Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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99 views

What is the difference between the terms ‘basic’ and ‘fundamental’?

I am reading an article titled “Basic needs, basic rights” in which the author emphasises on the need of a robust doctrine of basic rights in addition to fundamental rights. Source: https://www....
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why does “perturbation” mean small change while “perturb” means greatly disturb?

I only recently looked into the etymology of the word "disturb", which means "per-turb", completely (through, thoroughly) + disturb, which translated into "disturb greatly in mind". My question is ...
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187 views

Where did “yeppers” come from?

Where did the slang word "yeppers" come from? I have googled it and found dates as far back as the 30s and geographic areas including Florida, the midwest and Pennsylvania.
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What does “-t” in “bight” mean? [closed]

Wiktionary says, that "-t" in "bight" is a variant of "-th" suffix (bight = bought = bough + t) but I think, that "-t" in "bight" is an Old English past participle ending of "bow". Is my hypothesis ...
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217 views

Origin of 'cuz' as shortening for cousin?

Detailed answer please and thank you. I see this used a lot among youth. I'm interested to know whether it originated in the Southern US or not?
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110 views

Why do people seem to get so triggered at the word “plebeians”? [closed]

While having online conversations people seem to get triggered when the word plebeian is used to describe the commoners or common people. They seem to think its bad or something. What's wrong in ...
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2answers
147 views

Why is there a word for 'H'? [duplicate]

Why is there a word for the letter H, but not for the other letters? In Lexico–formerly Oxford Dictionaries–for example, H = aitch, as in ‘drop one's aitches’
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What is the first usage of the word “doobie” in OED? [duplicate]

It is almost impossible to get a clear answer to this question in the US online. For example: Ted and Fay were smoking a doobie to clear their heads before going out.
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Cuff word origin

I was wondering if the origin of the word (cuff/ to cuff) is Arabic as it exists in Arabic, pronounced exactly the same (kaf) and has the very same meaning (folding the end part of the sleeve or/and ...
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247 views

Etymology of the expression “to entertain an idea”

The expression to entertain an idea/thought/etc. has perplexed me for a while now. Given the meaning of the verb entertain, I find it quite weird for it to be used in such a way. So, how did this come ...
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106 views

Definition, Origin, and Extent of “Matter” as a title in Literature

Why was "Matter" chosen for the Matter of Britain, the Matter of France and the Matter of Rome? What would the exact definition of "Matter" be in this instance? Written/Printed Material, or a Theme/...
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242 views

Origin of the phrase “What's crackin'?”

My web search turns up accounts of it being Southern, Black American or/and Aussie slang. Would like some clarification on this.
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Back and book etymology

I know, that most of you will think, that it is absurd, but please read to the end. Sorry for my English Introductory: When I read the Ostrog Bible I saw, that in the OCS the verb "to unbend a book"...
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Origin of “someone is a character”

The Collins Dictionary has If you say that someone is a character, you mean that they are interesting, unusual, or amusing. I haven't been able to find an origin of this usage. Where does it ...
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How did 'consideration' shift to signify grounds and the act of deliberation, then inducer of a grant or promise?

Frederick Pollock. Principles Of Contract. (1902) p. 170. p. 220/400 here.         The name of Consideration appears only about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and we do ...
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How did “pissed” come to mean “drunk” or “angry”?

How did "pissed" come to mean "drunk" or "angry" in expressions such as: "I'm pissed" OR "I'm pissed off"? All dictionaries I consulted just gave that definition. So, does it have anything to do - ...
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Origin of the phrase “stone cold loser”

I have googled but can't find any reference to this. Does anyone know the origin of this phrase (recently used by Trump to refer to the London Mayor)
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What did “Aryan” mean in the 1930s?

Anthony Burgess once said, (through the narrator of one of his books…) “The term Aryan has a purely philological significance. It can be applied only to languages.” -Earthly Powers pg 371 The ...
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What are the ancient (obsolete) names of the “book spine”? [closed]

What are the ancient (obsolete) names of the "book spine"?
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“Call” as a noun that is not for naming or ringing up

Although I now know the meaning of "call" in these examples: You need to make a judgement call Not this time sorry, though it was a close call What do we do now? Your call — they were quite ...
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Where does this pattern of naming products come from?

I noticed that a lot of product names have random, cool-sounding letters in their name. They seem less random though when you realize that a lot of products use the same or similar random letters. ...
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1answer
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“Mining” as opposed to “minting” w.r.t. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

I find it fascinating that nearly everyone refers to the algorithmic generation of cryptocurrencies (CC) as mining. Personally, I've never found minting in this context. In my understanding of the ...
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What is the origin of the word “efforting”?

I hear this word used in place of words or phrases like "trying to" or "attempting to". What is the word origin of this verb? Research: Article regarding the word "efforting" Urban Dictionary - ...
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371 views

etymology of looksie / look-see

Up until recently, I had believed there was a word "looksie" which meant "a quick/brief look", "a peek". This seemed quite logical: - "a look" is a common noun. - "-sie" is a known diminutive ...
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The “prickmouse” and the “butcher's broom”

I sometime go for walks in the wood near where I live, and in the undergrowth, beneath the oaks and pines, you'll find an evergreen prickly shrub which is called pungitopo in Italian. The word is ...
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Why does the word “shop” behave like a non-count noun in phrases like “set up shop”?

