Some words propagate like mushrooms: no roots but a sizable crowd of upstarts calling themselves relatives. Gr-words are the pet subject of all works on sound imitation and sound symbolism.
The history of “dude” has been documented with amazing accuracy.
The Oxford Etymologist answers readers’ questions on the origin of the word “race”, variants of “in one’s stockinged feet”, the folkloric creature Lady Hoonderlarly, and “bonfire.”
One does not need to be an etymologist to suggest that stocking consists of “stock-” and “-ing”. The trouble is that though “-ing” occurs in some nouns, it looks odd in stocking. Few English words have more seemingly incompatible senses than stock.
The origin of the word blatherskite ~ bletherskate “foolish talk; foolish talker” is supposedly secure. The Oxford Etymologist investigates…
The mattock, a simple tool, has a name troublesome to etymologists even though it has been known since the Old English period. In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist explores a new hypothesis for the origins of “mattock”.
The history of “cheek by jowl” and especially the pronunciation of “jowl” could serve as the foundation of a dramatic plot, says the Oxford Etymologist in this week’s blog post.
No one doubts that “bachelor” came to Middle English at the end of the thirteenth century from Old French and meant “a young knight.” Most conjectures about the etymology of this mysterious word were offered long ago.
Some of the most common words appeared in English late. Yet their origin is obscure. Of course, while dealing with old words, we also encounter unexpected solutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist tackles questions from readers.
In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist discusses two slang idioms: “worth a Jew’s eye” and “to save one’s bacon”.
In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist dives into the lexicographical history of two puzzling English homonyms: “mother” and “haggard.”