Where does the word “Skewbald” come from and What does Skewbald mean?

where does the word skewbald come from and what does skewbald mean

A skewbald horse (or other animal) is one that is basically white, but whose coat also has patches of some other color. It is thus similar to piebald (especially for the derivation of -bald), and is sometimes used synonymously therewith, but when a distinction is made, piebald is used when the patches are black, skewbald … Read more

Where does the word “Catacomb” come from and What does Catacomb mean?

where does the word catacomb come from and what does catacomb mean

The name catacomb was, originally, merely applied to a low-lying plot, Greek kata, “down,” kumbe, “hollow”, on the outskirts of Rome along the Appian Way. The church of San Sebastiano was erected on this plot, and, by tradition, the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul were briefly interred beneath it. In consequence, however, the … Read more

How did the “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” get its name and Where does the term Jack-in-the-Pulpit come from?

how did the jack in the pulpit get its name and where does the term jack in the pulpit come from

The American wildflower Jack-in-the-Pulpit, growing only in marshy woodlands, is unknown in some parts of the country. To anyone who has seen it in springtime, the cause of the name is obvious. The upright sturdy spadix or flower spike stands under a protecting canopy or spathe, vividly resembling a priest at his pulpit with sounding … Read more

Where does the word “Quadroon” come from and What does Quadroon mean?

where does the word quadroon come from and what does quadroon mean

The descendants of mixed racial unions have been known by many names, most of them sufficiently distinctive to identify immediately the races of the parents. Many of these names can be traced to the Spanish, who were the great adventurers and explorers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We owe to them the terms mestizo … Read more

Where does the word “Sophomore” come from and What does Sophomore mean?

where does the word sophomore come from and what does sophomore mean

An older spelling of sophomore was sophimore, and it is believed that this resulted from sophism plus the suffix -or, “one who practiced sophism,” which is the art of argumentation, especially on a fallacious premise. The present spelling stems from the theory that a second-year college student, having acquired some measure of erudition, tends to … Read more

Where does the word “Gewgaw” come from and What does Gewgaw mean?

where does the word gewgaw come from and what does gewgaw mean

Probably the term Gewgaw for a gaudy ornament of little value was originally nothing more than a contemptuous duplication of nonsensical sounds, such as shilly-shally, fiddle-daddle, and many others. No definite source has yet been found for the term, but it is very old. Though then spelled giuegoue, it appears in the text of Ancren … Read more

Where do the terms highroad, highway, high seas, high tea come from?

where do the terms highroad highway high seas high tea come from

It was not that the road, sea, way, or the like was elevated above others of its kind that it was labeled high, tracing back to Old English times, but that it possessed some quality that made it outstanding, especially notable. The highroad and highway were main or principal roads; the high seas were oceans; … Read more

Where does the word “Slyboots” come from and What does Slyboots mean?

where does the word slyboots come from and what does slyboots mean

Although slyboots has the meaning of “a crafty or cunning person,” it is closely related to footpad, “a thief”; gumshoe, “a detective”; pussyfoot, “a prying, nosy person”; also to the German Leisetreter (light treader), “a sneak, spy”; and the French pied plat (flat foot), “a sneak, knave.” All of these carry the common connotation of … Read more

Where does the term Sulky come from and What does Sulky mean?

where does the term sulky come from and what does sulky mean

A sulky person is one who, at least for the moment, wants nothing but to be let alone, and it is directly from this meaning that the vehicle sulky gets its name. For this vehicle is designed to seat a single person, and one choosing to ride therein presumably feels that degree of aloofness best … Read more

Where does the word “Hijack” come from and What does Hijack mean?

where does the word hijack come from and what does hijack mean

The word hijack came into American speech shortly after the First World War, during the “silk shirt” era of prosperity when the prohibition amendment was still in force and people with money to spend wanted to spend it on liquor. Some say it originated in the Middle West, in reference to the activities of hoboes … Read more

Where does the term “Bock Beer” come from and What does Bock Beer mean?

where does the term bock beer come from and what does bock beer mean

One couldn’t do better than quote from the 1856 Illinois State Register: “There is which is called ‘bock’, in English buck or an item in an issue of a Bavarian lager beer goat, and is so called because of its great strength making its consumers prance and tumble about like these animals.” This beer, incidentally, … Read more

Where does the word Horehound come from and What does Hoarhound mean?

where does the word horehound come from and what does hoarhound mean

The name of the horehound (hoarhound) herb is really contained in the second element, which, though considerably altered through the centuries, seems to have been earliest in use. That is, in England of about a thousand years ago, the name of the plant seems to have been hune, and, to distinguish the one covered with … Read more

Where does the word “Ascot” come from and What does Ascot mean?

where does the word ascot come from and what does ascot mean

The Ascot was a popular tie affected by us young males in the late 1890’s, narrow around the neck and broad and slightly padded where it was loosely tied at the throat, the broad sections then crossing diagonally. Popularity and name sprang from sporting circles attending the fashionable races held annually at Ascot Heath in … Read more

Where does the term “thank ye ma’am” come from and What does thank ye ma’am mean?

