45 votes
Accepted

Country names ending in "-ia"

-ia is a Latin ending (-ία in Ancient Greek) used to form abstract nouns. In this case, the "abstract" noun referred to a nation, that is, a collection of people and the locations where they lived. ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 22.7k
35 votes

Origin of the expression "Independent as a pig on ice."

Elizabeth Fais has a blog post titled "Confounding Colloquialisms: Expressions that make you go, 'What?'" in which she discusses the phrase: “As Independent as a Hog on Ice” Flailing About ...
Jason Bassford's user avatar
26 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of the word "geroff"?

but recently I've found sources claiming it is somewhat originating from "get off". This is true, although it is not "somewhat", it is "entirely". https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gerroff#English and ...
Greybeard's user avatar
  • 42k
22 votes

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

'Snitty' through the years The earliest instance I've been able to find of snitty where the word is used in its modern sense (derived from the noun snit) is from Philip Fair, A Marriage Is Arranged: A ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
21 votes
Accepted

Who "died peacefully" first and when?

The Wycliffe Bible (1382) contains the expression : but thou schalt die in pees, Jeremiah 34:5 The Coverdale Bible (1535) has the wording : but shalt die in peace (This is a further translation of ...
Nigel J's user avatar
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20 votes

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

from snit n. etymonline "state of agitation, fit of temper," 1939, American English, of unknown origin. First in Claire Boothe's "Kiss the Boys Good-bye," which gives it a U.S. Southern ...
lbf's user avatar
  • 30.4k
20 votes

Who "died peacefully" first and when?

I searched the MED, and UMich's Middle English and EEBO corpora. In peace I found some hits for "in peace". This one is under the MED's definition of "Peace of heart, soul, or ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 66.4k
19 votes

Where did "humongous" first appear?

J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1997) has this entry for humongous: humongous adj. {sugg[ested] by huge and monstrous, with stress pattern of tremendous} Stu[dent] ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
18 votes

Origins of the word “mom” and "mother"

"mama" is a pre-verbal vocalisation by children - usually one of the first sounds that they make. Often infants will say "mamamamama" as one of their first vocalisations, and this often doesn't ...
Max Williams's user avatar
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16 votes

Is the alleged original meaning of the phrase 'blood is thicker than water' real?

The evidence I found is consistent with the proverb being originally Gaelic, with it entering English in Scotland, and with it always having meant what it means today. As for the purported “original ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 4,050
15 votes
Accepted

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

"Stoothing" is a (colloquial1) dialect for studding/battening/lathing and plastering. The earliest usage of "stoothing" I could find in Google Books was in 1789, in A Survey of ...
Justin's user avatar
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14 votes
Accepted

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

I have found an etymological account that carries the Latin verb censeo (a probable root of censor and related terms) back to Proto Indo-European. Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic ...
TaliesinMerlin's user avatar
14 votes

Why do South Indians call restaurants 'hotels'?

OED confirms this usage of hotel in South Asian and traces back to 1968: 5. South Asian. A restaurant, cafe, or other establishment selling prepared food (often in the names of such businesses). In ...
ermanen's user avatar
  • 62.8k
13 votes

Origin of the word "shill" ("shillaber")

A Google Books search finds multiple instances of shill in the sense of "accomplice" from Robert Brown, "The Watch," a short story set in an auction in New York City, in The ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
13 votes

"youse" as a plural second person pronoun

From an Irish perspective youse sounds totally fine: The word ye, yis or yous, otherwise archaic, is still used in place of "you" for the second-person plural. Ye'r, Yisser or Yousser are the ...
k1eran's user avatar
  • 22.6k
12 votes
Accepted

Etymology of "banjax"

According to GDoS it dates back to mid-1920s as a possible euphemism for ballocks meaning mess: banjax [semi-euph. for ballocks (3)] (Irish) a complete mess. 1925 [Ire] S. O’Casey Juno and the ...
user 66974's user avatar
  • 67.4k
11 votes

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

An Elephind newspaper database search turns up five matches for boofed as a past-tense verb during the period April 1983 to June 1987, at two university newspapers: the Stanford [California] Daily and ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
11 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

Early Elephind newspaper database matches for the phrase An Elephind newspaper database search turns up one stray instance of the expression from 1866 and one instance that appeared in four different ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
11 votes

The eerie origin of "eerie"

A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue show usages of argh and its variants from the 15th century: Argh, Arch, a. Also: arche, arch(i)t; airch, airche. [Northern ME. argh, ONhb. arᵹ (WS. earᵹ, earh)...
user 66974's user avatar
  • 67.4k
10 votes

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

I could have summarised the article below but it's late and I would have made a poor job out of it. The Vox article, written by Alex Abad-Santos, briefly outlines the history of boof : The ...
Mari-Lou A's user avatar
  • 91.3k
10 votes

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

One interesting feature of this quotation is that it began appearing with some regularity, usually attributed to Lincoln, in the middle 1890s, some three decades after Lincoln's death (April 15, 1865)....
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 163k
10 votes

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

It's in the OED, as a derivative of stoothe, meaning " To garnish with studs or knobs" (obsolete) and " To furnish (a wall) with the framework on which the lath-and-plaster is fixed; to ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
  • 77.2k
10 votes

The eerie origin of "eerie"

Wiktionary to the rescue. Eerie: Etymology (Wiktionary) From Middle English eri (“fearful”), from Old English earg (“cowardly, fearful”), from Proto-Germanic *argaz. Akin to Scots ergh, argh from the ...
banuyayi's user avatar
  • 1,900
9 votes
Accepted

Why "English" but not "Anglish"?

It's "English" rather than "Anglish" because the vowel was subject to palatal umlaut. Umlaut is a process that occurred in many Germanic languages, Old English among them, and that ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.9k
9 votes

Origins of the word “mom” and "mother"

As Hot Licks and Max Williams correctly pointed out, mama is probably the simplest sequence for a baby to say. But nobody has yet pointed out the connection between mama and mammary, from Latin mamma -...
frank's user avatar
  • 1,251
9 votes
Accepted

Origin of "Dj" in words

In most cases, English didn't select the digraph "dj." The digraph is based on French orthography, like the spelling "Tchaikovsky." Although this convention originates in a ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.9k
9 votes

"youse" as a plural second person pronoun

Prescriptivism at its finest. Simply because a word does not have a position in the standard dialect does not mean it is not a word. Regardless, it is clearly from 'you' (the second person pronoun) ...
Angelos's user avatar
  • 391
9 votes

What is the origin of the word "geroff"?

In some accents of British English, a word-final /t/ sound after a short vowel can be pronounced as something that sounds like an /r/ sound when the following word starts with a vowel. This is ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.9k
8 votes

Are there previous formulations of this quote from George R.R. Martin

The earlier formulation was by William Shakespeare in the play Julius Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.
cobaltduck's user avatar
  • 12.9k

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