Origins

  1. This Is Why You Should Not Judge A Word By How It Sounds

    In the 1700s, Cassia of Rome warned that maybe we should judge a word by how it sounds. Sit back, it's story time.
  2. English Words From The Pharaohs

    Most people recognize Ancient Greek and Latin as the primary donors to the English language. However, some of the most ancient words in English actually trace back to Ancient Egypt.  Distinct from the contemporary Egyptian Arabic spoken today, Ancient Egyptian is a unique Afro-Asiatic language that doesn’t really share similarities with other languages in the family (like Arabic, Hebrew, or Berber).   Its 5,000 year-old …

  3. The United States Of Diversity: Fargo And Its NCVS Don’tcha Know

    by Taneesh Khera Dictionary.com’s United States of Diversity You’ve stumbled onto our United States of Diversity series, welcome! If you don’t already know, here we explore a minority language or dialect in the country, and this episode’s no different. Does your keeat sit an the meeat? Or, maybe you wait for the boss down the black? Do you cal your mam an Sundays? If you …

  4. Are New Idioms Ever Created?

    Many idioms—expressions that are not taken literally—are so old and so familiar that we don’t think twice about using them. We say, for example, “it’s raining cats and dogs” to indicate that it’s pouring outside, and “comfortable as an old shoe” to explain an easy and familiar relationship. We can trace the etymology of some idioms to books and sayings that were first used hundreds …

  5. Misogyny vs. Sexism

    With the recent #MeToo and Times Up movements, equality and the empowerment of women have become household conversations around the world. Everyone from your next-door neighbor to your favorite high-school teacher have likely joined the discussion, using a brand new set of vocabulary including the words misogyny and sexism . While these two terms may seem similar, there are actually several differences that make them …

  6. The Many, Many Words For Drunkards

    Grab your drink of choice and join us as we look back on some of the best words for drunkards from history. 1. He’s biggy Here’s the thing: We’ve been getting drunk since the stone age. (We as in “humans,” not necessarily we as in the Dictionary.com staff.) Why? Well for one thing, it’s fun. For another, it’s a communal, social activity, and we (as …

  7. They Call It Puppy Love And Other Animal-inspired Phrases

    We often attribute emotions and other human characteristics to animals. This is called anthropomorphism . Similarly, we also describe people using animal characteristics. You might, for example, say my teenage son “eats like a horse,” meaning he’s a growing boy and consumes a lot of food. This is called zoomorphism . Zoomorphism also includes assigning animal-like qualities to gods and inanimate objects. The term comes from …

  8. Foxy, Catty, Fishy: Are These Traits For Animals Or Humans?

    Catty It seems horribly unfair to adorable cats that catty is a human descriptor meaning “devious or spiteful” (and usually in reference to female behavior). What gives? The word cat has been around since the year 700. But then, in the Middle Ages, cat became one of the many offensive terms against women and was slang for “prostitute.” The association might have been made because …

  9. Villainous Pets We Love To Hate

  10. Know Your Meme

    The Original Memes (Before Memes)

    The word meme, coined in 1976 by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, goes way beyond social-media pixels. Meme captures the concept of “cultural transmission” of ideas in general, where customs and ideas spread from brain to brain.  Which means memes have been around longer than Success Kid or Kermit sipping tea. Wildfire ideas have been around as long as humans have—in fact, discovering fire is …

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