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177 posts tagged with etymology.
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Sift this matter to the bottom....

What's the origin of the now-archaic phrase "sift this matter to the bottom," meaning to make it a priority? [more inside]
posted by mudpuppie on Oct 6, 2014 - 6 answers

Hot as a synonym for spicy?

Do any other languages use hot as a synonym for spicy? Examples of spicy in other languages with etymology / literal translation are welcome
posted by shaqlvaney on Sep 25, 2014 - 23 answers

Why do anti-feminists use "female" rather than "woman"?

Anti-feminists seem to often use the word "female" in the noun form, in places where people would ordinarily just use "women." (I don't want to spend a lot of time hunting up evidence of this, but here are some examples. There's also this and this.) I'm curious to know how/why this became a thing -- for example, I've wondered if it has something to do with military or police usage, because those are the only places I've previously noticed women being referred to as females. Does anybody know?
posted by Susan PG on Sep 12, 2014 - 46 answers

Asking the Green, As One Does...

Is there a known origin point for the phrase "as one does" (or "like you do" or similar variations), when used to indicate that the speaker is aware of how ridiculous an action is? For instance, "I was at the supermarket at three in the morning, offering the cashier ten bucks for an early box of Count Chocula -- as one does -- and...."
posted by Etrigan on Jun 30, 2014 - 12 answers

Metafilter: The Great Indoors

What is the origin of the phrase, "the great outdoors?"
posted by michaelh on May 8, 2014 - 14 answers

Nobody calls "deja vu" the Spartacist League Phenomenon

What's the etymology of the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon"? [more inside]
posted by Sara C. on Apr 24, 2014 - 14 answers

What's up with this odd usage of the word "steal"?

In the early 1990s, the boys in my middle school used to threaten to "steal" each other, meaning hit/punch/sock/pop/smack. It was most commonly heard as, "I'mma steal you in your eye!" or "I'm gonna steal him upside the head!" I found it strange even then, and I haven't heard or seen reference to it since. Have you heard "steal" used like this before? Where could it have come from? Relevant details: This was in Nash County, North Carolina. I recall hearing it exclusively from white boys. The couple times I asked someone who was self-aware enough to discuss it, they were adamant that it was "steal" and not "steel."
posted by rhiannonstone on Feb 6, 2014 - 17 answers

Who first "made it sing"?

What is the origin of "making it sing," as in to cause something to be at its best, be it an instrument, weapon, machine, or anything else? [more inside]
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Jan 27, 2014 - 14 answers

Batman: Linguistic Origins

What are some examples of really easy/obvious etymological descents that most people aren't really aware of? I'm trying to prove to somebody that there are a lot of these in the english language but I've forgotten most of the interesting ones I used to know. [more inside]
posted by tehloki on Nov 22, 2013 - 27 answers

I tried to look this up myself, but I couldn't find the answer, so...

What is the origin of ending a sentence with a trailing "so..." ? Who is on record first using it? How did it spread? I am talking about the annoying unfinished sentence word: "We would have gone cycling, but I couldn't find my bike, so..." I am not talking about the legitimate adverb: "I love biking so!"
posted by michaelh on Aug 29, 2013 - 15 answers

Help me figure out the term for this

In popular culture, there's a "meme" of sorts involving a person helping another push someone over. I've seen it in goofy images and comics: someone kneels down on all fours behind the victim's legs (often smiling) while a person in front pushes the victim. Is there a term for this?
posted by swizzle_stik on Aug 27, 2013 - 7 answers

"historacle" just feels silly to me

Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past? I'm willing to grab one from a non-English language if there is a word that means specifically "a seer who can only see the past", but English is prefered. Antiquated terms are OK. Bonus points for interesting etymological details (or links to interesting etymological details). [more inside]
posted by NoraReed on Jul 16, 2013 - 12 answers

Do you know the origin or history of the term splinter skills?

I had never heard this phrase before and came across it in an article about autism. Curious about it, I searched online, but was unable to find much. [more inside]
posted by abirdinthehand on Jul 15, 2013 - 5 answers

Is there a gender-inclusive replacement for the word "fraternity"?

I flashed the biker wave on my ride home tonight, and as I was thinking some warm fuzzy thoughts about the "motorcycling fraternity", I noticed that the other rider was a woman. Is there a word which represents this concept in a gender-inclusive way? If "fraternity" has to do with brothers and "sorority" has to do with sisters, what word has to do with "siblings"? [more inside]
posted by Mars Saxman on Jul 11, 2013 - 26 answers

Where does the term "grill out" come from?

