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Foreign Word Origins

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A Panama City, Florida, caller wants to know the origin of kowtow, as in “to agree in an excessively eager or annoying way.” Kowtow comes from a Chinese term that means “to bow extremely low out of respect,” from words that literally mean “knock head.” The same caller asks about bated, as in bated breath. It’s a shortening of abate, from Old French abatre, meaning “to beat down.” This is part of a complete episode.

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