The word "shop" seems to behave like a non-count noun in phrases like "set up shop", "shut up shop" and "close up shop". There's no article ("a"), no plural ending ("-s"). Dictionaries, such as Oxford ...
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Eponymous adjective formation

I’m writing an essay on Homer’s Odyssey, and I was wondering whether the correct adjectival form would be Odysseian or Odyssean according to etymology, as I’ve seen both used in academic contexts. I ...
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When did the word “home” become synonymous with “house”, in contrast to an apartment home or condo?

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a gentleman working at my building. I asked him if he lived in the building and he said "No I live in a home." I thought that was a strange wording, but I ...
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How do language researchers find the first written mention of a word?

There are these radio shows where people can call in and ask questions about language. The language experts (researchers I assume) then often answer "The first occurrence of that word was in 1922 by ...
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Is the word priorize acceptable? [closed]

Is the word priorize acceptable? I used it and my son laughed at me and said the word is prioritize.
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When did Monkeys start making wrenches?

Why is the pipe wrench often called a monkey wrench? From the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum website… Q: Did Jack Johnson invent the wrench? A: Jack Johnson, the first Black ...
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Origin of the figurative sense of “smear”

One meaning and usage of smear as a noun, from M-W, is: usually unsubstantiated charge or accusation against a person or organization — often used attributively. a smear campaign a smear ...
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Where did the phrase “hairy eyeball” come from?

Used by some in my place of work as a colloquialism for a disapproving or skeptical attitude toward something. Jane was giving Jack the "hairy eyeball".
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Since when did the United States become known as “the States”?

As a naturalized American, I usually say, "the United States" or "the US", but sometimes I do say "the States" as well, given that this seems to be a relatively popular choice... at least on the ...
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How macabre is a graveyard?

This one has been bugging me for a while. The first time I discovered that the word for graves in Arabic was مَقَابِر‎ (maqābir), it seemed the obvious source or indirect source of macabre, but ...
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What are the origins of “gender confirmation” surgery?

TLDR: What was the first use of the term "gender confirmation surgery"? Was it used before, after, or contemporaneously with the term "sex reassignment surgery"? An NPR article today (2019-05-16) ...
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What made “You'd better!” a threat?

When and why did the expression "You'd better!" come to have threatening undertones? The structure seems to be helpful in its essence (e.g., "You had better throw out that banana or fruit flies will ...
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Why use use “one” rather than 1?

In Real Estate there seems to be a trend to use "one" in place 1. One Madison(NYC), One57(NYC), One WTC(NYC), One Park Drive(NYC), One One One (Brisbane) and many more. Is there any reason to do this?...
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What does the phrase 'Throw your Cap on It' mean and where did it originate?

In watching a recent soccer match, the commentator stated that the goalkeeper should 'throw his cap on that'. This was immediately preceded by a relatively comfortable save by the goalkeeper from a ...
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Origin of “too” (“also”) [closed]

Since the South Park joke My name is Kyle, too. Nice to meet you, Kyle-two. I am wondering and trying to avoid too. Wiktionary explains it as "deriving from the original meaning of "apart, ...
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Earliest use of “rookie”? [closed]

What is the earliest use of the noun "rookie" and why has it become the most common synonym for newcomer? What were its vectors?
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Relation between crush and krushiti

Do the English verb "crush" and the Old Slavonic verb крушити (krushiti) "to break, to destroy" [where ити (iti) is a verb ending] have somehow relation with themself. Internet sources are scanty: ...
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How did 'recoup' semantically shift to mean 'recompense'?

The OED doesn't expound. Etymonline: 1620s, from French recouper "to cut back" (12c.), from Old French re- "back" (see re-) + couper "to cut," from coup "a blow" (see coup). Originally a legal term ...
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What is the origin of “cool beans”?

What is the origin of "cool beans"? I know some sites (wiktionary) claim it's from the Cheech & Chong 1978 movie Up in Smoke, but I'm talking to people who remember it being used earlier. (USA). ...
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The word “Comparison”

Declare - declaration. Proclaim - proclamation. Why isn't compare - comparation? For the 3 years that i've been studying the language intensively i've been always intuitively reading "comparison" as "...
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Where does the term “physical” come from?

Physical in the bodily sense appears to have developed independently from its root original term physic. So, for instance, you can say you do physical exercise to keep your body, not your physic, in ...
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Relations between 'rod' and 'reed' [closed]

Do the English words 'rod' and 'reed' have a connection, given the fact that they have a semantic similarity?
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Were contractions used in 1800

Were contractions used in conversational English in 1800 to 1820? For example: it's, don't, aren't,...
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Meaning of the word ' itular' [closed]

While looking up synonyms of the word 'so-called', I stumbled upon 'itular', of which I've never heard, and for which I can't seem to find additional (digital) sources. The dictionary itself gives a ...
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Other than when used as a name, is there any evidence of the word “puck” before Hockey

Was trying to search history on the word puck, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. It seems that before 1870 there are only instances of “puck” when used as a name. Some sources, like Etymonline,...