Archive for Etymology

cushy

I'm always a little surprised to find that a common English word that I don't associate with Asia derives directly from an East Asian or South Asian root. I've known...

canvas

It turns out that the word "canvas" derives ultimately from the Latin word "cannabis"; which, of course, means "hemp." Not only that, but apparently the word "hemp" itself may be...

LSD

I always vaguely wondered how "lysergic acid diethylamide" got abbreviated as "LSD." I think I figured (or had been told) that the S came from "lySergic," but that didn't make...

sneeze

Related to that last entry, the etymology of "sneeze" is pretty cool: MW11 says it's from Middle English "snesen," alteration of "fnesen,"; related to Middle High German "pfnusen," to snort...

Limbo

I always used to mix up Limbo and purgatory. Well, okay, to be honest I still do. But now at least I know that "Limbo" is called that because the...

caltrop

I've known what caltrops were since I was a kid: those four-pointed metal things, scattered in roadways to damage tires or hooves or feet. But as with so many words,...