Tag: word origins

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. For Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating 8 unlikely couples… salad / salary Salad and salary obviously have a lot of letters in common, but which other word unites […]

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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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Dad's Army

10 words you need to know before watching Dad’s Army

A while ago I tried to explain to my American colleague why the words “Don’t tell him, Pike” would bring a wry smile to any Brit’s face. I don’t think I succeeded brilliantly. If you’re not familiar, the clip below will let you know what I’m talking about – sorry for spoiling the punchline – […]

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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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Samba School parade in Sambodromo.

12 essential words for the Brazilian carnival

The carnival in Rio de Janeiro kicks off on 5 February, so the next five days will once again see the Brazilian city playing host to seductive rhythms and scantily clad dancers. For this occasion, we’ve dived into the colourful vocabulary of the Brazilian carnival and came up with a list of words that we […]

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pies and cakes in English idioms

Pies and cakes in English idioms

It is assumed that the word pie came into English via Old French, from Latin pica ‘magpie’, which in turn is related to picus ‘green woodpecker’. Here, the allusion is perhaps to the various combinations of ingredients of a pie being comparable to the objects randomly collected by a magpie. Its sweet equivalent, the cake, on the other […]

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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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