Questions tagged [origin-unknown]

Words and phrases whose origin is unknown or in serious dispute, according to reputable reference works.

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17 votes
2 answers
6k views

Who "died peacefully" first and when?

The question came to my mind when I read the recent news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, first appeared in the official Twitter account of The Royal Family as: The Queen died peacefully at ...
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4 votes
1 answer
98 views

What is the origin of "hug"?

Hugging is a universal form of endearment and the verb hug is a very common word in English, yet the origin of the word is unknown. OED boldy says that "Appears late in 16th cent.: origin unknown....
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0 votes
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How did the unusual German-influenced words "spruik" and "spruiker" end up in Aussie and New Zealand slang?

I've recently come across the words spruik and spruiker that are used in Australian and New Zealand slang. Spruik has a quite unusual formation as it is extremely rare in English that a word ends with ...
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4 votes
1 answer
90 views

Usage of the word "candle" to refer to a specific item in a list

In Maltese English, whenever items in a list are preceded by letters or Roman numerals instead of numbers, we would say that the list is made up of candles. Let us suppose we have the following two ...
8 votes
1 answer
181 views

Origin of Aussie Slang "Stack" and "Stacked it"

Bit of a weird one but I'm wondering where the slang "stack it" in terms of falling over comes from. Stack: (Australia, slang) A fall or crash, a prang. 2016 June 19, Tom Williams, “Watch ...
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2 votes
0 answers
70 views

What is the origin of short form headlines in media/the news?

Every now and then one comes across a shortened form of headlines in media, mostly the news. For example: Study: Inflation Forcing More Americans To Choose Between Buying Groceries, Aston Martin DBS [...
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3 votes
0 answers
155 views

Etymology of fruit names (the unusual formation of berry fruit names and the indigenous fruits of England)

I am from Italy. Italy has a warmer climate than England, some fruits that naturally grow in Italy (and maybe they do not naturally grow in England) have an English name that sounds a lot like the ...
16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Where does the word stoothing come from? Is it used in any other contexts apart from "stoothing wall"?

My father uses the expression "stoothing wall" to refer to a stud or internal wall. What is the origin of the word "stoothing" ? Is it ever used in any contexts other than "...
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4 votes
2 answers
229 views

Where, when, and how did the term 'dogie' for 'orphan calf' originate?

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) has this brief entry for the word dogie: dogie n {origin unknown} (1888) chiefly West : a motherless calf in a range herd In seeking an ...
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4 votes
2 answers
268 views

What's the etymology of "pother"?

What is the origin of pother (meaning commotion/uproar)? Almost all dictionaries I've on hand have nothing substantial (they mostly cite "of unknown origin") to say on this score. Etymonline ...
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2 votes
1 answer
143 views

The history and origins of “a peck” and “to peck”

Until recently, I had assumed that peck denoted a small quantity or size. (noun) to give someone a peck is to kiss them lightly on their cheek. (noun) Lexico says that peck was slang for food (...
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13 votes
7 answers
444 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 ...
5 votes
2 answers
209 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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1 vote
1 answer
256 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: ...
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0 votes
1 answer
142 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 ...
17 votes
3 answers
1k 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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2 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
2 votes
3 answers
499 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 ...
0 votes
1 answer
152 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" ...
2 votes
0 answers
118 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....
5 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
13 votes
1 answer
420 views

Is the origin of "butch" really from Polari?

I've been researching the origin of the term "butch" and noticed that sources tend to be split on whether they mention it originating from Polari. OED, Green's Dictionary of Slang (adj., ...
19 votes
3 answers
3k views

Where did "humongous" first appear?

William Hartson called the word “surely one of the ugliest words ever to slither its way into our dictionaries”, but regardless of what he would like to say about the word, I actually have always ...
2 votes
1 answer
234 views

Who coined "the eye of heaven"?

For the longest time I had always thought that Our great Bard had, with his poetic wonder, come up with "the eye of heaven" for his immortal, sonnet 18: Rough windes do ſhake the darling ...
2 votes
2 answers
2k views

What is the origin of x-mark used as a signature of illiterate

I'm not sure that it is the proper site to ask this question, maybe it's an off-topic. However, I've heard it is also a kind of lingual expression used in English/American culture. I've heard that X-...
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1 answer
526 views

Where does the word 'reactionary' come from?

I am interested in the origin of this word, strictly in the political usage of the word (Reactionary = conservative, right-wing). The definition is simple enough: Reactionary: Characterized by ...
0 votes
0 answers
20 views

Express Preferences

Instead of or/and over? I'll take aspirin instead of ibuprofen. I'll choose your brand over my usual. Is that correct?
7 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is the origin of the word "loot" a coinage as a result of the East India Company's behavior?

