origin and appearance of ‘ailurophile’ (cat lover)

USA, 1914—‘ailurophile’: a cat lover—‘ailurophobe’: opposite sense—based on ancient Greek ‘aílouros’, ‘cat’, perhaps from ‘aiόlos’, ‘swift’, and ‘ourá’, ‘tail’, the cat being perhaps so called on account of the swift movement to and fro of its tail

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‘maelstrom’ (a whirlpool off the west coast of Norway)

late 16th century—from early modern Dutch ‘maelstrom’ (now ‘maalstroom’)—originally a proper name designating a powerful whirlpool in the Arctic Ocean, off the west coast of Norway, which was formerly supposed to suck in and destroy all vessels within a wide radius

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‘urbi et orbi’ (‘to the city (of Rome) and to the world’)

from classical Latin ‘urbī’, dative of ‘urbs’ (city), and ‘orbī’, dative of ‘orbis’ (orb, circle)—in classical Latin, ‘orbis terrarum’, ‘orbis terrae’, the orb, or circle, of the earth, meant by extension the world, since the ancients regarded the earth as a circular plane or disk

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origin of ‘coward’ and of ‘cowardy, cowardy custard’

‘coward’—from Old-French ‘cuard’, probably referring to a frightened animal with its tail between its legs—from ‘cüe’ (Modern French ‘queue’), ‘tail’, and pejorative suffix ‘-ard’ (cf. ‘bastard’)—‘cowardy, cowardy custard’, alliterative nonsensical children’s phrase (19th century)

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How ‘mouse’, ‘muscle’ and ‘mussel’ are interrelated.

Classical Latin ‘muscŭlus’, literally ‘a little mouse’, also denoted ‘a muscle of the body’, especially of the upper arm, from the resemblance of a flexing muscle to the movements made by a mouse; ‘muscŭlus’ was also used in the sense of ‘mussel’.

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‘marmalade’: from Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ and ‘mĕlĭmēla’

first recorded in 1480—from Portuguese ‘marmelada’ (quince marmalade), from ‘marmelo’ (quince), itself from Latin ‘malomellum’ (quince, sweet pome), a blend of Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ (syrup of preserved quinces) and ‘mĕlĭmēla’ (a variety of sweet pome)

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‘preposterous’, or ‘having first what should be coming after’

16th century—from the Latin adjective ‘praeposterus’, composed of the adverb ‘prae’ (‘in front’, ‘before’) and the adjective ‘posterus’ (‘coming after’, ‘following’, ‘next’), so that its literal sense is ‘next (placed) first’, ‘having first what should be coming after’.

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the cultural background to ‘the Swan of Avon’

an epithet for William Shakespeare, born at Stratford-upon-Avon, on the River Avon—first used by Ben Jonson in the earliest collected edition (1623) of Shakespeare’s plays—but this use of ‘swan’ for a bard, a poet, is rooted in a tradition going back to antiquity

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‘deliver a baby’: a consumerist approach to childbirth?

Originally, the mother was the object of ‘deliver’, the image was of delivering (freeing) her from the burden of pregnancy. Nowadays, the healthcare provider or the mother is the subject, the image is of delivering (handing over) the baby, as if it were a package.

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