Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Search Term: s-mobile

Title cover of "Origin Uncertain: Unraveling the Mysteries of Etymology" by Anatoly Liberman

Etymological small fry: some words for “size”

Quite recently, the Polish linguist Kamil Stachowski has published a paper “On the Spread and Evolution of pudding” (the source is the journal Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis 141, 2024, 117-137).

Read More
Word Origins

In praise of sloth

The hero of today’s blog post is the adjective “slow.” No words look less inspiring, but few are more opaque.

Read More
Word Origins

Plain as day?

The Oxford Etymologist looks at the origin of the word “day” and its connections across the Indo-European language world.

Read More

Souls searched for but not found (part two)

This is the second and last part of the series on the origin of the word “soul.” The perennial interest in the etymology of this word should not surprise us. It is our inability to find a convincing solution that causes astonishment and disappointment.

Read More

Seeing is believing (?)

Today I’ll try to say something about the verb “see.” Once again, we’ll have to admit that the more basic a word is, the less we know about its remote history.

Read More

Twinkle, twinkle, or stars and sparks

Nothing is known about the origin of the phrase “Milky Way.” By contrast, the origin of the word “star” is not hopelessly obscure, which is good, because stars and obscurity have little in common.

Read More

The wiles of folk etymology

Words, as linguistics tells us, are conventional signs. Some natural phenomenon is called rain or snow, and, if you don’t know what those words mean, you will never guess. But everything in our consciousness militates against such a rupture between word and thing.

Read More