Questions tagged [etymology]

Questions about tracing out and describing the elements of an individual word, as well as the historical changes in form and sense which that word has experienced over its history. Please use the 'phrase-origin' tag for phrase/expression origins.

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Origin of “on tilt”

Farlex Dictionary of Idiom gives the following definition about the expression: on tilt: In a reckless or rash state; acting without proper care, attention, or consideration. and adds that: ...
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2 votes
2 answers
354 views

"Screw" slang terms — are any socially acceptable?

There are a number of slang terms that use the term "screw". Pulling from an answer on this site: screw-based [slang terms] abound: you can screw something up (mess it up), you can be ...
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10 votes
3 answers
994 views

What is the origin of the phrase "circular firing squad"?

I've found many definitions online of the term, which the OED says is "used in reference to a situation in which a group of people are engaged in self-destructive internal conflicts and mutual ...
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3 votes
2 answers
94 views

The word "miracle" suggests, through common usage, a positive thing. Has it always? Or, like "awe", did it used to simply mean "momentous"?

Oxford asserts the word comes to us from Latin's miraculum, or an ‘object of wonder’, which in turn derives from mirari (‘to wonder’), itself a conjugation of mirus (‘wonderful’). Since "wonder&...
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4 votes
2 answers
276 views

How did "sand" come to mean courage/pluck?

How come sand means courage/pluck? There isn't much information available on the Internet regarding its etymology. With word etymologies I think the buck stops with the redoubtable World Wide Words, ...
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7 votes
1 answer
480 views

What is the origin/meaning of the term "color" in corporate earnings calls?

What is the origin/meaning of the term "color" in corporate earnings calls? Some examples: ChipMOS Technologies Ltd (IMOS) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript: S. J. will chair the meeting and ...
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  • 961
13 votes
7 answers
408 views

What is origin of the term “dry” to mean lack of a sweet taste?

I am aware that “London Dry” is a style of unsweetened gin and that this has influenced how we talk about other drinks. I am interested in why the word dry was initially used in this context to ...
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12 votes
5 answers
2k views

What is the origin of the idiom "Put on a clinic"?

I was rather fascinated by the idiom put on a clinic (meaning to perform extremely well) when I heard it used today for what I'm sure was the first time, because it sounded so cool. More than that, I ...
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  • 6,630
5 votes
2 answers
199 views

What is the origin of "huge"?

What is the origin of the word huge (adj. and adv.) meaning "very great, large, or big; immense, enormous, vast"? Both OED and Etymonline say that it might be from an Old French word which ...
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  • 54k
3 votes
1 answer
64 views

What is the origin of "out of sight" or "outa sight" in the sense of amazing/unbelievable?

I had thought that "out of sight" or "outa sight" in the sense of amazing originated in the 1960s. I was surprised to find it used frequently in Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of ...
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  • 3,307
2 votes
2 answers
87 views

Passionarity vs Passion, are they of the same origin?

Is the origin of passionarity and passion the same? Lexico gives the etymology of passion but has no entry for passionarity. It seems like these two words are very similar, but have different meanings....
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6 votes
1 answer
146 views

How did English come to use a variation of the Polish spelling for Czechoslovakia?

In English, and a few languages influenced by English (e.g. Malay, Samoan, Yoruba), the name of the former European country is spelled "Czechoslovakia". That isn't how it is spelled in other ...
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2 votes
1 answer
66 views

Etymology of "nasal specs" as a synonym for "nasal cannula"?

For context, this is in the UK—I was told by someone they had been given "nasal specs"—which was the term they had been told when they got them, and then I asked someone I know who is a ...
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0 votes
0 answers
109 views

Origins of "trim the tree"

The expression "trim the tree" in the context of Christmas means "decorate the tree." It seems an odd verb to use, since "trim" usually means to take material away rather ...
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2 votes
0 answers
33 views

What is the etymology of "market capitalisation" [closed]

I want to ask a question about the term 'market capitalisation'. In finance, this term is used to often refer to the total "value" of a company, expressed by multiplying the number of shares ...
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0 votes
0 answers
67 views

Why is "Who's From Out Of Town?" the "classic" standup bit?

I've heard numerous references to this line in various places but have not been able to pin down the origin. Presumably, the joke is that a performer will ask this question to the audience, and when ...
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-1 votes
0 answers
92 views

Has the word individual 'outcompeted' that of person historically?

