30 Words with Surprising Origins
If you’re like me then you’re probably all into using words to speak to make your point and order food at restaurants. Maybe you like to point and grunt like Roach from The People Under the Stairs (SHOUT OUT WES CRAVEN – RIP, BABY).
Words are cool and sometimes you’d like to learn where the words you use come from because it’s cool to learn stuff. The study of the origin of words is called etymology – there, now I’ve already learned you something – so that’s cool!
Here’s a list of 30 words with surprising origins:
Vodka, the disgusting drink that your idiot friends try to convince you isn’t hairspray but you know it is because you’re smarter than they are, is Russian for “little water”. What’s the Russian word for “disgusting fire poison”?
In a bizarre and M Night Shamamamamama twist, the word “cloud” comes from the Old English word “clud” which means rock. This is very stupid.
The word umpire (the baseball guy in the head cage and pyjama suit) used to be, I S#!T you not, NUMPIRE but the N got dropped in the early Middle Ages because dummies kept hearing A NUMPIRE as AN UMPIRE. Why not just correct these people instead of just giving up???? It’s not like I’m going to let some a-hole off the hook when he says “for all intensive purposes.”
Conversely, the word newt used to be AN EUTE because WHAT THE WHAT GUYS JUST STOP LETTING THIS JUNK SLIDE.
Here’s something fun you can bring up at the gym TO IMPRESS ALL THE FITNESS LADIES: a treadmill used to be used for punishment – prisoners would have to walk/run on these mills in order to crush a butt-load of rocks. INSERT JOKE ABOUT TREADMILLS STILL BEING PUNISHMENT LOLOLOLOLOLOL
The word “disaster” comes from two different words in Greek: “Dis”, which means bad, and “Aster”, which means star. Hey Greeks, good for you inventing democracy. Also I’ve seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Socrates was a cool guy but for real, bad things don’t happen because of stars or the way planets line up or whatever. I MEAN COME ON GANG.
Mortgage literally means DEATH WAGER in French which makes sense because I AM LITERALLY DROWNING UNDER THE TERRIBLE, CRUSHING DEBT OF OWNING A HOUSE. THIS IS A FOR REAL CRY FOR HELP.
The word “loophole”, your uncle’s favorite nickname for vagina, originally meant the little slits in castle walls where
arrow dudes archers would shoot arrows through SO THAT THEY COULD MURDER PEOPLE WITH THEIR ARROWS.
Here’s something that’s going to make you effing hate your disgusting body even more: the word “muscles” has a Latin root meaning “little mouse” because folks thought muscles looked like LITTLE MICE UNDER YOUR SKIN.
The word “pamphlet” comes from the name of a Latin love poem called Pamphilus which was passed around from person to person and not from the Latin word Pampapam, which means BS idiots hand you outside of garbage strip malls trying to convince you to join their weirdo cults
“Lunatic” has nothing to do with acting crazy because you have been bitten by multiple ticks. It instead has its roots in the Latin word for moon, “Luna.” THIS IS THE NAME OF THE CAT IN SAILOR MOON, I THINK, WHICH IS NOT AS COOL AS THE CAT IN SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH – SALEM, I GOT YOU, BABY.
Jeans are cool and whatever and I like to wear them but the origin of the word “jeans” is so friggin’ boring. It’s just named after Genoa, Italy, their birthplace AND ALSO THE BIRTHPLACE OF A KIND OF SALAMI I’M REALLY INTO. CURED MEAT, I GOT YOU, BABY.
The word “avocado” comes from the Aztec word “ahuacatl” which means testicle. So when you’re getting your 8$ avocado on toast, YOU EATIN’ NUTS, BABY.
The word “robot” is cool and I like it a bunch but did you know that it comes from the Czech word “robota”, which means “forced labor”. Now you know for sure when robots take over the planet they are probably going to use the whole naming them slaves thing against us.
“Phony” is a word that is better when immediately preceding the word baloney. Apparently it’s British slang for fake fold rings sold BY FRIGGIN’ PIRATES.
The word “nimrod” used to mean “excellent hunter” but NUMBER ONE SARCASTIC A-HOLE Bugs Bunny used to call Elmer Fudd a nimrod as an insult the way you would call your one friend WHO IS ABSOLUTE A1 HORSE CRAP AT BASEBALL Babe Ruth.
Here is some junk I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT ASSASSINS. Apparently, an assassin is someone who kills someone of religious or political importance based on religious or political motivations. If you do it for love or to get more hot dogs, it’s just regular murdering. I DIGRESS. This is about word origins. ANYWAY, there was a Muslim sect of dudes during the Crusades who would get stoned on hash and then kill leaders on the opposing side. People started calling these hash heads “hashishiyyin” (hash smoker in Arabic) and then English dudes kept mispronouncing it to the point that it came out sounding like “assassin” years later.
The word “dunce” used to be a positive thing. It was named after this old philosophy guy named John Duns Scotus who was so influential that he had his own followers called Dunsmen (I KID YOU NOT). During the Renaissance (SHOUT OUT LEARNING ABOUT ALL KINDS OF JUNK), more modern philosophies gained prominence and anyone still into our pal Dunsy was JUSTIFIABLY RIDICULED FOR BEING A COMPLETE IDIOT AND TOTALLY NOT WITH THE TIMES.
