These English words trace their roots to places and languages from all parts of the world and is an eye-opener.
Language grows as it evolves with time, English is one such language that has time and again expanded its boundaries and amalgamated words from across the world as we use them on daily basis without knowing their origin. Every word has a special story behind it, Did you know that the word “bear" in many languages in Europe just means "brown thing”? After reading further we came across the meaning of the word, “Arctic” which draws its root from “arctus” which is Greek for bear, in short meaning, "land of bears." There are many such words whose origin is not known to many and is a part of our conversational vocabulary in a thread posted by u/ocddoc on Reddit.
Here are a few interesting words which not only carry meanings of expression but also a fable of their own.
The dashboard is a board on the front of a horse carriage meant to keep mud from kicking up on the passengers when the horse dashes. And over time it came to mean the front part of anything, even a computer interface is sometimes called a dashboard.
The word "quintessential" has one of my favorite etymologies. You can break it down into "quint" and "essential." Quint as in "five." "Essential" as in "essence," or "element." To be quintessential is to be the fifth element of something. To be the thing's *spirit*.
The word clue originates with the myth of Theseus, who used a ball of yarn to find his way back out of the minotaur's labyrinth. The middle English word for a ball of yarn was clew (or clewe); when the myth was popularized in England by Chaucer, people started using the word clew figuratively to mean a hint or guide to solving a problem.
The word "panic" comes from the Greek god Pan who had a blood-curdling scream that induced panic in anyone who heard it.
The word helicopter is a compound word derived from "**helico**" meaning roughly "spiral thing" and "**pter**" meaning roughly "flying thing". As in pterodactyl. The compound word is helico-pter, not heli-copter like everyone thinks.
The word oxymoron itself, appropriately enough, is an oxymoron. The oxy– part (the same as in words like oxygen, paroxysm, and peroxide) comes from the Greek word for “sharp” or “acrid”, oxys. The –moron part (the same as in—well, moron) comes from the Greek word for “dull”, moros. So an oxymoron is literally a “sharp-dull” turn of phrase.
7. Hands Down
The phrase "hands down" comes from horseracing and refers to a jockey who is so far ahead that he can afford to drop his hands and loosen the reins (usually kept tight to encourage a horse to run) and still easily win.
A little late to this thread but my favorite one isn't on here yet.
**Mortgage**, "Mort" – Death; "Gage" – Pledge. "Death Pledge", is very fitting for a 30-year loan.
The word “avocado” comes from the Aztec word for testicle. That’s literally the only one I can think of right now.
The word “barbarian” comes from an Ancient Greek word referring to all non-Greek speakers (including Egyptians, Phoenicians, etc.) This was because to the Greeks, all other languages sounded like people saying “bar bar bar”. This became the root for the word βάρβαρος (bárbaros), which roughly means “babble” or “gibberish”. It was later adopted by the Romans to refer to any culture that did not practice Greek or Roman traditions (even though Latin speakers were technically classified as barbarians because they didn’t speak Greek). Due to good old xenophobia, it eventually came to mean “uncivilized”, and from there it made its way through the centuries into Middle English.
I think there is a fairly common misconception that this word means 'good place', possibly because the first part of the word sounds similar to happy words like euphoria/eudaemonia etc. The word was in fact coined by Thomas Moore and etymologically comes from the Greek 'ou' and 'topos', which literally translates to 'no place', or 'nowhere'. I just like that the unattainability of utopia is built into the word itself.
The “mare” part of the word “nightmare” comes from Germanic folklore, in which a “mare” is an evil female spirit or goblin that sits upon a sleeper’s chest, suffocating them and/or giving them bad dreams. So basically the word comes from a description of sleep paralysis.
This word comes from the medieval Italian *mal* (bad) and *aria* (air), describing the miasma from the swamps around Rome. This "bad air" was believed to be the cause of the fever that often developed in those who spent time around the swamps. In fact, the illness, now known as malaria, was due to certain protozoans present in the mosquitos that bred around these swamps, and which caused recurring feverish symptoms in those they bit.
In French, the phrase “lion teeth” is “dent de lion”. A long time ago someone saw a flower and thought its petals looked like a lion’s teeth, so they called it the dent de lion. Dent de lion = Dandelion.
The word *apron* was originally *napron*. But when people said "a napron" it got gradually transformed into "an apron".
Comes from 'dis' meaning bad, and "aster" or "astron" meaning star.
It comes from the days of astrology and such where scientists believe events were foretold in the sky and stars.
It is derived from the Irish expression, “I play the fox” or “sionnachuighim”. Eventually, the word became anglicized to become shenanigans but had carried the same connotation in Ireland previous to its propagation in the English-speaking world.
Started as "Association Football" and then became "Assoc Football" or "assoc" for short. "Then it got the nickname "assoccer" (they called rugby "rugger") and eventually just "soccer."
Which meant "three roads" in Latin, because patricians looked down upon such intersections with disdain, as being insignificant and full of commoners.
Before 1860, the word **"pollution"** commonly meant "semen," specifically semen released somewhere other than during conjugal activities, or "desecration."
Cover Image Source: Peter Macdiarmid | Getty Images