Useless Etymology is a collection of editorialized word histories released in no particular order by Jess Zafarris. It’s possible you’ve seen my videos on TikTok, or on Twitter @UselessEty or @jesszafarris. The posts vary in length and style, but many include gifs and images of questionable quality.
Jess is also the author of the middle-grade nonfiction book ONCE UPON A WORD: A WORD-ORIGIN DICTIONARY FOR KIDS (Rockridge Press, February 2020), which is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. Learn more about the book here.
My usual hard sources are as follows, with inspiration from the Online Etymological Dictionary.
- The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
- Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins (Oxford Quick Reference) by Cresswell, Julia
- Etymological Dictionary of Modern English by Ernest Weekley
- The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, 1st Edition by Robert K. Barnhart
- Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words by John Ayto
- The Dictionary of American Slang, Subsequent Edition by Robert L. Chapman
Note: I first published many of these writeups on Reddit’s Etymology Subreddit, but they are, in fact, my original work.
About Jess Zafarris
Jess Zafarris is the author of Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids. She is also an award-winning innovator of digital content and marketing solutions and a prolific online and print journalist, having served as Audience Engagement Editor at Adweek and Executive Director of Marketing & Communications for Gotham Ghostwriters. Before that, she served as Content Strategist and Digital Content Director for Writer’s Digest and Script, and she still occasionally writes for WD. Her nine years of experience in digital and print content direction and marketing include such roles as editor-in-chief of HOW magazine and online content director of HOW and PRINT magazine, as well as writing for the The Hot Sheet, the Denver Business Journal, ABC News, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She has a bachelors in English Literature (with minors in Arabic and Anthropology) from DePaul University and a masters in Journalism & Mass Communications from the University of Colorado Boulder. She spends much of her spare time researching curious word histories and writing about them at UselessEtymology.com. Follow her at @jesszafarris or @uselessety on Twitter, or on Instagram at @uselessetymology.