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.

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5
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2answers
178 views

When has “hanky-panky” come to mean ’sexual dalliance’?

I looked up etymonline, and it traces it back to 1841, but in the sense ’trickery’ only. It says it is “possibly a variant of hoky-poky ‘deception, fraud,’ altered from hocus-pocus.” Kipling Society, ...
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0answers
79 views

Dialect differences between "should", "ought", and "ought to"

As I travel around England, Southern Wales, and Southern Scotland, I hear the rural and working-class people in some areas use "should" (and never "ought"), in other areas "...
5
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1answer
158 views

Why did word final S get replaced by "CE" in Middle and Modern English?

There are many words in English that have ce at the end in Modern English. The roots they have come from had s but replaced by ce in Modern English. Is there any reason why the s's got replaced by ce? ...
3
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1answer
170 views

Why do “would” and “could” make questions polite?

An excerpt of the article from thoughtco.com: Key Words That Make Direct Questions More Polite In informal situations, one could use the word “can” in a direct sentence. In the United States, “can” ...
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1answer
111 views

How did the meaning of the word “play” spread from games to things that are not games?

You can play a role in a film (movie), you can play a musical instrument in an orchestra. However, these activities are more work than a game. In ancient Roman theaters, slaves played, and it is ...
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1answer
137 views

What is the origin of the phrase "play a part/role"?

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: play a part/role to have an effect or influence on something Does this phrase come from the theater or somewhere else? From thefreedictionary.com: ...
40
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3answers
4k views

The phrase "do the lions"

I was recently reading an account of Zola's exile in England after the Dreyfus affair and I came across a phrase I couldn't quite parse: That gentleman, as I had surmised, was a trifle astonished at ...
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2answers
163 views

Origin of 'gin up'

I have been reading the Ken Follet 'Century' saga, and came across a usage I had not seen before. Supposedly in the words of an American... He had different governmental departments working together ...
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1answer
51 views

Are mean (clarify meaning) and mean (average) etymologically connected? [closed]

It occurred to me that the mean average is sort of the 'definition' of the set, while asking for a statement's meaning is also seeking clarity or a definition. Is this a coincidence, or was one usage ...
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0answers
80 views

What is the adjective form for the noun accismus? accismatic?

I've been looking for a word in English that expresses the following meaning: The state of wanting something but feigning disinterest because you want the other party to insist, ask more forcefully/...
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1answer
76 views

Etymology of “that” as both pronoun and conjunction

“That” can be used both as a pronoun and as a conjunction. For example, I know that it is raining. Give me that. This is unique to English as far as I know. In French and Spanish, for example, the ...
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5answers
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Why is a person with psychological problems called unbalanced?

A person with psychological problems can be called unbalanced. Unbalanced 1.1 (of a person) emotionally or mentally disturbed. (The Online Oxford English Dictionary) If you describe someone as ...
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0answers
98 views

Why appear, appearance are spelled with "ea", but apparent, apparently are spelled with "a"? [closed]

For the word appear, the verb and noun are spelled with "ea", but the adverb and adjective are spelled with "a", why do they have different vowels given that they have the same ...
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1answer
41 views

Hallucination and meditation [closed]

Can we say that imagination in Meditation is a hallucination? When I imagine something in meditation can I hallucinate or hallucination is unconscious and meditation is a conscious experience . ...
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1answer
66 views

Questions about history and usage of the word "paren"

This is related to an earlier question: "parentheses" vs "parenthesis" but is about etymology of the related (and apparently informal, per wikitionary ) word "paren" and ...
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3answers
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Is "giffy" (meaning airborne salt spray) a real word?

My mother (from Charleston, South Carolina) uses the word "giffy" (spelling unknown; hard g sound) for airborne salt spray that gets all over cars, windows, and (in extreme cases) power ...
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1answer
74 views

Why tsunami instead of tidal wave? [closed]

According to Wikipedia, ‘Tsunami waves do not resemble normal undersea currents or sea waves because their wavelength is far longer. Rather than appearing as a breaking wave, a tsunami may instead ...
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1answer
313 views

Why does "appropriate" (and also "duplicate", "deliberate" etc) have a different vowel in their adjective/noun and verb forms?