Why do people say "grill out" instead of "grill"? [more inside]
posted by ramenopres on Jul 1, 2013 - 26 answers

Ratchet

What is the etymology of "ratchet," a slang term with a negative meaning? [more inside]
posted by lewedswiver on May 29, 2013 - 20 answers

"Hosed" etymology - When did this phrase come into use?

At what point did the phrase "I'm/you're/we're hosed" come into play in the US vernacular? Earliest record? From pop culture somewhere? Are there regions of the US that did not ever use this turn of phrase?
posted by juniperesque on May 17, 2013 - 17 answers

List of simple word roots

I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
posted by Monkey0nCrack on May 16, 2013 - 6 answers

Latin roots of Spanish words

What's a good resource for looking up the Latin roots of Spanish words? (There are a number of fantastic resources for finding the Latin roots of English words, but I'm having a harder time with Spanish words.) [more inside]
posted by jtothes on Apr 30, 2013 - 4 answers

Herein looking like a wall-eyed uncle staring at ruraldictionary.com.

I have two phrases that I've come across in the past two days that I cannot get the internet to tell me what they mean: "yard cousin" and "bluefish wars". [more inside]
posted by Cold Lurkey on Apr 28, 2013 - 13 answers

Etymology of "I know, right?"

I have a theory about the origin of the expression “I know, right?” that’s been fairly popular among young and youngish Americans (and others, for all I know) for the past several years. I’m testing that theory with this question. I understand that Mexicans (and maybe other Latin Americans) have an equivalent expression, “Sí, ¿verdad?” - even with the same intonation as “I know, right?”. Well, one source has told me this, anyway. Can other people verify this? And if so, how common is/was the Spanish version of the expression, and roughly when (and where) did people start saying it?
posted by Mechitar on Apr 18, 2013 - 9 answers

What is the meaining of "Emydidae"?

"Emydidae" is the name of a family of turtles. What I want to know is what does the name *mean*. I have exhausted my google-fu and the best I've been able to find is this wiktionary link that gives a meaning for "-idae" as "appearance". Any reptile/turtle fans care to enlighten me?
posted by moss free on Mar 26, 2013 - 14 answers

Veet-suhl-zoot-ehn; high-falootin'.

What is this non-English, possibly German word? Sounds like veetsul zooten, means emotional from an impending change. [more inside]
posted by BusyBusyBusy on Jan 3, 2013 - 9 answers

Orthogonal

What does the word orthogonal mean in this context? [more inside]
posted by font_snob on Dec 12, 2012 - 17 answers

AskMezza

What is the etymology of British nicknames ending in -zza/-zzer? [more inside]
posted by catlet on Nov 30, 2012 - 21 answers

Philately is to Stamps as ____ is to Rocks.

Stamp collecting is philately. Coin collecting falls under numismatics (perhaps as a subdivision). Rock collecting is not really geology in the same way as the above terms are used. Is there a similar term for rock collecting?
posted by Jahaza on Nov 3, 2012 - 7 answers

Duck, duck, horse

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck? That's not my question (much as I might like it to be). I'm trying to find the origin of this question, which was asked to President Obama recently. [more inside]
posted by Obscure Reference on Oct 8, 2012 - 9 answers

In-use terms with anachronistic referents

I'm looking for examples of terms that remain in common use, even though the technology that they originally described is obsolete or has changed. Also: does this phenomenon have a name? [more inside]
posted by condour75 on Jul 24, 2012 - 39 answers

Help me learn a very selective slice of Greek and Latin words.

Is there a resource where I can learn about the Greek and Latin words that commonly underlie words and names in English? I don't want to learn Greek or Latin, I'm talking about only the words which are commonly useful as 'clues'. [more inside]
posted by Kirn on Mar 13, 2012 - 14 answers

Why? Because fuck you, that's why!

Where did the expression "Why? Because fuck you, that's why!" come from? [more inside]
posted by teraspawn on Feb 21, 2012 - 6 answers

What is the etymology of the word 'prepend'?

As I understand it, 'prepend' is common computer jargon to mean the opposite of append. In a little debate with some of my computer science colleagues, they claim that it is an actual English word with that meaning, while I contend that it's computer jargon that was invented out of convenience and that 'prepend' is actually an archaic word that means something similar to pondering. [more inside]
posted by bushmango on Jan 25, 2012 - 12 answers

Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth

What words have you made up that you use regularly? [more inside]
posted by holdkris99 on Jan 13, 2012 - 209 answers

How would Mark Twain have written "WTF!"

