Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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6
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2answers
271 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 ...
4
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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Where does the outdated “thing-O-thing” come from?

In many an outdated medium one may come across words such as gram-O-phone or shear-O-matic.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'...
3
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1answer
187 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 ...
3
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3answers
464 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"?
1
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0answers
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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0answers
37 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?
2
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1answer
145 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/...
16
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3answers
2k views

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 ...
1
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1answer
75 views

pretty: How did its Old English etymon semantically shift from 'a trick, wile, craft' to its Middle English etymon 'manly, gallant'?

Etymonline contends the semantic shift is 'uncertain', but what semantic notions might've underlain 'a trick, wile, craft' with 'manly, gallant'? pretty Old English prættig (West Saxon), ...
3
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2answers
63 views

How did 'pretty' semantically shift from 'beautiful' to 'not a few, considerable'?

Etymonline and OED don't expound what semantic notions underlie beauty and momentousness. Connection between Old English and Middle English words is uncertain, but if they are the same, meaning had ...
28
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4answers
3k views

What is the origin of the minced oath “Jiminy”?

Jiminy, by jiminy, jumpin' jiminy etc —used as a mild oath often in the phrases by jiminy, jiminy crickets, jiminy Christmas -Merriam Webster In a more innocent age, and long before the ...
3
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1answer
47 views

What was the original usage of 'sentient'?

In general speech, especially in science fiction and fantasy, 'sentient' is used to mean "having human-equivalent intelligence". But on the internet, people often insist that the original meaning of '...
4
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1answer
69 views

I'm looking for some background on the word “breant”

This quote was written by Henry Kelsey in his journal on August 6, 1691: "this river breants away much to ye Southward & runneth through great part of the Country". Kelsey was born around 1667 in ...
2
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1answer
24 views

When was “untactful” first used?

I came across "untactful" in a story and wondered when it was first used and how it came to be commonly used in speech. I've always used "tactless". I checked a lot of dictionaries with no results. I ...
2
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1answer
83 views

Etymology of the scientific term “tomont”

What is the etymology of the scientific term "tomont", referring to a life stage of certain parasitic organisms such as Cryptocaryon irritans? The Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for a ...
0
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1answer
41 views

How did 'already' semantically shift from 'all ready' to indicate completed action?

Etymonline proclaims that 'already' did literally mean 'all ready'. c. 1300, "in a state of readiness" (an adjectival sense, now obsolete), literally "fully ready, quite prepared," a contraction ...
2
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1answer
54 views

what is the intent / meaning of the word unetymological

I understand that nonetymological / unetymological mean "not etymological" - i.e. something which doesn't have any roots in formation. But I am unable to grasp its significance - like does it mean "...
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0answers
114 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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1answer
88 views

How can a word for 'the act of Xing', semantically shift to mean 'the thing Xed'? [duplicate]

I don't grasp this Reddit comment. An example of (3) might be this (from a 15th-century will): I now the seid John Smyth, for diu[er]se causez and consyderacyonys shevyd vnto me, will ...
1
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1answer
71 views

How did loophole become associated with law

...and stick almost exclusively to it? According to Collins Dictionary: A loophole in the law is a small mistake which allows people to do something that would otherwise be illegal. The ...
3
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2answers
144 views

Origin and explanation of “Operation Yellowhammer” for a worst-case scenario

The British government called its research on a worst-case scenario in the event of a no-deal Brexit Operation Yellowhammer: Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, ...
7
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3answers
312 views

Origin of “in your corner”?

I just wrote an email to a new friend and colleague from Rwanda, whom I am helping to find work in translation and interpreting. And I signed my email, “In your corner,” only later realizing she might ...
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0answers
40 views

Distinction between prefixes 'super-' and 'extra-' in similar contexts

From my understanding, both the prefixes super- and extra- can mean above or beyond, though a possible distinction could be as follows (from the answer to this question): ...using super-something ...
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1answer
52 views

Daily in terms of annual [closed]

A frequency of events can be expressed using annual (once per year). Also prefixes can be applied to increase the frequency during the year: biannual (twice per year), triannual (thrice per year), etc....
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5answers
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Where does the expression “triple-A” come from?

The term "AAA" or "triple-A" is a term mainly used nowadays in the video game industry, according to Wikipedia, ... for video games produced and distributed by a mid-sized or major publisher, ...
3
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1answer
207 views

What is the origin and meaning of 'lookit'?

A recent English Language & Usage question (Information about "lookit") noted that a number of dictionaries do not have entries for the word lookit. I checked Merriam-Webster's Third New ...
0
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0answers
77 views

Whence the English Plural -s? [duplicate]

There are many questions here unsure about the difference between user's/users'/users guide and the like, whether that's called posessive, genitive or whatever. bridesmaid for example clearly does ...
1
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1answer
170 views

Is there any connection between 1 bit = 1/8 dollar and 1 bit = 1/8 byte?

