Category: Word origins

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Lord Byron in the OED

Lord Byron, one of Britain’s greatest poets, was born on this day in 1788, so we thought this might be a good opportunity to trace his influence on the English language. We have consulted the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and discovered more about Byron’s innovative use of language. While all the words listed below existed […]

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Idolatry of a donkey is known as onolatry

12 kinds of idolatry

Rejected by several of the world’s religions, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, idolatry refers to the practice of worshiping an image or representation of a god rather than the true god. Many are probably familiar with idolatry due to its inclusion in the Ten Commandments, which state that a believer should not make an image […]

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See how familiar you are with these 35 drunk synonyms!

A timeline of drunk synonyms

In the timeline above, explore how the English language has developed over time through the lens of a crucial social function: the consumption of alcohol. Taken from David Crystal’s book Words in Time and Place, which is based on research in the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, the timeline covers over 35 drunk synonyms, […]

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10 words that came to life 100 years ago

As 2014 draws to a close, we thought we’d take a look at some of the words celebrating their 100th birthday this year. While some of these may be antedated if older examples are found, the earliest evidence currently in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for each of the words below is 1914. So, join […]

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Check out our Christmas related words!

Rudolph and other Christmas-related words

Christmas comes but once a year, as some celebrants are wont to say, as do many of the words special to the season. Like so many Christmas lights, let’s untangle some holiday word histories–twelve, fittingly enough–to see what they might illuminate. Rudolph A number of animals give us their season’s greetings during Christmastime. Perhaps the most famous is Rudolph the […]

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The origins of Christmas words

Mistletoe encounters can be very hit-or-miss. My own experiences usually involve kissing a definite non-target rather than the person I’d been lingering beneath the foliage for. It was therefore with some satisfaction that I discovered that the literal meaning of mistletoe is ‘dung-on-a-twig’, the inspiration of the Anglo-Saxons who realized that the plant is fertilized […]

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Little orphan Annie was once known as Little Orphant Annie.

Little orphant Annie?

One of the best-known musicals of the 20th century is Annie, which tells the story of a plucky orphan girl who warms the hearts of all around her, and eventually finds a loving family of her own. The tale will be carried into the 21st century when the newest film adaptation (produced by Jay-Z and […]

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The line "frankly my dear I don't give a damn" is one of the most famous and controversial lines in cinema history.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”

Liz: You can’t just take away all these words we’ve been using for the past six years. Kenneth: Oh, that reminds me. You can’t say “using” on TV. It implies drug use. —30 Rock Season 6, Episode 11 On 15 December, 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. […]

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