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By John Ayto

ISBN-10: 0713674989

ISBN-13: 9780713674989

This in-depth exploration of the English language covers each nuance and interest of this always evolving linguistic pastiche. it really is envisioned that each yr 800 neologisms are additional to the English language, and comprise acronyms (NIMBY, now not In My Backyard), mixed phrases (motel), and people taken from overseas languages (savoir-faire). specified by an a-to-z layout with certain cross-references and written to allure both to scholars, etymologists, and nonnative audio system, this old consultant is a useful source for this really worldwide lingua franca.

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Extra resources for Word Origins

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At the same time the and- prefix was gradually losing its identity: by the 10th century the forms anlong and onlong were becoming established, and the 14th century saw the beginnings of modern English along. But there is another along entirely, nowadays dialectal. ’), it derives from Old English gelong ‘pertaining, dependent’. This was a compound formed from the prefix ge-, suggesting suitability, and long, of which the notions of ‘pertaining’ and ‘appropriateness’ are preserved in modern English belong.

Aphorism see HORIZON aplomb [18] Originally, aplomb meant literally ‘quality of being perpendicular’. fm Page 29 Thursday, August 11, 2005 1:58 PM 29 lexicalization of the phrase à plomb ‘according to the plumb line’ (plomb came from Latin plumbum ‘lead’, also the ultimate source of English plumb, plumber, plumbago, and plummet). The notion of ‘uprightness’ gave rise in the 19th century to the metaphorical sense ‘composure’. ‘ PLUMB, PLUMBER, PLUMMET apocalypse [13] A ‘catastrophic event, such as apocalypse the end of the world’ is a relatively recent, 20thcentury development in the meaning of apocalypse.

Combination with bios ‘life’ (as in biology) produced the Greek adjective amphibios, literally ‘leading a double life’. From the beginning of its career as an English word it was used in a very wide, general sense of ‘combining two completely distinct or opposite conditions or qualities’ (Joseph Addison, for example, used it as an 18th-century equivalent of modern unisex), but that meaning has now almost entirely given way to the word’s zoological application. At first, amphibious meant broadly ‘living on both land and water’, and so was applied by some scientists to, for example, seals; but around 1819 the zoologist William Macleay proposed the more precise application, since generally accepted, to frogs, newts, and other members of the class Amphibia whose larvae have gills but whose adults breathe with lungs.

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Word Origins by John Ayto


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