Archive for Etymology


I’ve heard characters described as foils of other characters since I was a kid, but I think I always figured that meant that one character could foil another character’s plans or something. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned the real etymology: Jewelers often put shiny metal foil underneath a gem to […]


I’ve encountered the term hidalgo in various contexts; it refers to Spanish or Portuguese nobility. The thing that surprised me about that term is the etymology: it’s from Old Spanish fijo dalgo, literally meaning “son of something.” Wikipedia suggests: In the Spanish language of that period, in the phrase Hijo de algo, the word algo […]

piggy bank

If you search the web to determine the etymology of the phrase piggy bank, you'll quickly conclude that there is little disagreement over its origin. Many web pages give the...


Mary Anne noted in passing recently that it was muggy in Chicago, and I realized that though I've known the word all my life, I didn't know where it came...


I've known the word boson for years, but I don't think I knew until recently that it's named after Indian physicist Satyendranath Bose (also written “Satyendra Nath Bose”), as in...