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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4
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2answers
340 views

Origin of phrase 'come on'

Is the origin/first usage of the phrase 'come on' known? I know there is a similar 'kom op' in Dutch (same meaning, as well as a literal translation of the words), but I don't know which took it from ...
2
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2answers
775 views

What's the origin of the phrase "show true colours?"

I wonder if someone knows the actual origin and oldest printed record of the idiom "show true colours?" Other than this popular theory (seems not real to me): This phrase dates back to the ...
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2answers
426 views

What does "uggin’ bumplies" mean?

Here's an example sentence: How long do you think Rick and Michonne been uggin’ bumplies? What does “uggin' bumplies” mean and where does it come from?
2
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4answers
403 views

Where does Cloth-Head come from?

I've just come across the pejorative term Cloth Head, and beyond pure speculation here on WordReference.com Language Forums that it's related to the term clot head. The more familiar term is cloth-...
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1answer
192 views

How can I keep away from latinate? [closed]

Are there resources to help me keep away from latinate when I write? Preferably, they would let me trade latinate words for older, better words. A thesaurus might help (or better, a good dictionary ...
2
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2answers
197 views

What is the true etymology of "algebra"?

This is more of a question for Arabic stack exchange if there was such a thing, but anyways: The OED suggests as the etymology of the term "algebra" Etymology: < post-classical Latin ...
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2answers
222 views

How does the original meaning of "but" ("outside") relate to its current 2021 meanings?

How do the principal 2021 meanings of "but" relate, if any, to its original meaning of "outside"? E.g. how does "no more than; only" appertain to "outside"? ...
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1answer
53 views

How might've "then" become "than"?

I don't understand the possibility emboldened now. What's the relationship between sentences 1 and 2? How do sentences 1 and 2 explain how the adverb shifted to a conjunction denoting comparison? ...
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0answers
158 views

Expound and simplify the "semantic progression" behind "must" (the modal)

I don't understand the "semantic progression" suggested below by Ayto. The steps in the "semantic progression" feel farfetched and unconnected to me. Can someone please fill in, ...
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2answers
363 views

What's the etymology of 'Deck' with a pack of cards?

The word deck has several meanings, most of which seem to have some logic behind them. I am stuggling to find any sensible reference to deck being the word to mean a set of cards. An earlier question/...
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2answers
120 views

How did "poll" ("top" or "head") semantically extend to "cut someone's hair"?

I don't understand this semantic extension (cf. Etymonline) because it hasn't happened to "head" or "horn"! Unquestionably, "head" isn't the same thing as "cut ...
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1answer
69 views

How's "neither' more than just 'either' with a negative prefix?

Ayto doesn't expound why "neither is not just either with a negative prefix tacked on". How do their etymologies differ? either [OE] Either is the modern descendant of an ancient Germanic ...
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0answers
82 views

Why did David Ricardo coin "rent", to signify income from a factor of production that exceeds the minimum necessary (to beget that factor)?

At the time that Ricardo (1772-1823) coined "rent", did "rent" already signify Modern English's lay meaning of 'rent' (tenant's regular payment to a landlord for the use of ...
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4answers
5k views

Where does the use of "deck" to mean "set of slides" come from?

Nowadays, the word deck can be used to refer to a set of slides (e.g., PowerPoint slides). Where does that sense come from? Online Etymology Dictionary didn't yield any insight on it.
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1answer
59 views

How did the meaning of "once more, anew" arise in "again"?

Ayto doesn't expound where the late 14c. meaning of ‘once more, anew’ sprang from? Is "once more, anew" related to "in a direct line with, facing" or "in the opposite ...
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1answer
67 views

What did "on by out, over, up" mean?

What did "on by out", "on by up", "on by over" mean? Why did Old English tack and jam these different prepositions together? E.g. didn't ufan alone mean "above&...
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3answers
351 views

What is the origin of idiom wrap someone in cotton wool?

I am curious to know the exact origin of the idiom "wrap someone in cotton wool." I couldn't find much, except Origin: The expression originated in the mid-1800s. [The Idioms] and Google ...
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2answers
158 views

Semantic connection behind the etymology of "category?"

