Category: Word origins

hipsters traveling

The history of the word ‘hip’

James Brown was famously introduced by Lucas ‘Fats’ Gonder at the Apollo Theater in the early 1960s as ‘The Hardest Working Man in Show Business’, an epithet that stuck with Brown for his entire life. It is a fitting term for the word hip – the hardest working word in the lexicon of American slang. […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word ‘quiz’?

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ocean

Water, water, everywhere: how we named the oceans

Happy World Oceans Day! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the linguistic roots of the world’s five oceans. Before we start, what of ocean itself? The word comes to English via Latin from the Greek ōkeanos, which meant ‘great stream encircling the earth’s disc’. The word ocean originally denoted the whole body of water […]

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emmy

Where do awards names come from?

While some arts awards – the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, for instance – more or less tell you what they are by their name, other awards have a little more mystery in their monikers. Oscar According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the alternate name for an Academy Award – an ‘Oscar’ – […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word loo?

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Video: what is the origin of the word snob?

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sixties TV

16 words from the 1960s

As the television show Mad Men draws to a close, we thought it might be fun to reflect on the contributions to language made by the turbulent decade of the 1960s. The legacy of the 1960s on language is not surprising, given the huge shifts in culture, including the Civil Rights movement, the apex of […]

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darwin

The evolution of the word ‘evolution’

It is curious that, although the modern theory of evolution has its source in Charles Darwin’s great book On the Origin of Species (1859), the word evolution does not appear in the original text at all. In fact, Darwin seems deliberately to have avoided using the word evolution, preferring to refer to the process of […]

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