Category: Word origins

number names

Fibonacci to Avogadro: numbers with names

Of course, all numbers have names of a sort, in that they can be spelled with letters – the number 43 is ‘forty-three’, the number 1,000 is ‘one thousand’. But along with all of those words for numbers, there are several numbers that have more specific names. The most famous of these might just be […]

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road expressions

On the road: expressions with the word ‘road’

Road is, of course, a pretty common word. It’s even left its mark on a couple of cult favourite novels, as I discovered when listening to somebody describing the plot of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road only to realize, when they’d rather thrown me by mentioning cannibals, that they were thinking of Cormac McCarthy’s The […]

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8 word facts to make you feel clever while watching the Oscars

8 words to help you watch the Oscars

Are the Oscars not wordy enough for you? Let’s make the films nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards a little more engaging with several wordy facts. 1. The Big Short The big what? The term short has been in use since at least the mid-19th century to describe the process of ‘selling […]

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Angry blue painted egg

10 historical insults from the OED

Are you looking for some more creative ways to insult someone? We’ve pulled some insults from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to help you out with that… 1. Flibbertigibbet A noun that describes ‘a chattering or gossiping person’ and ‘a flighty or frivolous woman’. According to the OED, flibbertigibbet is an […]

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Pairs of words that share an etymology

Unlikely couples: 8 pairs of words you didn’t know shared an etymology

Like an extended family with some unsuspected relations, sometimes you come across words which have very different modern-day meanings but unexpectedly share an etymological element in their background. salad / salary Salad and salary obviously have a lot of letters in common, but which other word unites the two? Perhaps surprisingly, it’s salt – or, […]

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Clock gear set

15 words invented by authors

Inventors’ Day is typically celebrated in honour of all the great minds past and present that have come up with a process or thing that helped make our everyday lives easier. But what about those inventors of words that have enriched our lexicon with their language? Let’s take a look at fifteen authors, and the words […]

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Street arrow two way. Does this provide a dilemma?

What is the origin of ‘dilemma’?

What’s a word for ‘the lesser of two evils’? As many American voters like to joke, it’s the choice for the next President of the United States. But for word nerds like me, it’s a dilemma – which, speaking of evil, can still bedevil us with its horns. A history of dilemma Today, a dilemma […]

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London tube names

London Underground: the origins of some unusual names

Have you ever wondered how some of the more unusual sounding tube stops in London got their name? Taking a look at the origins of London Underground stations’ names is, of course, pretty much the same as exploring the origins of place names: almost all of them are named after the areas they serve. Locals […]

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