Tag: etymology

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

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ballot box

The vocabulary of voting… a look at election etymology

As Britain goes to the polls, the thought of millions of people up and down the country shuffling into polling booths, quietly putting a cross on a piece of paper and dropping it into a box can sometimes make me misty-eyed about the age-old simplicity of the democratic ritual. But just as age-old as that process […]

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shoes

Something’s afoot: investigating the names for shoes

Whether you’re a shoe aficionado or somebody who regards footwear as merely something to help avoid standing on nails, you might be interested in the etymological backgrounds to the names of some common varieties of shoe. We’ve taken five of them, and traced their – perhaps surprising – linguistic histories… Clog You probably know that […]

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dragon

Guns, herbs, and sores: inside the dragon’s etymological lair

23 April marks St. George’s Day. While St. George is widely venerated throughout Christian communities, England especially honors him, its patron saint, on this day. Indeed, his cross, red on a white field, flies as England’s flag. St. George, of course, is legendary for the dragon he slew, yet St. George bested the beast in legend alone. From Beowulf to The Game of Thrones, this […]

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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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