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Pretty Adverb

The word pretty, used to modify an adjective, as in pretty good or pretty bad, has strayed far from its etymological roots, which originally had to do with being “cunning” or “crafty.” This is part of a complete episode.

Diamond in the Rough

What’s the meaning of the phrase diamond in the rough? Does it refer to a rose among thorns, to unrealized potential? The phrase derives from the diamond industry, where a diamond in the rough is one taken from the ground but still unpolished...

Etymology of Lieutenant

A listener in Montreal, Canada, asks: How do you pronounce lieutenant? The British say LEF-ten-ant, while Americans say LOO-ten-ant. In the United States, Noah Webster insisted on the latter because it hews more closely to the word’s...

Origin of Baseball Bleachers and Stands

The bleachers in a baseball stadium are the unshaded benches that get bleached by the sun. The word stands, on the other hand, derives a 17th-century use of stand meaning a place for spectators, who either sat or stood, and is an etymological...

What’s a Hipster?

Get out your skinny jeans and pass the PBR! Martha and Grant discuss the definition of the word hipster. Also, what happens when you pull a brodie? And why do we describe something cheap or poorly made as cheesy? Also, sawbucks, shoestring budgets...

The Big Apple

Why is New York City called the Big Apple? In the 1920s, a writer named John Fitz Gerald used it in a column about the horseracing scene, because racetrack workers in New Orleans would say that if a horse was successful down South, they’d send...

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