The word ‘gross,’ which came to English from French, took on a variety of senses in English related to size. But the ‘gross of today is different from the ‘gross’ of the past thanks to teens.
What is a placebo? Technically, a Latin phrase meaning ‘I will please.’ It’s also a Catholic prayer and a clever insult.
Ghosts, ghouls, and monsters turn up everywhere at Halloween—including in our language, and sometimes where you least expect.
It took more than 70 years and tons of volunteer labor to create “the definitive record of the English language”—including an assist from a murderer. Get to know the Oxford English Dictionary better.
The word ‘yo’ was around long before Rocky movies and rap songs.
If you were an 18th-century settler in Australia with no knowledge of marsupials, you just might decide to call a koala a ‘bear,’ right?
If linguistics is any indicator, it would appear that everybody in the spirit realm speaks Scots English.
From the courts to the morgue, if the government doesn't know someone's name or wants to withhold it, they give them one of these as a placeholder. Why?
Fall is here, and you're getting hungry. Feast on this cornucopia of etymologies for seasonal veggies straight from the garden.
To paraphrase Krusty the Clown, comedy isn’t dirty words—it’s words that sound dirty. Here are 50 of them.
From ‘cakewalk’ to ‘no can do,’ the origins of these common idioms and sayings are surprisingly dark.
Many bad words come and go, but these six have withstood the tests of time. Here’s how they came to be.
‘Of course’ is one of the most versatile ‘yes’ synonyms we have. But what does it actually mean?
Sometimes words move up in the world. Their meanings change with time, becoming more positive—a process linguists call amelioration.
The connections between words aren’t always as straightforward as the link between run and runner; often, figuring them out requires the subtle unraveling of linguistic evolution, the kind of detective work that makes etymology so fascinating.
The figurative phrase is more than 200 years old, but the obscure etymology of a 'red herring' is a fishy story that is itself a red herring.
Does it have to do with pea coats? Or maybe Latin scribes?
Here’s (at least) one interesting way station each of these common words made on its journey to the present day, whether it’s an analysis of the Latin roots, a hypothesis about a proto-Indo-European origin, or a pivotal change in meaning.
The story behind which orange came first involves Arab trade routes and a bunch of old phrases that mean 'orange apple.'
It’s another in a long line of etymologies that doesn’t have one clear-cut answer, but a few plausible (and interesting) possible explanations.
It’s delightfully old-timey slang we still use today. But does it have anything to do with the Duesenberg cars of the 1920s?
The origin of the phrase ‘silver screen’ is less about movies and more about how people watched them in the good old days.