Category: Word origins

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 (or even between party nominees at this point in the 2016 campaign). But for word nerds like me, it’s a dilemma – which, speaking of evil, can still […]

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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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month names

How did the months get their names?

As the new year starts you might have recently bought a new diary or calendar and thought ‘Where do these words come from?’ – at least that’s what I did. There is also, of course, also the chance that you have been merrily scheduling in gym appointments and book clubs and all sorts of other […]

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farm pigs

Pig, dog, hog, and other etymologies from the farm

Old MacDonald had a farm. And on that farm he had a dog. And a frog, hog, pig, and stag. Old MacDonald even had an earwig. Dog, earwig, frog, hog, pig, and stag – as well as the more obscure haysugge (‘hedge-sparrow’) and teg (‘yearling sheep’) – form a curious set of words in the English language. You’ve probably already noticed some features they have in common: they refer to […]

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Where does the expression ‘currying favour’ come from?

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

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