What are some words with obvious origins?

Ten unusual etymologies

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. Some words have obvious origins. The name for the letter W in English (and some other languages) is said to be simple and descriptive of its shape. On the other hand, some words have unknown origins (for example, where does the word "picnic" come from). Here are ten words with unusual stories behind their coinage.



Being labeled a fool means you are slow, stupid, and unable to learn. However, the word is derived from the name of one of the great scholars of the Middle Ages. John Duns Scotus was a philosopher and theologian. So deep was his thinking that he was nicknamed Doctor Subtillis, the subtle doctor. His classes attracted a group of students and admirers who came to be known as Dunsmen or Dunsers. Duns Scotus' teaching remained influential from the 14th century until the Renaissance, when more modern theories gained importance. Those who desperately adhered to Duns' teaching were ridiculed for their apparent inability to modernize or even learn at all. The Dunsers became Dunces and a new word was born.

9 constituency shift

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of elections by changing the boundary lines to give a party an advantage through the distribution of voters. The manipulation of elections is as old as democracy, but the act didn't get its name until the 19th century. The governor of Massachusetts in 1812 was Elbridge Gerry, representative of the Democratic Republican Party, against the Federalist Party. In the Senate race of the year that sought to win the upper hand, a law was passed that changed the districts by which voters were grouped. That explains the Gerry part of the word, but the -mander? The shape of the districts after the bill was passed resembled a salamander, or, as someone had suggested, a gerrymander.



Words and things named after a person are called eponyms. Like Gerrymander, boycott is a new word for an old thing. Boycotts, the willful refusal to do or use anything, can be seen in Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, where Greek women boycott sex with their husbands. In 1880, Captain Charles Boycott was farming in Ireland when the harvests were poor. The gentleman whose land he worked offered to lower his tenants' rents, but the offer was unsatisfactory. The tenants refused to have anything to do with Captain Boycott. The land was left unsupervised, his family's businesses were not sold, and mail was not delivered to his home. The supplies were brought into the estate from England, as no one in Ireland would deal with it. In the end, the protest was successful and the name Boycott became synonymous with targeted exclusion.

7 jumbo

Jumbo means "huge" and is another namesake, which however was derived from the name of perhaps the most famous elephant in the world. Jumbo was an African elephant born in the 1860s and exhibited in France, England, and North America. Standing 4m tall people flocked to see the huge animal. With an eye for the drama, the circus owner P.T. Barnum bought Jumbo for a quarter of a million dollars and brought it to the United States. In Canada, Jumbo was hit by a train and killed. This gave the canny Barnum a chance to make more money by giving people the chance to see a dead elephant. Jumbo's huge fur was stuffed, spreading the elephant's glory.



The Quakers, or the Society of Friends, are a Christian denomination with a long history of social reformation. Quakers played an important role in the abolition of slavery, and many philanthropic businessmen of the Victorian era were Quakers. Founded by George Fox as an alternative to Church of England worship in the 17th century, the Society of Friends was soon called Quakers. How did you get that name? There are two stories. The first is that the early followers of Fox were so gripped by religious insanity that they shuddered or trembled as they preached. The other purported origin of the term comes from Fox's autobiography. Charged with blasphemy over his new theology, Fox was brought before the judges. Fox was defiant and "commanded them to tremble at the word of the Lord." One of the judges countered that the only one to tremble in court was Fox himself.

5 silhouette

Silhouettes were once a very fashionable art form that presented their motifs in outlines without any further features. Portraits of this type have the advantage that they are cheap and fast compared to painted portraits. During the Seven Years' War the state of French finances became parlus. The finance minister at the time was Etienne de Silhouette, who had to take tough fundraising measures to save the French economy. However, the nobility and clergy, normally not required to pay taxes, levied taxes on various luxury goods that hit the rich. Therefore, he was ridiculed and pushed out of his position. His name was tied to anything that was considered cheap. When profile portraits became popular they were considered cheap (or to use the French "à la silhouette") and the name stuck.



To speak bunkum is nonsense and may be aptly derived from the US House of Representatives. In 1820 an important debate took place over whether the state of Missouri should join the union as a slave owner or a free entity. Slavery has long been a contentious issue and heated arguments were expected on both sides. When the Buncombe County representative Felix Walker began to speak, his colleagues were amused that his speech was not on the issue but a local issue. When asked what he was doing, he replied, "I didn't speak to the house, I spoke to Buncombe." From that point on, he had spoken to Buncombe so as not to say anything.

3 Notice

The clue to the origin of the word clue is its derivation from the medieval word Clew, which means "ball of thread". This can't help much if you don't know about classical mythology. The hero Theseus received a ball of thread to help him find his way out of the labyrinth of Minos. By following the trail of the thread he'd left behind, he was able to navigate to the exit. The word clue was then connected to everything that could point to the solution.



It is known that the ancient Greeks with a proud history of xenophobia looked down on anyone who could not speak Greek. They referred to such foreigners as barbaroi or barbarians because they appeared to bleat like sheep (Bah-Bah-Bah). Today we disapprove of such a nationalist attitude, but we have a similar term for those who want to bamboozo us with technical terms, if that were simpler. Scientists, lawyers, government ministers and bureaucrats often hide behind incomprehensible gobbledooks. We say they speak jargon derived from a French word that means how to chirp like birds.

1 eavesdropping

Before the invention of the gutter, roofs were installed with wide eaves so that rainwater fell from the house and damaged the walls and foundations. This area was known as wiretapping. The large overhang was a good cover for those who lurked in the shadows and wanted to listen to other people's conversations. Since the area under the roof of the roof was considered part of the property of the landlord, you could be punished with a fine under Anglo-Saxon law for being under the roof of the roof with the intention of spying.