I always thought the 1/8 ratio of bit/dollar was the inspiration for the bit/byte naming scheme, but I can't seem to find any evidence for this in my admittedly limited research. Wikipedia claims ...
3
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1answer
210 views

Do “Devi” and “Devil” have related roots?

I understand that "Devi" is feminine of "Deva", meaning "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence", and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism" according to Wikipedia and is from Sanskrit. ...
3
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1answer
80 views

Meaning of 'train' in 19th c. women's clothing--but not the elongated part of a dress, robe, or coat

Queen Victoria instructed her secretary to write Princess Alexandra about her trousseau before she married the Prince of Wales: "Three or four trains and grand toilettes will . . . be sufficient." ...
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1answer
105 views

What is the Origin of '' 'sup? ''

Sup is a contraction or aphetic of the older term ''what's up?'', Does anyone know how it has originated?
2
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1answer
102 views

Where was the term “A1” first used?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that "A1" means "of the finest quality" and it says that the term was first used in the year 1801 (with no reference): https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/...
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3answers
95 views

Why are boomers called boomers? [closed]

They didn't boom anything. Their parents did. Shouldn't they instead be called "the boomed"?
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1answer
249 views

How did the Idiom “Tit for Tat ”get the current usage? [closed]

I have referred to the dictionary and found the following meanings. Tit -a small bird that searches acrobatically for insects among foliage and branches. Tat - Low quality Tit for Tat means The ...
1
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1answer
65 views

What's the difference between “stochastic” and “random”?

Is one just used to sound fancy? Webster defines the former as the latter: Definition of stochastic 1 : RANDOM specifically : involving a random variable a stochastic process 2 : ...
5
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1answer
201 views

What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

I was just watching the preview for Blue Velvet (1986) and heard Kyle McLachlan use the phrase: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out”. I assume the phrase is probably older than that movie, ...
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2answers
87 views

How did 'despite' semantically shift to signify 'without being affected by something'?

The quotes below substantiate that 'spite' in 'despite' or in 'in spite of' connotes 'scorn, contempt'. How did these meanings shift to the 'despite' meaning? I quote Etymonline on despite (n., prep....
42
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3answers
4k views

How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John ...
4
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1answer
158 views

When was the first ecocide “committed”?

Dictionary.com defines ecocide as an Americanism dating back to 1965–70: the destruction of large areas of the natural environment by such activity as nuclear warfare, overexploitation of ...
4
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1answer
67 views

noble - can it be split into morphemes?

Can I split noble into nob + the suffix -le? -le is found in other adjectives such as little, brittle, fickle nob is found in noble, nobleman, nobleness, nobler, noblesse, noblest, nobly. But ...
6
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1answer
151 views

Is bludgeon connected with blood or block?

Bludgeon is a short, heavy club which is thicker or loaded at one end. Both OED and Etymonline say "origin unknown". There are possible Cornish, Celtic, Dutch, cant, Middle French, Irish and Gaelic ...
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1answer
118 views

Meaning and etymology of “twirling waxed mustaches”

Today, the New York Times online edition reviews a documentary film. The review contains the following sentence: The filmmakers don’t villainize anyone, though a few participants come awfully close ...
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3answers
3k views

Why is it a *canary* in a coalmine? [closed]

I understand what the idiom means: as per this question, it means a person or creature unwittingly used as a test for danger, often destructively. I understand why coalmines: as depositories of ...
4
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1answer
713 views

Was 'help' pronounced starting with a vowel sound?

In The King James Bible, Genesis: 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. I have ...
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1answer
79 views

Why is the word “phonics” pronounced /ˈfɑnɪks/ instead of /ˈfoʊnɪks/?

Is there any etymological reason for this? Normally, an o in a stressed syllable followed by /n/ and a vowel would be pronounced /oʊ/. And phoneme is pronounced /ˈfoʊnim/. Why does the pronunciation ...
3
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1answer
454 views

Why does the word “school” contain an 'h'?

Considering the low prevalence of words in English written with the letter combination "sch", why is the word "school" written the way it is, rather than simply "scool"? As far as I could tell, the ...
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1answer
126 views

When pronunciation does not follow etymology [closed]

Autophagy is defined as: Biology: Consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring in starvation and certain diseases. lexico.com It also provides a pronunciation: /...
0
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1answer
87 views

Are there terms for composite words that do not follow a logical etymological pattern?

For instance, we have two patterns for terms to describe sexual atteaction, one of which intersects a pattern for terms to describe a deep fondness for. Homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual follow ...
12
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4answers
6k views

Is “Fredo” an insult to Italian-Americans?

Recently in the news there's been some kerfuffle about a verbal exchange between CNN anchorman, Chris Cuomo, and a person who called him “Fredo”. In the cell-phone video, the man claims I thought ...
2
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0answers
67 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 ...