TL;DR There are adjectives/nouns--verb pairs in which the adjectives/nouns have weak vowel in the last syllable and the verb has strong for example: duplicate (adj): /ˈdjuːplɪkət/ duplicate (v.): /...
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3answers
124 views

Origin of the English word chevel

I'm originally from Yorkshire and my family, especially my mum, used the verb 'chevel', in the context of "you're always cheveling sweets". I don't know what the exact spelling was. Does ...
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1answer
58 views

Marsh ~ Swamp ~ Bog [closed]

I am going through the word 沼泽 zhǎozé marsh, swamp, bog Tried to find out the meanings for 3 of them as below: Marsh an area of low-lying land which is flooded in wet seasons or at high tide, and ...
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0answers
81 views

Why does ou change to o when adding the suffix -ous in words such as ‘humorous’?

Background I realised today that humour when made an adjective by adding the suffix -ous, loses its -ou- spelling to -o-. There are some other words which have a change in spelling, such as miracle → ...
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1answer
111 views

What is the origin of "set" (noun) as used in "television set"? Tubes?

The colloquial (and mostly archaic) term "television set" invokes a narrow use of set (noun). Merriam-Webster defines this as: (22) an apparatus of electronic components assembled so as to ...
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1answer
99 views

Where did the phrase "jump to conclusions" come from? [closed]

I've been looking for the origin of the phrase "jump to conclusions." I found nothing more than this: The term began to appear in the early 1700s in prints. The Idioms And how different ...
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1answer
46 views

When was "rush" first used to describe a sudden intense feeling?

I see different definitions of the word date back to the 14th century, but none for the meaning of a sudden intense feeling. Merriam-Webster didn't have that information either. Is it a modern ...
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0answers
79 views

Is "ick" related to "ichor"?

I believe that the word "ick," and by extension "icky," is related to the word "ichor," or to a mispronounciation of "ichor" (the pronunciation of "ichor&...
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3answers
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Why is it 'three score years and ten' almost half the time and not always 'three score and ten years'?

Why is it 'three score years and ten' almost half the time and not always 'three score and ten years'? Note: I edited the question body and title in light of comments and answers pointing me to a ...
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1answer
60 views

exult, etymological order

I checked etymology for exult in etymonline. Details are: 1560s, "to leap up;" 1590s, "to rejoice, triumph," from French exulter, from Latin exultare/exsultare "rejoice ...
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1answer
83 views

Origin of "spring cleaning"

Some people have traced the origin of spring cleaning to the Iranian New Year, which is on the first day of spring. However, it seems like I can find earlier origins of this. What is the true origin ...
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1answer
160 views

Origin of “race to the bottom”

The idiomatic expression “race to the bottom”, generally used in economic and financial contexts, refers to: A situation in which striving to have the lowest possible prices in order to attract the ...
17
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3answers
949 views

Etymological origin and earliest recorded occurrence of 'saunter' in English

Someone just sent me a quotation from the explorer/naturalist John Muir, in which he makes the following etymological claim: Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away ...
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1answer
38 views

How long has the word "site" been used as a noun in English? [closed]

I am writing a book that takes place in the fictional past, so I'm trying to make sure the language used in my writing doesn't draw the reader back to the present because of it not fitting well with ...
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0answers
142 views

What is the etymology of the term 'hunch'?

Oxford states the etymology as: late 15th century: of unknown origin. The original meaning was ‘push, shove’ (noun and verb), a sense retained now in Scots as a noun, and in US dialect as a verb. [...
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3answers
3k views

"Burning the candle at both ends" to mean being unfaithful in a relationship

I'm familiar with the idiom "burning the candle at both ends" to mean "to have expended oneself, in particular by staying up very very late". With this idiom I usually think of ...
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1answer
294 views

Subjunctive in English. Is it used for politeness?

