Since the 1500s, the word "periwinkle" has been used as the name of two distinctive items: an edible sea snail and a broadleaf evergreen plant—or, in its adjective form, the color of said evergreen plant. Both have different but converging etymologies.
December 16 is Jane Austen's birthday, so today we'll explore a few intriguing etymology facts related to her and her wonderful works. The word prejudice first meant "contempt" more broadly, rather than today's sense of a specific bias. It comes from the Medieval Latin prejudicium, "injustice." Our current meaning connects more to the older Latin… Continue reading 4 Etymology Facts for Jane Austen’s Birthday
While some sources including etymonline.com say that "pizzazz" (or "pizazz") first appeared in print in a March 1937 issue of Harper's Bazaar, it actually appears earlier in a 1913 issue of The Main Sheet, a largely humorous publication by the Indoor Yacht Club, albeit with a different usage than we see today. It is true… Continue reading The Etymology of “Pizzazz”
"Peculiar" comes from the Latin peculium, literally "property in cattle," a meaning that lingers in "peculiar to," meaning "belonging solely to." Its "odd" sense arose after the term evolved to mean "distinguished, special," describing a person or thing of great wealth or renown. Peculium was used to describe property in general, for cattle were considered the… Continue reading The Etymoooology of “Peculiar”
The phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" originated shortly before the turn of the 20th century. It's attributed to a late-1800s physics schoolbook that contained the example question "Why can not a man lift himself by pulling up on his bootstraps?" So when it became a colloquial phrase referring to socioeconomic advancement shortly thereafter, it… Continue reading The Origins of the Phrase “Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps”
Did you know that "sinister" and "dexterous" are opposites? (Etymologically speaking, at least.) The word "sinister" comes from the Latin sinister, or "left." Because most people were right-handed, the left side was associated with weakness, bad luck, malice, and darkness (or sunset / the West), while sinister's opposite, dexter ("right") was associated with strength and… Continue reading Why “Sinister” and “Dexterous” Go Hand-in-Hand