28 posts tagged with etymology and words.
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Metafilter: The Great Indoors

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

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking English words with meanings hidden in plain sight

Help me find English words that have meanings hidden in plain sight. For example, it only recently occurred to me that a "quart" is a quarter of a gallon. [more inside]
posted by alms on May 4, 2010 - 142 answers

Word nerds seeks "meta-core"-ellary

I'm a word nerd who likes fun words and this word I came across is fun to say and, at least to me, kind of new: mumblecore. That got me thinking -- what makes a "-core?" I am interested in how generes of certain media are dubbed “-core.” Is there anything that makes a genre a “-core” genre and not it’s own suffix-free genre name? Why is “screamo” not “screamcore,” when we have “nerdcore,” “noisecore,” and “hardcore?” (more...) [more inside]
posted by cross_impact on Apr 1, 2010 - 22 answers

Detailed etymological dictionary?

Does a comprehensive etymological dictionary exist that crosses languages? [more inside]
posted by Tchad on Sep 3, 2009 - 11 answers

Do you know the etymology of Ponos and Poena

My boss has asked me to sort out the etymology of the words "Ponos" (Greek for Labor ?) and "Poena" (Latin for Sorrow?). The question is which came first, and are they related as it seems? Also, would those rough definitions be close to accurate?
posted by willnot on Apr 28, 2009 - 5 answers

Specialized Phrases in General Usage

Is there a name for phrases (or sometimes words) that have lost their previous specific/narrow/jargon meanings and are now used generally in a wide variety of situations with little or no knowledge about their prior usage? Are there lists of them anywhere with the phrases and explanations? [more inside]
posted by andoatnp on Jul 30, 2007 - 18 answers

How can I start an etymological education?

So, I want to learn more about etymology. What's a good place to get started? [more inside]
posted by kmtiszen on Jul 30, 2007 - 9 answers

What's a word meaning "having mixed Greek and Latin roots"?

I need to find the word meaning "a word with mixed Latin and Greek roots." It's not just "hybrid word," but a word that specifically indicated Greek and Latin origins. I've had several people remark that they know it but can't think of it, and my search skills have failed thusfar.
posted by luftmensch on May 6, 2007 - 10 answers

The Question Hit the Fan

Where did the phrase "the shit hit the fan" originate from? My googling has revealed one claim that it is from 1930's jazz lingo, although no explanantion is given as to what it meant at the time, and another site gives a story that describes the origin that doesn't seem believable. (the last paragraph here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shit Does anyone know where the phrase came from? Thanks!
posted by andoatnp on Sep 26, 2006 - 8 answers

Whither the word for rat-related?

OK, so I'm sitting here with one of my buddies, talking about his research, and we realized that we know the word for "of or relating to mice" (murine), and the word for "of and related to cow" (bovine), but have no clue what the word for "of or related to rat" is. And after what we thought of as a pretty comprehensive web search (including this very good Google Answer), we're no closer to an answer. Anyone know what the word we're looking for is?
posted by delfuego on Sep 16, 2006 - 14 answers

Oh he's got blue eyes, oh he's got green eyes, oh he's got gray eyes...

Have the meanings of words referring to colours changed? [more inside]
posted by joannemerriam on Sep 3, 2006 - 32 answers

What is the etymology of the phrase "to shoot the shit?"

What is the origin of the phrase "to shoot the shit?"
posted by jrb223 on Apr 28, 2006 - 7 answers

Couple : Several : A Few

Several, couple, a few: occasionally, these words are used to indicate specific quantities of items (3, 2, and 4-5, respectively). Tell me about the etymology of these uses, and help me come up with more words (in English or other languages) that have this interesting specific/nonspecific duality.
posted by breath on Jan 1, 2006 - 41 answers

Why is it beef, not cow?

Why do we use euphemistic names for some kinds of meat? [more inside]
posted by 5MeoCMP on Dec 4, 2005 - 52 answers

How is the word "merc" pronounced and what does it mean?

Pronunciation/Definition Filter: The "word" merc. (+) [more inside]
posted by mygothlaundry on Dec 17, 2004 - 21 answers

The word "stat"

Where does the word "stat" come from, as in "Give me 20ccs of Ringer's Lactate, stat!"?
(I know it means quickly, but what's its origin?)
posted by jpburns on Dec 13, 2003 - 10 answers

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