Would it be correct to say that the word individual have 'outcompeted' that of person since 17th century in everyday English, as well as in social sciences? According to etymonline.com's entry on ...
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1 vote
0 answers
567 views

What is the origin of the British phrase "Rough as houses"?

I'm preempting the usual comments by saying: If you're not British, you probably won't have heard it before. But it is a fairly well known phrase in BrE. For instance, in this book: Unfortunately, it ...
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1 vote
1 answer
59 views

What is the origin of the meaning of 'counter' to express the surface on which goods or money is counted? [closed]

The OED does not appear to list the meaning of the noun 'counter' which conveys the concept of a flat surface over which goods or money is counted, except that it lists the verb 'to counter' as having ...
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  • 24.5k
0 votes
2 answers
120 views

Where does the phrase "That's a wrap" come from?

Where does the phrase "That's a wrap", meaning "we are finished" come from? I suspect it is from the movie making process, but I couldn't find much information on its origins.
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1 vote
1 answer
121 views

Usage of suffix in Arithmetic vs Arithmatic - arithmos (root)? [closed]

In creating a new English word, when does one use the suffix of -matic vs -metic? As an example: Why or how does one get arithmetic from a root word of arithmos? On the origins of the word "...
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4 votes
1 answer
150 views

What's the origin of "to string somebody along"?

"to string somebody along", i.e. to deceive. What's the origin of this phrase? I always picture a cow being lead by the speaker with a piece of string.
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3 votes
1 answer
86 views

Why 'd' in 'Aeneid'?

The Latin poem Aeneis is Aeneid in English. How did the last d come about? A few suspects by quick search: /ð/ → /d/ shift in English, but there must be a shift /s/ → /ð/. It seems romance languages ...
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  • 199
0 votes
1 answer
71 views

OE hacele "cloak" vs English hackle?

What is the semantic connection between OE hacele "cloak" and modern English hackle "An instrument with steel pins used to comb out flax or hemp"?
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-2 votes
1 answer
72 views

Is "eipher" a proper English word or a typo of "Cipher"? [closed]

In many posts and online articles, I come across the usage of "eipher". But, I could not get the meaning or history of this word from any sources. The word "eipher" results many ...
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  • 97
1 vote
2 answers
175 views

What makes the spelling of "psychedelic" a mongrel spelling?

According to this Wikipedia article, Richard Evans Schultes thought that psychedelic was a mongrel spelling of the word. The other option was phanerothyme. Apparently, they are both constructed from ...
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  • 2,117
1 vote
1 answer
83 views

History of the expression "Moses basket"

The expression "Moses basket" is clearly an allusion to the biblical story. But what is the history of this expression? When was the expression first used to mean a portable cradle for a ...
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  • 1,835
5 votes
2 answers
251 views

Why are 'at least' and 'a lot' not single words?

I constantly have trouble with spelling the word-phrases ‘at least’ and ‘a lot’ .. they both should be a single word in my mind, which isn’t correct. They both seem to just be a single unit of meaning....
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  • 383
-2 votes
1 answer
128 views

Does "pig" (fat animal) come from the Latin "pinguedo" (fat)?

Does "pig" (fat animal) come from the Latin pinguedo (fat)?
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  • 324
0 votes
1 answer
51 views

First Use of the Word 'Skimmer' to Mean a Low-Flying Hovercraft in Science Fiction? [closed]

Does anyone know when the word 'skimmer' first got used to mean 'a low-flying, in-atmosphere hovercraft' in science fiction?
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14 votes
5 answers
2k views

“Green” has been associated with envy (green-eyed monster), as well as with a novice. How did these associations arise? [closed]

The color green is associated with lack of experience (i.e. novices are called “green”), as well as with envy (“green with envy”, “green-eyed monster”). Does anyone know how, when and why these ...
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  • 175
1 vote
1 answer
107 views

'Miscellaneous': must be followed by a plural count noun

Garner's fourth reads Miscellaneous must be followed by a plural count noun; it does not work with an abstract mass noun. Exceptions are set phrases such as miscellaneous shower/income. and An ...
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  • 2,227
0 votes
2 answers
55 views

Definite article with noun referring to something not satisfying definition

Consider the following phrase: The airplane is missing its wings Given that wings are part of the definition of an airplane, why is it correct to use “the airplane” to refer to an airplane without ...
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  • 119
2 votes
1 answer
96 views

Where did the word red-tapism come from?