Ancient Greek had agora, from which they got the verb agorevo, meaning to speak in public assembly. From this in turn they derived kategoreo, meaning to speak against someone, to accuse someone of ...
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0answers
52 views

how come "take off" means impersonating or imitating?

I looked up Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, it says that one of meanings of "take off" is imitating or impersonating? I cant figure out how does it come, I mean, take what off when ...
2
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1answer
36 views

Does "for the record" come from legislatures' us(ag)e of the term? [closed]

So, what you'll hear sometimes is people saying, "for the record" before they say what they're going to say. Now, I know that in Congress and other similar institutions around the world (...
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4answers
261 views

Etymology of the phrase "fine art"?

I'm reading in a book: A work of fine art is “fine” not because it is “refined” or “finished,” but because it is an end (finis, Latin, means end) in itself. Can anyone corroborate that? Multiple ...
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0answers
77 views

Is [sic] italicized in a quoted sentence that is italicized?

Is [sic] italicized in a quoted sentence that is italicized, and should I use [sic] after the word gonna? "If we let you stay here, we're gonna [sic] get phone calls all night." Or should it ...
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1answer
120 views

Earliest printed record of the phrase "in the blink of an eye"?

I cannot trace the origin of the phrase "in the blink of an eye," neither the earliest printed record of the expression. Surprisingly, even the Google Ngram Viewer returns a "NO" ...
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0answers
532 views

Etymology of "get off your duff"

The phrase "get off your duff" is a call to action. The recipient of this exhortation is (literally or figuratively) sitting, unmoving, and is being asked to get off of his buttocks, as seen ...
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4answers
349 views

Etymology of "wearing thin"

If your patience wears thin, you become less and less patient. This phrase is also used in other contexts, but I have only ever heard it used to refer to "patience". Another meaning is (from ...
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3answers
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Is the phrase "stone-throwing devil" actually a slur?

Inspired by this question. What is the etymology of the phrase "stone-throwing devil"? Is there any evidence that it has been used as either a racial or religious slur historically or in ...
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2answers
364 views

Why does the word ‘suffix’ have a double ‘ff’ while ‘prefix’ has a single ‘f’?

While writing the word ‘suffix’, I stopped to do a spellcheck as a result of the ‘ff’. I did not do so with the word ‘prefix’ as I was comfortable with the ‘pre’ and ‘fix’. I looked up ‘ff’ vs. ‘f’ ...
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3answers
62 views

What do you call a person who is not involved directly in a situation but they have some ideas and assumptions about it?

linguists! We are conducting research on a suicide, and we are asking people who have suicidal ideation/behavior about the possible causes, but we're also asking those who don't have about what they ...
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4answers
144 views

Why does "damages" mean "the sum of money claimed or adjudged to be paid in compensation for loss or injury sustained"?

Why did English lawyers pick "damages"? Why not recompense, reparation, requital, or even Latinate terms like "expiation" or "solatium"? These are clearer because you ...
2
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1answer
642 views

Etymology of "walking around hot porridge" [closed]

Here's what the idiom means - To speak vaguely or euphemistically so as to avoid talking directly about an unpleasant or sensitive topic. TheFreeDictionary It seems to be the Czech equivalent of &...
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2answers
71 views

How to describe Bipolar-like behaviour in a positive sense? [closed]

Little bit of background that might seem technical - I'm looking for a name for this common pattern in web design - if you are not logged-in, the homepage shows a marketing landing page. But once you ...
6
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3answers
298 views

Where does 'po-faced' come from etymologically, geographically, and chronologically?

The entry for po-faced in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) reads as follows: po-faced adj {perh. fr. po chamber pot, toilet, fr. F pot pot} (1934) Brit : having an assumed ...
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1answer
198 views

Why not elevenst, twelvend, and thirteenrd?

Base-10 integers, when used as adjectives to express order, add a "st", "nd", "rd", and "th" suffix to whatever the number is, depending on whether the ones ...
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3answers
3k views

Where does the term "second wind" come from?

