Questions tagged [origin-unknown]

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

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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 ...
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16 votes
3 answers
1k 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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2 answers
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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
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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
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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
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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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5 votes
2 answers
178 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
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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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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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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
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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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2 votes
3 answers
423 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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0 votes
1 answer
139 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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2 votes
0 answers
101 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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5 votes
2 answers
941 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 ...
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13 votes
1 answer
384 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., ...
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19 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
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2 votes
1 answer
193 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 ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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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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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 ...
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0 votes
0 answers
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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?
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7 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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0 votes
0 answers
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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
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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
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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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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
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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
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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
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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 ...
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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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7 votes
5 answers
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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
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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, ...
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6 votes
1 answer
209 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
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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
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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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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
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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.
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5 votes
2 answers
941 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 ...
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10 votes
4 answers
1k 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 answer
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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
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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
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"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 ...
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15 votes
8 answers
16k 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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  • 151k
1 vote
1 answer
532 views

When and where was the word "backup" used in this form for the first time?

What is the etymology of the word "backup" (in the meaning of "a file copy" in computing)? I can't find the origin and the first using of this word in this very meaning. Why is "backup" so called? ...
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29 votes
3 answers
7k views

Country names ending in "-ia"

Many countries have "land" as a suffix, like England, Poland, Switzerland, etc., which means 'the land of the English', 'the land of the Swiss', etc. Many other countries have "stan&...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Origin of "surf"

I was thinking of the song Hawaii by The Beach Boys (which most of you probably do not know) when I came across the lyrics They'll hold the Surfing Championship of the year Surfer ...
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7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Origin of "curse"

I am reading a Harry Potter book and came across the word "curse". I realized I had no idea what the origin of "curse" was. I searched it up and below are my search results. of uncertain origin ...
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6 votes
2 answers
2k views

Origin of the word "jack" to mean theft or to steal

This is my very first query/post. I was attempting to find out the history in American slang for using the word jack to mean theft. In a sentence it might be Someone jacked my bike last night. I had ...
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9 votes
3 answers
1k views

What is the origin of 'fuddy-duddy'?

I was surprised to find that the EL&U spellchecker refused 'fuddy-duddy' and was disappointed not to find any further information in the EL&U archives, so I branched out on my own. Phrases....
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