Archive for the Category: Italian

Panache, pegs and pinafores

One thing we discussed last night at the French Conversation Group was whether panache means the same thing in French as it does in English. According to the OED, panache [/pəˈnaʃ/ (UK) /pəˈnæʃ/ (USA)] comes from the Middle French pennache, which originally meant a tuft or plume of feathers, and by the late 19th century […]

Also posted in English, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Stookies, stucco and stalks

I heard the word stookie on the radio the other day as was mystyfied as the it’s meaning – the context didn’t help. Forunately the person who mentioned it explained that it’s a Scottish word for plaster cast – the kind of thing you might have on a limb if you facture a bone. It’s […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Today and tomorrow

Yesterday a friend asked me about the origins of the words today and tomorrow, and whether the to- part of them was orginally the. You sometimes come across expressions like ‘on the morrow’, and words appear with hypens in older texts: to-day and to-morrow. According to the OED, today comes from the Old English tó […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Latin, Romanian, Spanish, Words and phrases 15 Comments

Word skipping to Venus

I was asked today about the origins of the word worship. The person who asked was told by a highly-educated minister that “worship” is derived from an old English word, “word-skip”. Supposedly, “word-skip” means “word shaper” or “shaper of words”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary: worship comes from the Old English worðscip, wurðscip (Anglian), […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 17 Comments


Last week I went to an event described as a ‘gala concert’ at Bangor University. A friend asked what gala actually means; I wasn’t sure, so decided to find out. According to the OED, gala (/ˈgaːlə/, /ˈgeɪlə/) means “gala dress, festal attire”; “a festive occasion; a festival characterized by the display of finery and show” […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Shaking paillasses

In French une paillasse /pajas/ is a straw mattress, draining board or laboratory bench and un paillasse is a clown. The former is a combination of paille (straw) plus the suffix -asse. Paille comes from the Latin palea, from the Ancient Greek πάλλω (pallo = to shake) because you have to shake the straw to […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Maltese (Malti)

Today I received some new translations for the Maltese phrases page, and what struck me when adding the phrases was the mixed nature of Maltese vocabulary – about half the words come from Italian and Sicilian, a quarter from English and the rest from Arabic. The Italian/Sicilian borrowings I spotted include: – Bonġornu = Good […]

Also posted in English, Language, Words and phrases 7 Comments


There was quite a bit of talk about ventriloquism on an episode of QI I watched recently, mainly because one of the guests was a ventriloquist. The word ventriloquism comes for the Latin words venter (stomach, belly, womb) and loquī (to speak) so it means “to speak from the stomach”. It was known as εγγαστριμυθία […]

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New Finnish Grammar

I’m currently reading New Finnish Grammar, an English translation of Diego Marani’s novel Nuova grammatica finlandese. It is the story of a man who is found unconscious with a serious head injury on a street in Trieste and who is cared for by a Finnish doctor, who believes he is Finnish as his jacket has […]

Also posted in English, Finnish, Language, Translation 9 Comments

Summer chicks and glowing coals

Last night we were talking about the Pili Palas on Anglesey, a butterfly centre, which also has birds, snakes and other exotic creatures. The name is a pun combining pili-pala (butterfly) and palas (palace) – it took me ages to realise this. We were trying to think of the words for butterfly in various other […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, German, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 6 Comments
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