As a South Asian, I've long heard that the English word "loot" comes directly from the Hindi word lūṭ, meaning to steal or plunder, and was coined as a result of the East India Company's siphoning of ...
0 votes
0 answers
42 views

What is the independent and standalone meaning and origin of phrase "veiled grab"?

Reading thro' linked articles in Wikipedia, I have found a phrase, the definitive meaning or synonym of which, I haven't found, searching thro' online dictionaries. Though I am mentioning the example ...
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6 votes
1 answer
3k views

Origin of the saying "God must love the poor because he made so many of them"

The saying "God must love the poor [or the common people or the plain people] because he made so many of them" falls somewhere between a proverb and a famous quotation, but its origins are rather ...
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3 votes
1 answer
2k views

Who originally said "A film is made/written three times"?

A movie is made three times: it’s made when it’s written, it’s made in production, and it’s made again in post. This is a very well known saying within the film industry, essentially explaining how ...
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3 votes
1 answer
968 views

How did "itch" come to be used to mean "scratch" as in "I had to itch my leg"?

None of the regular sources list itch as a transitive verb meaning to scratch. Yet I hear it used that way in American English all the time. One of the British mods of this site says the usage occurs ...
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4 votes
1 answer
202 views

Etymology of "bilbo"

Here's what "bilbo" means - Bilbo noun (1) : a long bar of iron with sliding shackles used to confine the feet of prisoners especially on shipboard. noun (2) : ...
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2 votes
4 answers
906 views

Etymology of "doodah"

Here's what "doodah" means - Doodah : used to refer to something that the speaker cannot name precisely. "From the poshest potpourri to the humblest dangly doodah." Basic ...
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6 votes
3 answers
3k views

What is the origin of the word "geroff"?

I am not a native speaker so never had a chance to meet the term in the wild, and only seen it in Harry Potter series mostly used by Ron Weasley. My somewhat corrupted mind assumed it being a ...
12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Etymology of "banjax"

Here's what "banjax" means - Banjax verb INFORMAL ruin, incapacitate, or break. He banjaxed his knee in the sixth game of the season. Basic research showed that it comes from the 1930s - ...
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8 votes
6 answers
4k 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 ...
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5 votes
1 answer
12k 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, ...
6 votes
1 answer
214 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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1 vote
2 answers
1k views

How to spell what sounds like "ish" or "eesh"? [duplicate]

I've heard this word a lot of times, but still don't know how to write it down. It's used when you want to show some kind of disgust, or something like that. It sounds like "ish" or "eesh". I've ...
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12 votes
4 answers
897 views

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 ...
17 votes
3 answers
4k views

Is “snitty” a popular American English term? What is its origin?

I came to know the word, “snitty” for the first time from the remark of Mr. William Barr during his testimony on his way of handling of Mueller Report in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Washington ...
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0 votes
3 answers
140 views

Un-sunken or equivalent

What is the word for something that didn't sink. Example: Can we say "the un-sunken boat" for the boat didn't sink? Couldn't find anything in internet by search engines. Thanks.
5 votes
2 answers
949 views

In search of the origins of term censor, I hit a dead end stuck with the greek term, to censor, λογοκρίνω

I have been looking in OED for a history that makes sense, yet, I just find crumbs, and I can not piece the history of this term. I am hitting a dead end researching the greek term to censor, named ...
10 votes
4 answers
2k views

The etymology of "snooze"

I was looking up the etymology of the word snooze, and the Etymology Online suggested it was unknown. 1789, cant word, of unknown origin, perhaps echoic of a snore. Related: Snoozed; snoozing. ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
191 views

Is a 'Protagonist' really a thing or is it a misnomer derived from it's opposite 'Antagonist'? [closed]

I ask because in anatomy and fitness the muscle groups can defined in three categories for a given workout: Agonist (the main muscle being worked), Antagonist (the muscle group that would work the ...
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1 vote
3 answers
331 views

How do you parse "hair do"

Is "do" understood as a noun or verb in "hair do"? Asking this in search of "to make do". Bonus points if it can be related to German Tolle "tuft [of hair], that ...
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2 votes
2 answers
1k views

"Tinkle contest with a skunk"

What does the following idiom mean: "Tinkle contest with a skunk". And where was this idiom first used ? Does anybody know the origin?? Example: Yesterday, in an unsuccessful attempt to ...
15 votes
8 answers
17k views

Origin, meaning, and derivation of 'boof' as a verb in U.S. slang

Recently, the following entry included in a page from a 1983 yearbook for a high school in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area has gained considerable notoriety in U.S. politics: Judge — Have You ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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What connection (if any) is there in Australian slang between 'dinkum' and 'dink' (meaning a ride on bicycle handlebars)?

In an answer to the recent question, What is the American equivalent of a "backie"? site participant Chappo notes that in Australia the word dink is sometimes used as a noun to mean "a ...
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