Archive for the Category: Etymology

Dirks, Saxons and Messers

I discovered today that dolch is the German equivalent of dirk, the dagger that is worn in the sock in Scottish Highland dress (see photo). The dirk is known as a sgian dubh (black knife or secret knife) in Scottish Gaelic, and the word dirk, which first appeared in English as dork in the 17th […]

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Also posted in Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Swedish, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Lucky and inspiring veins

I discovered yesterday that one way to say that someone is lucky in French is to say that they avoir de la veine (‘have of the vein’). I’m not sure why veins are associated with luck. Does anybody know. Veine also means seam and inspiration. Other expressions featuring veine and related words include: – veiné […]

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

Suns, moons and sputniks

Earlier today I was thinking about how I might learn more Russian, and realised that I need to get to grips with the grammar – the verb conjugations, noun declensions and so on. Trying to memorise verb tables and noun declensions and other grammatical gubbins doesn’t appeal to me, so I thought about other ways […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language learning, Russian, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Bosky bosses

I discovered today that bos is a Dutch word for forest or wood, and this immediately made me think of the wonderful English word bosky, which is defined by the OED as “Consisting of or covered with bushes or underwood; full of thickets, bushy”. The OED says that bosky comes from bosk, a Middle English […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, Language, Words and phrases 5 Comments

Sun dogs, billygoat’s eyes and halos

The other day I discovered the wonderful word sun dog, which refers to coloured patches of light that appear beside the sun at certain times, particularly when the sun is low in the sky. The scientific name for this phenomenon is a parhelion, from the παρήλιον (parēlion – beside the sun); from παρά (para – […]

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Taking the fly

I discovered an interesting French idiom today – prendre la mouche – which means literally ‘to take the fly’ and is the equivalent of ‘to go off in a huff’. Huff refers to ‘a passing mood of anger or pique’ A French equivalent of ‘to be in a huff’ is être vexé. Are there similar […]

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Do you cahoot?

When looking through one of my dictionaries today I came across the word cahoot, which I’ve only seen before in the form cahoots, as in the expression ‘in cahoots with’, i.e. to be in partnership or in league with. The dictionary entry has the s in bracketts – cahoot(s) – so it seems this words […]

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

Knowledge and seeing

I discovered today that there is a connection between the Gaelic word for knowledge, information, news – fios in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, fys in Manx – and the English words video and wit. Their roots can all be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root woid-/wid- (to see/to know), which, according to the OED, is […]

Also posted in English, Greek, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 7 Comments

La gueule enfarinée

I discovered an interesting French expression yesterday while ferreting around in the dictionary – la gueule enfarinée, which literally means ‘the floured mouth’, but actually refers to someone who is ‘wet behind the ears’, i.e. new, untrained, inexperienced, immature, innocent, callow or naive (synonyms from The Chambers Thesaurus). The word gueule usually refers to the […]

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Docent

I came across an unfamiliar word today in a book I’m reading – docent. From the context I guessed it referred to someone who leads guided tours, but according to my English dictionary it means ‘(in the U.S.) a lecturer in some colleges and universities’, and it comes from the German word Dozent (associate professor, […]

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