Origins

  1. The Word “Bully” Used To Mean … “Sweetheart”?!

    The word "bully" is first recorded around the mid-1500s, when it actually meant—wait for it—“sweetheart.” What?!
  2. What Did The Word “Nice” Used To Mean?

    What’s the origin of nice? Nice, it turns out, began as a negative term derived from the Latin nescius, meaning “unaware, ignorant.” This sense of “ignorant” was carried over into English when the word was first borrowed (via French) in the early 1300s. And for almost a century, nice was used to characterize a “stupid, ignorant, or foolish” person. Starting in the late 1300s, nice began …

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    Thank Your Babushka For These 8 Russian Loanwords In English

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    What Is “GOP” Short For?

    The Republican party has a lot of history. Its origins are interesting in their own right, but one particular part of the party’s history is its nickname: the GOP. Where did this nickname come from and what in the world does it mean? What does GOP mean? The Republican Party picked up the Grand Old Party label in the 1880s, and that’s where the acronym GOP came from. The …

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    Where Does The Phrase “Cut The Mustard” Come From?

    As with many slang and idiomatic phrases, the origin of cut the mustard isn’t so … clear-cut. But, let’s see if we can’t crack this etymological jar open just a bit. What does “cut the mustard” mean? To cut the mustard is “to reach or surpass the desired standard or performance” or more generally “to succeed, to have the ability to do something.” For instance, Beyoncé …

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    How Did The Month Of June Get Its Name?

    June is a great month. School’s out. The days are long. The weather’s warm. Perhaps the Anglo-Saxons—who spoke that linguistic ancestor of English known as Old English—were onto something when they collectively called June and July Liða. That’s pronounced like [lee–thuh], with the character ð having the voiced th-, like this. Liða itself may mean “calm” or “mild.” On its own, June was sometimes also referred to as Ærra-Liða, which is like …

  7. 10 Words Coined In The Sci-Fi Universe

  8. How Old Is The Word “Bosom”?

    Do you have ever specific memories associated with certain words? This woman explains her specific connection to the word "bosom" and how the word originated.
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    Did You Know How This Word Was Formed?

    Words are funny things. For one thing, they are always changing. Consider lit, which, conventionally, refers to “lighting something up, e.g., a lit candle.” But, in slang, lit means something is “excellent.” It’s hot, it’s on fire—which are just more examples of how we play with words. For another, they keep secret stories of the past. Did you know daisy literally means “day’s eye,” named for the way …

  10. Words You Didn’t Know Were Inspired By Animals

    Did you know that the word "muscle" is derived from the Latin word for “mouse?” And this isn't the only word in the English language that is unexpectedly inspired by animals.