What is the origin of the word red-tapism? And what does it actually mean? Lexico says it first appeared in the mid-19th century in the Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, a London paper. Searching ...
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0 votes
0 answers
44 views

Why all interrogative pronoun , 5W start with W? [duplicate]

The other day when I was looking at my grand daughter reading her English text book,I was suddenly asked by her why five interrogative pronouns - who, what, where, when, what begin with the letter, W. ...
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  • 69.9k
2 votes
1 answer
380 views

Origin of the term "level up"

The term "level up" is a current political buzz-phrase. The Tories have spoken much of how they are going to do this to deprived areas of the UK, and today it came out they're even renaming ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
267 views

Origin of the phrase "dotting the i's and crossing the t's"

I know what that phrase means, but I would like to know how this phrase may have been originated. Here's what I think (I am no expert, far from it): People used to predominantly write in cursive style ...
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0 votes
2 answers
177 views

Etymology of "brave", meaning insane

I was reviewing the hilarious and terrifying British English to other translation guide and I would be fascinated to know something. How has the use of brave in "That's a very brave proposal"...
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  • 129
2 votes
1 answer
116 views

Do 'verity' and 'verily' derive from 'very'?

The Oxford English Dictionary (subscription required or a library card number in the UK) has the following entry for 'very' used as an adjective or an adverb : Forms: α. Middle English (1500s ...
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6 votes
1 answer
283 views

In the field of bookbinding, where does the term "Davey Board" come from?

There is a generic material called "Binder's Board". Which is the board that the covers of hardcover books are made from. In the industry, it is also called "Davey Board". I ...
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  • 329
-1 votes
1 answer
68 views

About the words "Speed" and "Velocity"

Physics guys closed these questions so I am here From our daily experiences we know that whenever a body is moving with certain speed, it is always associated with a certain direction. How can you ...
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  • 121
4 votes
2 answers
517 views

What is the original superlative form of well?

I know that “well” (as in the adverb “to do well”) has a superlative form, “best,” but this is suppletive, and I’ve always wanted to know what the original, as in, the last, not suppletive, ...
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  • 69
10 votes
3 answers
743 views

How did "muggins" come into use?

In an episode of "Yes Minister", the Rt. Hon. James Hacker is appointed to be "Transportation Supremo" - in charge of devising an integrated transport policy. His permanent ...
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  • 3,384
3 votes
1 answer
426 views

How did "realize" change from "make real" to 2 new senses: 'understand', 'come to understand'?

Millar concedes that "It is not at all obvious how this change could have occurred", and he's a historical linguistics professor! Alas he doesn't expatiate it. Can someone please expound ...
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0 votes
0 answers
41 views

Etymology: When did the words "idea" and "concept" become interchangeable?

The word "idea" used to be connected with Plato and refer to a thing's "ideal" (thus, they share the same root). Does anyone know how this word come to be conflated with the word &...
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6 votes
1 answer
221 views

When did the change occur in meaning of Afghan from an ethnic group to "person from Afghanistan?"

A related question can be found here, dealing with the usage of "Afghan" to mean "inhabitant of Afghanistan." Which term is correct — "Afghan" or "Afghani"? I'm ...
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18 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is the origin of "don't punch a gift horse in the mouth"?

I had always thought that the phrase was "don't look...", but my friend insists that it is "don't punch..." and there are a non-zero number of web search results showing usage of ...
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  • 298
-2 votes
1 answer
55 views

When and why did English change Affrick and Asie to Africa and Asia? [closed]

English names for continents all end in Latin suffix -a / -ia, except Europe. Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia Since English language used to take much of its vocabulary from French during ...
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  • 335
1 vote
2 answers
73 views

What does roland mean in mediaeval landscaping context?

In the following passage the word “roland” is used to indicate some central fixture of a town that is related to trees (or so I take it). I can’t find the definition of this usage anywhere, though (...
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  • 21
1 vote
2 answers
251 views

What is the history of the phrase "figure it out"?

Just trying to establish the time when the term came into popular use in the US or elsewhere. Google didn't tell me.
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