where does the term thank ye maam come from and what does thank ye maam mean

This, gratefully appreciated in rural American courtship in grandfather’s day, is now rapidly disappearing, replaced by humdrum metal or concrete culverts on hilly roads everywhere. On early roads in such country, an earthen diagonal ridge served to carry rain water or melting snow from high side to low side, thus preventing excessive wash. But, passing … Read more

Where does the word “Cocksure” come from and What does Cocksure mean?

where does the word cocksure come from and what does cocksure mean

The great Oxford English Dictionary waxes facetious about the word cocksure. It says, in effect, this should mean “as sure as a cock,” that is, “as secure, safe, certain, trustworthy, reliable, etc.,” as a cock. But what kind of cock? Certainly not a rooster. So, the dictionary suggests, possibly the reference, four and a half … Read more

Where does the word “Snood” come from and What does Snood mean?

where does the word snood come from and what does snood mean

The oldest words in the language sometimes seem to be among the most difficult to trace to their origins, perchance because these origins have become lost in the mists of age. Snood is such a word. It has been found to have been in English, in much its present meaning (“a fillet or ribbon for … Read more

How did the Artichoke get its name and Where does the word Artichoke come from?

how did the artichoke get its name and where does the word artichoke come from scaled

Beyond the spelling, the name of the Artichoke has no connection either with art or with choking, although the latter was at one time seriously suggested. Actually the name has been highly corrupted through various European versions of the original Arabic name, al-kharshuf. Italians eventually made that into articiocco, and through some four centuries of … Read more

Where does the word “Goldbrick” come from and What does Goldbrick mean?

where does the word goldbrick come from and what does goldbrick mean

Of course the original gold brick was of the pure metal which, for convenience in handling, had been melted and molded into brick form. But skullduggery reared its ugly head among Western promoters of mining properties, and, especially after 1880, many of these gentlemen began to create bricks of identical form of lead, coated with … Read more

How did the Dogwood get its name and Where does the word Dogwood come from?

how did the dogwood get its name and where does the word dogwood come from scaled

Sorry, there doesn’t seem to be any valid explanation of the animal prefix. A botanist of the seventeenth century called the European plant the dogberry tree, because of its dark purple berries, but that throws no light on the “dog” element. One writer only gives this explanation: “It is called Dogwood, because a decoction of … Read more

Where does the word “Trousseau” come from and What does Trousseau mean?

where does the word trousseau come from and what does trousseau mean

Taken into English directly from the French, in which trousseau is the diminutive of trousse (from which we get truss), “a bundle, a pack.” If taken literally, then, it would seem that a bride’s trousseau would be “a little bundle,” presumably consisting only of a few of her most needed personal effects and household linens.

Where does the term “Go-Devil” come from and What does Go Devil mean?

where does the term go devil come from and what does go devil mean

We think our American male ancestors of a hundred-odd years ago took keen delight in playing with the word devil. It sounded just short of a swear word, and probably annoyed their wives. At least it is certain that farmers especially took to calling various mechanical implements which, in early stages of development, acted erratically … Read more

Where does the phrase “Son of Belial” come from and What does Son of Belial mean?

where does the phrase son of belial come from and what does son of belial mean

Belial is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew b’li-ya’al, from b’li, “not,” and ya’al, “worth, profit.” Thus the original sense of belial was merely “unprofitable.” From this sense, though, the term Belial came to have the meaning of “wickedness,” and the many references in the Old Testament to a “son of Belial,” “daughter of Belial,” … Read more

Where does the word “Sooner” come from and What does Sooner mean?

where does the word sooner come from and what does sooner mean

In 1889 the Federal Government decided to throw open the Territory of Oklahoma for settlement, and those in charge took great pains to try to see that no potential settler received any unfair advantage over another with respect to the more choice land. The borders were closed, and policed to keep them closed until the … Read more

Where does the word “Touchstone” come from and What does Touchstone mean?

where does the word touchstone come from and what does touchstone mean

Ever since mankind began to practice chicanery upon his fellows, it has been found necessary to develop techniques for ascertaining the true value of those materials that are to be found in the marketplace, particularly gold and silver. Long ago it was discovered that if suspected gold were rubbed on the mineral known as basanite, … Read more

Where does the word “Soliloquy” come from and What does Soliloquy mean?

where does the word soliloquy come from and what does soliloquy mean

St. Augustine, one of the most renowned fathers of the Christian Church, was, in his youth, rather a dissolute profligate. After embracing Christianity in his early thirties, though, he became a most devout member of the faith, eventually being awarded a bishopric. He was always a prolific writer, and many of the books of his … Read more

Where does the word “Curtail” come from and What does Curtail mean?

where does the word curtail come from and what does curtail mean

The “curtal friar,” Friar Tuck, of the Robin Hood ballads, was merely so called because the frock worn by the friar was short, curtal being derived from the Latin curtus, “short.” Other things were also “curtal” four hundred years ago, especially a horse whose tail had been bobbed, a “bobtailed horse,” we would say now. … Read more