The usual explanation I get for expressions such as "How much did you want to spend, sir?" is that the use of the past tense produces a distance between the present reality and the question, ...
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1answer
378 views

"Minister for" and "Ministry of"

In some British Commonwealth countries, e.g. Singapore, government ministries are named "Ministry of", as in "Ministry of Defence". However, the title of the minister in charge is &...
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1answer
2k views

Anti-vax origins of "vaxxed" [closed]

The world* is talking about getting vaccinated, and saying "vaxxed" to do so. Here are the first five Google News results for "vaxxed": "Free Joints for Vaxxed People in DC ...
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0answers
109 views

A to the B to the C: some kind of slang [closed]

I've often heard, especially in songs where slang is commonly used (pop, rap, etc.), people use a weird structure: something like "A to the B to the C...", where A, B, C, etc. are usually ...
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1answer
140 views

Definition of 'depauperise'

What is the definition of 'depauperise' (or 'depauperize')? Does it mean "to make someone poor", or "to rescue someone from poverty" (de- +‎ pauperize)? Has its meaning changed ...
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1answer
138 views

Did "A F" exist as an intensifier prior to social media?

"A F" is short for "as fuck". It popped into my lexicon a few years ago, when I started hearing it in Youtube videos. (See this video as an example, although this wasn't where I ...
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0answers
35 views

Usage of 'fit' as tight

In Indian languages I have seen the usage of the word 'fit' as being used to imply something is too-tight. In a Gujarati the sentence would use the word 'fit' to describe a garment that is too tight ...
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1answer
135 views

Why is a problem with tendons called tendinopathy?

Why is a problem with tendons called "tendinopathy"? i.e. why does the o in tendon change to an i?
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1answer
179 views

Why is it called “tossing” a salad? (in cooking)

…instead of just “mixing” it? I googled, but the results basically all point to sex, whereas I mean mixing together the vegetable ingredients in a salad. Thanks!
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2answers
184 views

Why are gender pronouns conventionally written as subject/object? [duplicate]

When gender pronouns are explicitly stated they tend to be given in the form "subject-pronoun/object-pronoun" e.g. he/him, she/her, they/them. Where does this convention originate from? Is ...
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1answer
85 views

What is the actual origin of the prefix 'bi-'?

How can anybody be sure the prefix 'bi-' (and its presumed source in Latin 'bis'= twice) did not originally come from Basque, in which the word for '2' is actually 'bi'?
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2answers
106 views

The word 'grocer' comes from 'gross'. But which sense(s) of 'gross'? Only a nonspecific large amount, or also, to any degree, exactly 144?

From erik-engheim.medium.com: 'People who do any kind of packaging have learned early that basing units on 12 makes sense. It is easier to pack that way, which is why things historically have been ...
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1answer
90 views

What does 'go through the mill' mean?

I am curious why "go through the mill" means "have had a lot of problems or difficulties".
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2answers
68 views

Does the suffix -ify have any inherent characteristics of making letters pronounced which would otherwise be silent?

It is quite clear that the word "signify" is derived from sign and the suffix -ify: sign + -ify = signify The letter "g" in the word sign is silent but when the suffix is added, ...
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3answers
4k views

Why is it called a Four-Poster Bed, and not a Four-Post Bed

It seems that every reference I can find refers to the columns of a four-poster bed as 'posts', so why is it called a four-poster bed? I've found some references that indicate that it was called a ...
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4answers
6k views

Why is "archaic" pronounced uniquely? Is the sequence -ɪɪ- only found in this word?

Before looking this word up, I have always rhymed it with cake i.e. /ɑːˈkeɪk/. But when I looked it up, it was actually /ɑː(r)ˈkeɪɪk/ with the sequence of a similar vowel repeated consecutively: -ɪɪ- ...
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1answer
46 views

When was the first time the word “extinction” was used in the environmental sense? [closed]

The word ‘extinction’ has a general meaning (= vanishing, death) and a particular one related to biology and environmental crises (the extinction of species). According to Merriam-Webster, the first ...