Origins

  1. The Not-So-Nice Evolution Of The Word “Nice”

    Recently, the phrase nice guy has been used to describe guys who are anything but … nice by current standards. 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 …

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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. …

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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 …

  5. 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.

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    Words You Didn’t Know Came From Los Angeles

    From its star-studded studios to its star-lined Walk of Fame, Los Angeles is a city that shines bright, literally and figuratively. There are few things that can’t be found within its sprawling, sunny city limits—it just might take a while to get there, depending on traffic.  Even if you’ve never visited, its influence is still apparent. Los Angeles’s films scream from our screens and its celebrities plaster …

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    The Month Of March And “Marching” Have A Historical Link

    Where did the name March come from? The name March is derived from the Latin word Martius (named after Mars, the Roman god of war). Martius was the name of the first month in the Roman calendar. It is one of the only months named after a god. While many have adopted the Gregorian calendar (The Roman ruler, Numa Pompilius, added January and February to the calendar thus making March the …

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    Words You Didn’t Know Came From Chicago

    Chi Town, The Big Onion, The Windy City. Call it what you will, Chicago is home to a herd of sports teams that could fill a zoo—the Cubs, the Bears, and the Bulls (and, oh yeah, the White Sox too). Not to mention it’s the land of deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. It’s a fantastic city filled with museums, shopping, and industry. This midwestern …

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    These Plain Words Have Very Odd Origin Stories

    Most people have fairly rigid ideas about what words mean, but the thing about language is that it’s constantly changing. Words that mean one thing today may expand in definition over the coming decades or come to mean the complete opposite of their current definition once a few hundred more years pass. Sometimes, words even change meanings entirely, leaving behind little trace of what they …

  10. Before X Was X: The Dark Horse Story Of The 24th Letter

    With its long, ambiguous history and multiple phonemes, the letter X is quite a dark horse. It can mean Christ, like the X in Xmas, stand for a chromosome, and even show up in friendly and amorous correspondence (XOXO). But, how did X end up in the alphabet to begin with? The origin of X Since its inception, the letter X has struggled to establish its own …

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