Where does the term "second wind" come from? Does it refer to a physical wind, or only a metaphorical one? From cursory research, second wind can be used in terms of running or sleeping. In ...
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1answer
81 views

What is the plural for magnetic moments/momenta?

I’m not sure what the origin of “moment” as in “moment of inertia” or “magnetic moment” is, or if they are even the same. Do they come from angular momentum? If so, should the plural be “magnetic ...
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1answer
1k views

how come "turn in" means go to sleep?

I looked up OED,it says that "turn in" could mean "go to sleep",I just want to know how does that come?
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0answers
93 views

What's the Origin of the phrase "build bridges?"

For the past several days, I am coming across with "build bridges" phrase. I am keen to know about the origin of this phrase. I've done a lot of research on the internet but couldn't find it....
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1answer
49 views

Does the (etymological) definition of 'participle' include 'noun'?

BACKGROUND The definition of 'participle' is something along the line of: a word having the characteristics of both verb and adjective (M-W Dictionary) the form of a verb that usually ends in "...
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3answers
3k views

When and how did the criminal sense of 'grooming' arise?

In a recent CNBC article on Ghislaine Maxwell they say: Sternheim wrote of Maxwell, who is accused of crimes related to allegedly recruiting and grooming underage girls who later were sexually abused ...
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2answers
2k views

How did cougar come to mean predatory woman?

The common slang connotation of the term cougar is that of an older women who has sexual relationships with younger men. The expression appears to come from Canada but its origin is still unclear ...
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3answers
12k views

Is "spilled milk" a 1600's era euphemism regarding rejected intercourse?

Motivation: My daughters love and admire the character of Molly Bannaky and her descendant Benjamin Bannaker: https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2008/07/molly-welsh-banneker.html The impact of Benjamin ...
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3answers
288 views

When and why did "the Dutch act" emerge as a slang term for suicide?

J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994) provides this entry for "Dutch act": Dutch act n. Und[erworld] suicide.—constr[ued] with the. [Earliest cited ...
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0answers
50 views

What is a good way to put CyberBullying into an Etymology Paper? [closed]

I am doing an etymology paper and research paper on cyberbullying. Etymology is a new word I neve hear of before. I am in for a surprise. (Been out of school for a while now) and have not taken ...
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2answers
92 views

Why do we say "assistant" instead of "assister"?

Is it just arbitrary? A Google search gives me the etymology of "assist" but not the reason for the convention. It also notes that "assistor" is the spelling used in legal ...
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0answers
32 views

Infer is to "bear/bring in (a conclusion)" — where/why in?

I'm trying to envision when the word "infer" was used in this meaning of bringing in a conclusion, why it is "in" and to where it is meant. I would find "out" more ...
4
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1answer
369 views

Why does medicine term total number of pregnancies carried over the threshold of viability 'parity'?

Gravidity and Parity Definitions (Implications in Risk Assessment) | Patient Gravidity is defined as the number of times that a woman has been pregnant. Parity is defined as the number of times that ...
2
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1answer
91 views

Why do words ending in -umble have such semantic overlap? [duplicate]

If we look at this "sound family" of words, we see that they all seem to be about things going wrong: crumble, tumble, rumble, fumble, bumble (Perhaps there are others, although I exclude ...
0
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1answer
304 views

What does the valediction "Ever yours" mean?

A friend of mine recently said they think it sounds romantic, but I have seen it used in platonic situations. What does this valediction actually mean? I would also be interested in knowing this ...
2
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1answer
106 views

Why are individual investors called "retail" investors?

As far as I understand it, "retail" refer to big stores that sell to individual consumers and retail investors refers to individuals. Wouldn't it make more sense for a "retail investor&...
5
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2answers
575 views

When did the word "alien" begin referring to extraterrestrial beings?

The etymology of the word "alien" goes as follows: c.1300 (...)from Latin alienus "of or belonging to another, not one's own, foreign, strange," first as an adjective and later ...