c., "path, track, course of action," introduced by the Hanse merchants, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low ...
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1answer
147 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, ...
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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, ...
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57 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....
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200 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? ...
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Meaning of the phrase “theatre of pain” [closed]

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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102 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 ...
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26 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 ...
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48 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 ...
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1answer
102 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 ...
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75 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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1answer
114 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 ...
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1answer
97 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 ...
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31 views

What is the mummers play Galatian? [closed]

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 ...
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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 ...
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51 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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2answers
81 views

Jasper as a synonym for wasp

I recently heard a friend refer to a wasp as a “jasper” I’ve never heard of this before, and haven’t been able to find anyone else who uses this term. Is this usage of the word “jasper” meaning wasp ...
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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) ...
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32 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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Etymology of 'vanity unit' / 'vanity table'

A "vanity unit" is basically a table that can either be below a sink or just in a bedroom that contains drawers. It appears to have no obvious link with the standard definitions of the word "vanity". ...
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What is the Greek etymology for “-on” in words like “proton” and “neutron”? [closed]

Google says "proton" is from "protos" and "-on" ("first" + "being"), or "πρῶτος" and "?". What is the "-on" in Greek, is it "ὤν" or "ἐν" or something?
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62 views

What are some commonly used expressions used in English, that originate from latin or else?

I am not sure what I am specifically asking for, Basically I'd like to get a list of these special expressions, from you, because I can't seem to find one. NOT ASKING ABOUT THE USAGE of these that I ...
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1answer
58 views

When does the idiom 'breathed new life into' originate from?

My assumption is it derives from Genesis, but even if that's the case, what I'm really wondering is at what point did it become a common idiom in English, that could be used in contexts that don't ...
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1answer
71 views

Why is 'you' considered plural? [closed]

The pronoun 'you' can be used both as a singular and a plural pronoun. However, it is never paired with 'is' and always with 'are'. Why is it that 'you' is considered plural? My guess would be that ...
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1answer
90 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 ...
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1answer
50 views

On the etymology of “Stereophonic”

I've taken a dive into the field of "stereolithography" of late. If I am not entirely wrong that "translates" to "durable stone writing." And that makes a lot of sense, given what stereolithography ...
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224 views

How did the meaning of “consultant” shift from asker to askee?

Reading a different question about the opposite of the word consultant made we wonder why the word shifted semantically from the asker to the person who answers? From Etymonline: consultant (n.) ...
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55 views

Why are reverb effects referred to as “wet” or “drippy”? [closed]

Reverb is a type of natural effect you can get playing in wide open spaces, giving a sort of echo/reverberation as the name implies. But I'm referring more to emulated reverb through use of a guitar ...
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165 views

What is the justification for the difference between “venom” and “poison”

In the last few years an Internet meme has been going around that "poison" is a substance that has a negative effect when ingested, while "venom" has to be injected. Ergo, "poisonous snakes" should ...
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277 views

Can something that is one-of-a-kind be “rare”?

Perusing some for sale listings of guitars, many of them are Custom Shop, i.e. built to customer specification and not off the wall production models. By definition, these are one-of-a-kind ...
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In the old name Dreadnought, is nought an adverb or a noun?

The name Dreadnought, a class of naval ship, originates from the eponymous HMS Dreadnought. Wikipedia indicates that Dreadnought's name, and the class of battleships named after her, means "a ...
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126 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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1answer
65 views

auspicious vs auspicial - why two of them and etymology

I always knew the word auspicious. A colleague of mine used the word auspicial and I thought this was a spelling mistake. I made a search and am seeing it in a lot of dictionaries. Does anyone ...
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2answers
401 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 ...
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1answer
338 views

Demod as a neologism

Moderator is a very old term in the sense still popularly used nowadays: Meaning "one who acts as an arbitrator, person who presides at a meeting or disputation" is from 1560s. (Etymonline) ...
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Is there a word that could mean both serious and humorous?

I'm creating a project on character traits, and the person that I'm writing about is funny yet serious. I didn't know if there was a word for that, so I'm asking for help.
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What is the origin of the phrasal verb “rope into”?

e.g. “I was roped into doing it” From what I can find on the web, “know the ropes” originates either from sailing or theatre. “On the ropes” may originate from boxing. The one article I found ...
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“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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1answer
125 views

Why is 'lavender' used to reference homosexuality?

I am aware of Lavender Linguistics, which is a form of Polari and was used by gay men a lexicon 'used in the 1950s and early 1960s by gay men as a secret language which concealed their homosexuality ...
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255 views

Why do Australians and NZers call snacks/lunch *crib*?

From another question I found out that Australians and New Zealanders call lunch and snacks crib. On the Macquarie dictionary site, there are several (user contributed) theories about why, but ...
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1answer
145 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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1answer
180 views

What made “gusto” popular?

Gusto is a foreign term which the English language appears to have borrowed twice: 1620s, "very common from the beginning of the 19th c." [OED], from Italian gusto "taste," from Latin gustus "a ...
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3answers
451 views

What is the origin of “blink” meaning short-range teleporation?

In many games and even 1998's Charmed, a blink ability is the ability to instantly teleport several feet in front of you. Where did this term come from? Why is it "blink"?
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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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36 views

What is the origin of the term “good-bye? [duplicate]

Where did the term “good-bye” come from and what does it originally mean?
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1answer
134 views

Master to mister?

Why was Master weakened to Mister so as to address individual hominēs sapientēs and the English language lost the thou/you distinction while the Greek language kept both Kύριος intact and the Eσύ/...
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What’s the British English for “shotgun wedding”?

The expression “shotgun wedding/marriage”, as described in the following link, is an American English one. Of American-English origin, the phrases shotgun wedding and shotgun marriage denote a ...