Tag: word origins

There are many boxing idioms in the English language.

12 boxing idioms in English

Although the sport still enjoys a relatively large following today, the huge popularity that boxing had over a century ago is obvious when you look at the impact that the sport has had on the English language. In fact, there are plenty of common boxing terms and situations that you use in a figurative sense […]

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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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If you get off from your taxes 'scot free', what are you referring to?

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 […]

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There are several Civil War words.

8 words from the American Civil War

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. Let’s have a look at several Civil War words. […]

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An array of punctuation marks on a typewriter.

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, it […]

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Nautical terms and phrases are hidden everywhere in common English.

Nautical terms and phrases in English

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, […]

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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 […]

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