Is there a word that would express your combined surprise/confusion/confoundment upon witnessing an event or situation? How would best express, in a single word, your brain's "WTF-moment"? [more inside]
posted by Wild_Eep on Sep 19, 2011 - 32 answers

Where's were now?

Are there any other modern examples of "were" from the old english meaning "man" apart from "virility" and "werewolf"? [more inside]
posted by fantasticninety on Aug 25, 2011 - 8 answers

So "Rock"=Wild & "Party"=Crazy, or...

Has an evaluation been made of the dichotomy between what is implied by the term "wild" in the line "You drive us wild" and what is implied by the term "crazy" in the immediately following line "We'll drive you crazy" in KISS's "Rock And Roll All Night?"
posted by herbplarfegan on Aug 23, 2011 - 16 answers

A census giving consensus for consent?

Etymology Question: Relationships of modern word consensus to Latin consensus from sentio from (pre-Latin?) sent? Specifically, is censor or census in there somewhere as a predecessor or descendant? [more inside]
posted by Phyltre on Aug 13, 2011 - 2 answers

The capital I.

Calling etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, and research librarians! Was there a time when 'television,' 'radio,' or 'newspaper' were always capitalized? [more inside]
posted by thebestsophist on Jun 20, 2011 - 12 answers

Saying sugar and yelling your full name: southern or not?

Two questions about vocabulary in the American South and elsewhere: did your parents call you sugar and did they, when you were in trouble, use both your first and middle names to summon you for the reckoning? [more inside]
posted by mygothlaundry on Jun 2, 2011 - 81 answers

All's sub-par in love and war.

Why is fair considered to be lesser than good, very good or excellent? [more inside]
posted by eschatfische on May 25, 2011 - 11 answers

One what?

When rappers say "one time for the .../two times for the ...", what are they referring to? If I'm watching a concert, what am I supposed to do? [more inside]
posted by the NATURAL on Apr 20, 2011 - 12 answers

So, so?

So, is the use of 'so' as an interjection to begin a sentence (see also: 'well', 'listen', 'hear ye!') a recent coinage? If so, what are its origins? [more inside]
posted by unSane on Mar 31, 2011 - 22 answers

Etymology of "ebrius"?

Does anyone know the origin of the latin word "ebrius" which roughly translates into "inebriated" in English? [more inside]
posted by fantasticninety on Mar 28, 2011 - 6 answers

Is the "nos" in "nostalgia" of the same origin as the "nos" in "nosotros"?

Spanish etymology question: Is the "nos" in "nostalgia" of the same origin as the "nos" in "nosotros"? [more inside]
posted by 6and12 on Feb 16, 2011 - 7 answers

Etymology of "once and for all"?

What's the etymology of the phrase "once and for all"? What's the earliest known attestation?
posted by topynate on Feb 11, 2011 - 5 answers

Etymology/definition of "shit-eating grin?"

What does the phrase "shit-eating grin" mean? And what is its etymology? (Please no random guesses on the latter question, not looking for 'folk etymology')
posted by jcruelty on Feb 8, 2011 - 18 answers

Any tips for finding out the meanings of out-of-the-ordinary names?

Etymological/genealogical question--tips or tricks for finding the origin of a very elusive family name when Googlefu, Ancestryfu and all other manner of -fus fail? [more inside]
posted by nonmerci on Feb 7, 2011 - 19 answers

Diss question

When did the word "diss" pass into popular/mainstream usage (either in the US or Australia)? [more inside]
posted by crossoverman on Jan 7, 2011 - 18 answers

Have your heard mulled wine referred to by the name "whiskey?"

I was looking at an Icelandic book of recipes from 1858 that is largely based on Danish cookbooks and in it there's a recipe for "whiskey" which is made from tea, sugar, lemonjuice and white wine. This isn't terribly similar to glühwein or glögg, but not entirely dissimilar. My question is, does anyone know why this is referred to as "whiskey" in the recipe book? Has anyone heard any kind of European mulled wine referred to by that name? Or know another name for mixed wine and tea drinks? I've put the recipe inside. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 1, 2010 - 19 answers

Help get this question out of my head!

How did the word "earworm" come to mean something you can't get out of your head (like a song, etc)? Looking for the German etymology, if there is one. [more inside]
posted by bitter-girl.com on Oct 1, 2010 - 5 answers

Word misplaced or imagined?

Please help me find a specific word, perhaps two, meaning 1) fear of ambiguity and 2) fear of the imagination. Am I misremembering the word(s) for these? Is it obviously right under my nose in English, or does it not exist at all? I thought it might be Greek or have a Greek root, though I could certainly be wrong. Thanks!
posted by methinks on Sep 3, 2010 - 11 answers

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