Tag: etymology

chemistry

How did the chemical elements get their names?

Etymologically, chemical elements are in a class of their own. Unlike much of the English language, the names of elements tend to have been chosen by the researchers who first discovered them rather than developing organically over time. There are no rules as to how these names are decided, but the history of chemistry reveals […]

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The origin of jazz is a curious one - it comes from baseball originally.

The baseball origin of ‘jazz’

At first glance the only thing that jazz and baseball seem to have in common is that both have been the subjects of Ken Burns documentaries, the histories of the two institutions are very much intertwined, and the word jazz got its start in baseball, only later slipping into music. There are a lot of […]

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The origins of dog breed names can be tricky to trace.

The origins of dog breed names

As their breed names often attest, dogs are a truly international bunch. Named for their places of origin and sometimes even their original breeders, dog breed names offer a fascinating look into how we relate to man’s best friend. Let’s take a look at 12 different dog breed names and their backstories. Akita This Japanese breed is […]

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The word boycott is of more recent origin than you might think.

What is the origin of ‘boycott’?

Despite being such an influential social and political term, boycott is of more recent vintage than many people realize. The word, which can be used as either a noun or a verb, refers to the practice of ‘withdrawing from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest’. Boycott […]

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The origin of culprit is more complicated than you might think.

The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit.   At first glance, the origin of culprit looks simple enough. Mea culpa, culpable, exculpate, and the more obscure inculpate: these words come from the Latin culpa, “fault” or “blame.” One would suspect that culprit is the same, yet we should never be […]

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Winter scene

Walking in a winter wonderland . . . of words

Where I live in New York State, about two hours north of the Pennsylvania border, the transition from one season to the next is rarely (if ever) coincidental with the astronomical designation applied to it. Of the four annual calendar dates of seasonal shift, none is more laughable to us in the Leatherstocking Region than […]

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Interesting words - the word squirrel comes from the Greek skiouros, meaning 'shadow-tail'

9 interesting word facts you didn’t know

The English language has a varied and ever changing vocabulary, which makes it an ideal candidate for etymological studies. In this list below, we take a look at the interesting histories of some common English words. For more interesting word facts and origins, browse our ‘Explore’ section and follow us on Twitter. 1. squirrel 2. awkward The adjective awkward is […]

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What are some Arabic words in English?

Which everyday English words came from Arabic?

To celebrate the launch of our new Oxford Arabic Dictionary, we’re taking a look at Arabic words in English, or, really, English words that have been adapted from Arabic origins, sometimes crossing through other languages first before entering English. Using the infographic below, find out which everyday English words came from Arabic, and track how they […]

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