So there’s this Irish dude who wants to make a quick buck and so he bets his friend (an idiot) that he can get a new word introduced into the English language within a couple of days. So then the dude writes the word “quiz” down on a few scraps of paper which is, at this time, complete nonsense. And then this dude gives these scraps of paper and has like a bunch of street urchins go and graffiti this thing everywhere. And then everyone is talking about it and PAPOW IT’S A NEW FRIGGIN’ WORD
The word “nightmare” is cool and it makes me think of spooky stuff AND I LIKE SPOOKY STUFF but it has nothing to do with horse BECAUSE HORSES CAN EFF THEMSELVES, ALWAYS EATING CARROTS AND ACTING LIKE THEY CAN TALK WHEN YOU GIVE THEM PEANUT BUTTER (MR. ED, THANKS BUT NO THANKS). ANYWAY, the “mare” part has nothing to do with horses and instead is referring to Germanic folklore where a mare is an evil lady goblin who sits on your chest trying to suffocate you BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT GERMAN GOBLINS DO, DUMMY!!
Hey yo, the next time you want to get all mad about malaria (WHICH SHOULD BE ALWAYS), blame the ancient Romans. “Malaria” (the word) comes from medieval Italian for “mal” meaning “bad” and “aria” which means “air. The Romans referred to the stank air coming off the marshland as malaria. And if you know anything about malaria, you know you can get that junk from mosquitos and where do mosquitos like to breed? Stank, fetid waters, like gross marches. PAPOW!
Disease killed off a whole bunch of dummies back in the day because they COULDN’T WIPE THEIR BUTTS OR WASH THEIR HANDS. They did, however, decide that if you were sick, you needed to be quarantined which is a bastardization of the Italian words (in the Venetian dialect, no less!) “quaranta giorni” which means 40 days.
Everyone’s felt groggy at some point – all sluggish and lethargic and whatever. The word “groggy” comes from this old junkbag booze called grog which was just watered down rum which can obviously still get you friggin’ ripped and did because when you’d drink too much of it, you’d get “groggy.”
So the Romans invented a bunch of words because before them everyone was just kind of grunting and pointing or whatever. The word “palace” is yet another word we owe them. OK so the Emperor lived in this joint called the Palatine which was like some opulent BS and then the word “palatine” became the French word “palais” which eventually became “palace” in English. NOW YOU KNOW. GOOD LUCK ON JEOPARDY.
If you’ve ever worried that your children were fathered by another man because your relationship is broken and your trust in others has been greatly compromised, then the origin of the word “genuine” should tickle your fancy. It’s derived from the Latin word “genuinus” which is in turn derived from the word “genu” which means “knee” because of this totally not crazy Roman custom that required a newborn baby be plopped down on the supposed dad’s knee to confirm that he did, in fact, produce the sperms required to make this baby.
Toxic is an amazing Britney Spears tune but it is also a cool word with an even cooler origin story. So, Hercules was a dude who was strong and tough and had to complete a bunch of challenges (called labors) and one of them was to MURDER the nine-headed Hydra WHICH HE TOTALLY did. And then after his MURDERING, he dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s arrows which made his arrows poisonous. The ancient Greek word for this kind of arrow poison is “toxicon” which is where we get the word “toxic.” PAPOW YOU GOT SOME KNOWLEDGE!
Skullduggery means some shifty business and it sounds like it could have had its origins in some kind of grave-robbing situation WHICH WOULD BE AWESOME AND VILE ALL AT ONCE but instead it comes from the Scottish word for adultery, “sculdudrie”.
The expression “cold turkey” has nothing to do with eating Thanksgiving outdoors BECAUSE THE WORLD IS A MISERABLE PLACE. Quitting “cold turkey” means doing something without preparation because if someone comes over and you didn’t prepare s#!t for them to eat, you just dump cold turkey on a plate. This makes me wish “cold can of tuna” was an expression people used instead.
The expression “blowing smoke” is hilarious because it makes me think of blowing actual smoke in someone’s butthole which is hilarious but did you know that it actually comes from blowing smoke in someone’s turd cutter?!?!?!!!!! LIKE FOR REALSIES. There was this thing called a Tobacco Smoke Enema that PEOPLE ACTUALLY USED TO PUSH WARM SMOKE INTO PEOPLE’S BUTTS TO HEAL THEM OF THEIR AILMENTS OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.
SANDWICHES ARE AMAZING AND THE PERFECT DELIVERY SYSTEM FOR BOTH MEATS AND CHEESES and then there was this dude a long while ago, John Montagu, The Earl of Sandwich, who told his valet to bring him some fat stacks of beef in between break and then PAPOW THE SANDWICH WAS BORN. BECAUSE THESE IDIOTS WERE JUST DOING MEAT AND BREAD SORTA SIDE-BY-SIDE LIKE ON THE PLATE WHICH IS LIKE DOWNING A SHOT OF KETCHUP AND THEN EATING A PLATE OF FRENCH FRIES. I MEAN COME ON GUYS!!!!!!!