Category: Word origins

The origin of quid

Bread, bones, clams, dough, and moolah: we have a lot of slang terms for money in the English language, to name just a few, er, noteworthy examples. Specific currencies have their own nicknames, too, of course. The Australian and American dollar, for example, often go by ‘buck’, which probably calls back the use of buckskins […]

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Country name origins

We’ve taken on an ambitious task today: we’re looking at the origin stories behind the names (in English) of every single country in the world – using the list of countries as determined by the UN and information from the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, discover surprising and intriguing language […]

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A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries.

5 surprising origins of common bird names

A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries. The cuckoo is an obvious example of such an onomatopoeic naming, and so are the owl, the cockatiel, and many more. Some bird names, however, have a more intriguing linguistic history. Here we take a look at a few examples. Magpie […]

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phrases with run

6 ‘run’ phrases you probably don’t know

The word run might mean many different things to you. Personally, it makes me figuratively run for the hills, such is my feeling about exercise. Run might also make a lexicographer blanch; it is a strong contestant for the verb with the most meanings, at over 650 (this of course includes phrases and phrasal verbs). […]

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name origins

Let’s have a look at authors whose creations were influential outside of their literary traditions – specifically, at the names they have coined or popularized. You knew that Shakespeare has had, you know, a fairly large impact on the English language, but you might be surprised to learn that he’s made a surprising contribution to […]

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6 earth expressions for Earth Day

6 earth expressions for anyone who loves Planet Earth

The word earth dates back to Old English, and its earliest meanings haven’t changed much over the course of centuries; earth still refers to the planet on which we live, and soil. If the primary meanings haven’t changed, then what other senses and nuances have been added and lost over the years? Earth to earth […]

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Turn over a new leaf

8 unexpected origins of everyday phrases

Let’s take a look at some phrases whose origins might not be quite what you think… 1. Pass the buck We all know that buck is informal American English for a dollar. Indeed, it can also be used for an Australian dollar, a New Zealand dollar, a South African rand, and an Indian rupee – […]

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The shambolic life of ‘shambles’

You just lost your job. Your partner broke up with you. You’re late on rent. Then, you dropped your iPhone in the toilet. “My life’s in shambles!” you shout. Had you so exclaimed, say, in an Anglo-Saxon village over 1,000 years ago, your fellow Old English speakers may have given you a puzzled look. “Your […]

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