Strange as it may seem, the origin of the verb buy remains a matter of uninspiring debate, at least partly because we don’t know what this verb meant before it acquired the modern sense.
A few years ago, a student dropped a linguistics course I was teaching because the textbook used contractions. The student had done some editorial work and felt that contractions did not belong in a college textbook, much less one he was paying 50 dollars for. It was probably all for the best. If he didn’t like contractions, he probably would’ve hated the course.
This week, the Oxford Etymologist answers readers questions in his latest etymology gleanings.
My today’s word is bonfire, which turned up in texts at the end of the fifteenth century. Seven years ago, I devoted a post to it but today I know more about this tricky compound and can write the story in a different way.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged…” that there is no such thing as too many period dramas—at least, this remains true for those of us who are drawn to them, time and time again. Watching period dramas bring with them a sense of comfort as they transport the viewer to a world that is so […]
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.
If we expect someone to save our souls, this person won’t be an etymologist, because no language historian knows the origin of the word soul, and without a convincing etymology, how can anyone save the intangible substance it denotes? Yet nothing prevents us from looking at the main attempts to decipher the mysterious word.
To celebrate British Science Week, join in the conversation and keep abreast of the latest in science by delving into our reading list. It contains five of our latest books on evolutionary biology, the magic of mathematics, artificial intelligence, and more.
In this week’s blog post, the Oxford Etymologist dives deeper into the competing origin theories for the verb “bless”—with “curse” as an added bonus.
I was reading a column in a chess magazine when I came across the description of a game’s finish as a bygone conclusion. “That’s really weird,” I thought, “It should have said foregone conclusion.”
From God (or rather, god) to bless. But before turning to the history of the word “bless”, I would like to respond to the questions asked in connection with the “good”/”God” dilemma.
Do you know what Neil Gaiman once said about librarians? Perhaps you share Sir Francis Bacon’s taste for books? Give our library quotations quiz a go and tell us how you score!
Listen to season three of The VSI Podcast for concise and original introductions to a selection of our VSI titles from the authors themselves.
In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist details the etymology of the adjective “good”. If it is not related to “god”, then what is its origin?
A few days ago, I received a letter from a well-educated reader, who asked me whether the English words “god” and “good” are related.
“Understand” is a teaser: each of the two elements of this compound is clear, but why does it mean what it does?