Tag: word origins

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 […]

Read more »
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 […]

Read more »
tax

What is the origin of the term scot-free?

To ‘get off scot-free’ means ‘to get away with something without being punished’. Since the familiar English word Scot refers to a native or inhabitant of Scotland, it is tempting to assume that this is a reference to that country. Indeed, that association seems to have existed since at least the 1500s, when the alternative […]

Read more »
W. Tecumseh Sherman

8 words with American Civil War origins

Not only did the American Civil War have immense political ramifications, it also had a major impact on American culture, and even exerted some influence on the language. The following terms all either emerged directly from, or have senses which were directly influenced by, the conflict. 1. Deadline As much angst as the word deadline […]

Read more »
symbols

Signs and symbols: the names of punctuation marks

Chances are that you use them every day – from ‘ to # and ? to . – but where did common punctuation marks get their names? Ampersand The ampersand is the sign &, used to mean ‘and’. The shape of the symbol originated as a ligature for the Latin et (‘and’) – that is, […]

Read more »
sea

English is chock-a-block with invisible nautical terms

Ahoy, me hearties! When I plumbed the hidden depths of the nautical origins of common English words and phrases last year, I dredged up a treasure chest brimful of material, more than enough for the post I was writing at the time. With thoughts of summer holidays uppermost in many of our minds right now, […]

Read more »
shamrock

Quiz: how well do you know English words from Irish?

Do you think you’ve got the luck o’ the Irish? In light of today’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations, we thought it might be a good opportunity to quiz you on Irish words in the English language. So, before you head off to the pub tonight, take our brief quiz and make your friends green with envy with […]

Read more »

Video: what are the ides of March?

Read more »

Tweets